Nuclear Power News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Nuclear Power News Articles in Media
On the edge of Belarus' Chernobyl exclusion zone, down the road from the signs warning "Stop! Radiation," a dairy farmer offers his visitors a glass of freshly drawn milk. Associated Press reporters politely decline the drink but pass on a bottled sample to a laboratory, which confirms it contains levels of a radioactive isotope at levels 10 times higher than the nation's food safety limits. Fallout from the April 26, 1986, explosion at the Chernobyl plant in neighboring Ukraine continues to taint life in Belarus. The authoritarian government of this agriculture-dependent nation appears determined to restore long-idle land to farm use - and in a country where dissent is quashed, any objection to the policy is thin. One of the most prominent medical critics of the government's approach to safeguarding the public from Chernobyl fallout, Dr. Yuri Bandazhevsky, was removed as director of a Belarusian research institute and imprisoned in 2001 on corruption charges that international rights groups branded politically motivated. Since his 2005 parole he has resumed his research into Chernobyl-related cancers with European Union sponsorship. "In Belarus, there is no protection of the population from radiation exposure. On the contrary, the government is trying to persuade people not to pay attention to radiation, and food is grown in contaminated areas and sent to all points in the country," [Bandazhevsky said]. The milk sample subjected to an AP-commissioned analysis backs this picture.
Note: 30 years later and the fallout from this nuclear reactor disaster in Ukraine is still contaminating food in Belarus. Why are we still using nuclear power? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing nuclear power news articles from reliable major media sources.
In a ghostly reminder of the Bay Area's nuclear heritage, scientists announced Thursday they have captured the first clear images of a radioactivity-polluted World War II aircraft carrier that rests on the ocean floor 30 miles off the coast of Half Moon Bay. The USS Independence saw combat at Wake Island and other decisive battles against Japan in 1944 and 1945 and was later blasted with radiation in two South Pacific nuclear tests. The Navy deliberately sank the contaminated ship in 1951 south of the Farallon Islands. The rediscovery of the USS Independence offers a fascinating glimpse into American military history and raises old questions about the safety of the Farallon Islands Radioactive Waste Dump ... where the federal government dumped nearly 48,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste between 1946 and 1970. The Independence was sunk on Jan. 26, 1951, and came to rest 2,600 feet below the ocean surface. The Navy withheld the location of the wreck for decades, but the U.S. Geological Survey found its likely resting place while mapping the sea floor in 1990. Retired judge and state legislator Quentin Kopp, who many years ago demanded research into the Navy's disposal of radioactive material off Northern California before 1970, said Thursday that the question of whether the waste posed a risk to humans and wildlife was never resolved.
Note: A CNN article and a CBS article fail to mention anything about the Farallon Islands Radioactive Waste Dump and CNN doesn't even mention radioactive material on the ship. Neither mentions the many drums of radioactive material are buried within the ship. Do you think the media is complicit in hiding key information regarding public health? For verifiable information that this happens much more than people think, read this two-page summary.
Weeks before Pacific Gas and Electric Co. released a long-awaited seismic report about the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant last year, Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials had already drafted talking points declaring the plant safe from earthquakes, Sen. Barbara Boxer said Wednesday. An internal commission memo showed that the agency was planning to tell the public that “the NRC had reviewed the report, and it had concluded Diablo Canyon was seismically safe” — before even seeing the report. Boxer ... used it to illustrate what she called the commission’s lax attitude toward seismic safety, even in the wake of the 2011 meltdown of three reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Her comments shone new light on a controversy that has simmered since the seismic safety report’s release last fall. PG&E released the report on Sept. 10. That same day, the commission — the federal agency that regulates nuclear plants — formally rejected complaints from one of its own former inspectors at Diablo Canyon, who had argued that the plant should be closed. Several newly discovered faults nearby, he said, could produce more violent shaking than Diablo was designed to withstand. Environmental groups ... accused the commission and PG&E of colluding to release both the report and the rejection of the inspector’s complaint on the same day, generating positive press about Diablo’s safety.
Note: Why would Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials ignore their responsibility to protect the public from the potentially disastrous combination of earthquakes and nuclear power plants?
The cleanup of Japan’s devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant crossed an important milestone on Saturday when the plant’s operator announced it had safely removed the radioactive fuel from the most vulnerable of the four heavily damaged reactor buildings. The company, known as Tepco, had put a high priority on removing the No. 4 unit’s some 1,500 fuel rods because they sat in a largely unprotected storage pool on an upper floor of the building, which had been gutted by a powerful hydrogen explosion. By succeeding in the technically difficult task of extracting those rods, Tepco eliminated one of the plant’s most worrisome vulnerabilities. It took almost four years to reach this goal. The aging Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered a triple meltdown after a huge earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11, 2011, knocking out vital cooling systems. Tepco still faces the far more challenging task of removing the ruined fuel cores from the three reactors that melted down in the accident. These reactors were so damaged — and their levels of radioactivity remain so high — that removing their fuel is expected to take decades. Some experts have said it may not be possible at all, and have called instead for simply encasing those reactors in a sarcophagus of thick concrete. The fuel cores from those three reactors, Nos. 1-3, are believed to have melted like wax [into] lumps on the bottom of the reactor vessels.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the disastrous pitfalls of nuclear power from reliable major media sources.
A sprawling new plant [near Kansas City] in a former soybean field makes the mechanical guts of America’s atomic warheads. Bigger than the Pentagon, full of futuristic gear and thousands of workers, the plant, dedicated last month, modernizes the aging weapons that the United States can fire from missiles, bombers and submarines. It is part of a nationwide wave of atomic revitalization that includes plans for a new generation of weapon carriers. A recent federal study put the collective price tag, over the next three decades, at up to a trillion dollars. This expansion comes under a president who campaigned for “a nuclear-free world” and made disarmament a main goal of American defense policy. Supporters of arms control, as well as some of President Obama’s closest advisers, say their hopes for the president’s vision have turned to baffled disappointment as the modernization of nuclear capabilities has become an end unto itself. “A lot of it is hard to explain,” said Sam Nunn, the former senator whose writings on nuclear disarmament deeply influenced Mr. Obama.
Note: Consider the possibility the Obama, shortly after becoming president, may have received a death threat to his children if he didn't comply with the desires of powerful, greedy forces which want everlasting war on our planet. The trillion-dollar war industry has no qualms threatening anyone who gets in the way of their profits. For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing war news articles from reliable major media sources and read what a top US general had to say about how he was manipulated.
At a motel in the town of Hirono, just outside a restricted zone in Fukushima Prefecture, [the] residents were all men, all apparently working on the cleanup of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, where three reactors melted down and a fourth caught on fire after a quake and tsunami in 2011. The plant's operator is mostly using subcontractors to supply labor, which drives down the pay and tends to leave the poorest workers living in crowded dormitories. Workers and labor activists say that Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, is subcontracting the work out to avoid taking direct responsibility — financial and otherwise — for the dangers the workers face each day at the plant. Recent days and weeks have brought embarrassing news for Tepco, including that levels of radioactive strontium in wells in the plant were reported months late, and were 10 times lower than the actual amount. TEPCO says it was a measurement error. Some critics say that TEPCO can't be trusted and that the world's largest nuclear accident is still waiting to happen at Fukushima, such as an accidental nuclear reaction that releases large amounts of harmful radiation into the air. TEPCO dismisses predictions like this as alarmist. Japanese themselves are highly divided on the issue, just as they are about whether or not their country should continue to rely on nuclear power, which previously supplied up to a third of their electricity. One thing that seems certain is that the work of cleaning up and shutting down the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will go on for a long time. TEPCO predicts it could last 30 or 40 years. Others say that estimate is blindly optimistic.
Note: Why is this critical news getting so little coverage? For more on deception and corruption around nuclear power, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
On 11 March 1958, in Mars Bluff, South Carolina, a man called Walter Gregg was building shelves in his shed with his son, when a Mark 6 atom bomb landed in his yard. Mrs Gregg was inside [the house], sewing. The little Gregg girls were playing outside. The fissile core of the bomb had been removed for safer transit, but the explosives that powered it nonetheless blew the Gregg house to bits, killing half a dozen of the Gregg chickens. In military talk this sort of thing is known as a "broken arrow", an accident involving nuclear weapons that falls short of causing risk of war, and Schlosser's book is about the several dozens of these that have happened – counting only those of US origin – since the atomic bomb was invented in 1945. The next-up sort of accident is called a Nucflash. So far, it hasn't happened, but Schlosser considers this due as much to luck as anything else. [The book] aims to "pierce a false sense of comfort", ... the popular assumption that ... the threat of nuclear escalation has gone away for good. It hasn't, is Schlosser's miserable message. "They are out there, soulless and mechanical, sustained by our denial – and they work." In this book, he's interested in how "the effort to control nuclear weapons – to ensure that one doesn't go off by accident" is undermined, over and over again, by demands from the military for bombs they can trust to explode.
Note: Watch a 16-minute interview with Erik Schlosser showing how close we have come to accidental nuclear explosions. For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing nuclear risk news articles from reliable major media sources.
The Japanese government and TEPCO were scrambling to reassure people [on Sep. 13] that they have a lid on Fukushima after a senior utility executive said the nuclear plant was "not under control". The remarks by Kazuhiko Yamashita, who holds the executive-level title of "fellow" at Tokyo Electric Power, seem to flatly contradict assurances Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave Olympic chiefs a week earlier. In a meeting with members of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Yamashita was asked whether he agreed that "the situation is under control" as Abe had declared at the International Olympic Committee meeting in Buenos Aires. He responded by saying, "I think the current situation is that it is not under control," according to major media, including national broadcaster NHK. News of his comment prompted a rush by the government and TEPCO to elaborate on Yamashita's remark, saying he was talking specifically about the plant's waste water problem, and not the facility's situation in general. TEPCO has poured thousands of tonnes of water on the Fukushima reactors to tame meltdowns sparked by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The utility says they are now stable but need to be kept cool to prevent them running out of control again. Much of that now-contaminated water is being stored in temporary tanks at the plant, and TEPCO has so far revealed no clear plan for it. The problem has been worsened by leaks in some of those tanks that are believed to have seeped into groundwater, which runs out to sea.
Note: For an excellent ABC News article titled "A Never-Ending Disaster at Fukushima," click here. For more on the grave environmental impacts of nuclear power, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Deep beneath Fukushima's crippled nuclear power station, a massive underground reservoir of contaminated water that began spilling from the plant's reactors after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami has been creeping slowly toward the Pacific. Now, 2 1/2 years later, experts fear it is about to reach the ocean and greatly worsen what is fast becoming a new crisis at Fukushima: the inability to contain vast quantities of radioactive water. The looming crisis is potentially far greater than the discovery earlier this week of a leak from a tank that stores contaminated water used to cool the reactor cores. That 300-ton (80,000-gallon) leak is the fifth and most serious from a tank since the March 2011 disaster. But experts believe the underground seepage from the reactor and turbine building area is much bigger and possibly more radioactive, confronting the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., with an invisible, chronic problem and few viable solutions. Many also believe it is another example of how TEPCO has repeatedly failed to acknowledge problems that it could almost certainly have foreseen — and taken action to mitigate before they got out of control. To keep the melted nuclear fuel from overheating, TEPCO has rigged a makeshift system of pipes and hoses to funnel water into the broken reactors. The radioactive water is then treated and stored in the aboveground tanks that have now developed leaks. But far more leaks into the reactor basements during the cooling process — then through cracks into the surrounding earth and groundwater.
Note: For more on the water-storage-tank leaks at Fukushima from the New York Times, click here. For more on the environmental devastation caused by nuclear power, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Despite his age, 63-year-old Kazuo Niitsuma believes there are many more years of fishing ahead of him. The sea is in his family's blood, he says. His octogenarian father began working on boats when he was 12, and only retired three years ago. But ... Niitsuma knows he may never again get the chance to board his boat and head out into the Pacific in search of sole, whitebait, flounder and greenling. The greatest threat to Niitsuma's livelihood, and that of other fishermen in Hisanohama ... lies just up the coast at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The environment ministry recently announcement that 300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater from Fukushima Daiichi is still seeping over or around barriers into the Pacific every day, more than two years after it was struck by a tsunami in March 2011. Government officials said they suspected the leaks had started soon after the accident. The admission by the ministry, confirmed by Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), which runs the plant, is likely to keep Hisanohama's 40 fishing boats in port for the foreseeable future. Tepco's failure to handle the contaminated water – and accusations that it tried to cover up the leaks – is a serious setback to attempts to clean up Fukushima Daiichi, 18 months after the government declared it had reached a "safe" state known as cold shutdown. "I haven't been able to fish since the tsunami," Niitsuma said. "People want to be reassured that they are buying fish that is safe to eat, and we can't give them that guarantee at the moment."
Note: Declaring the situation an "emergency", the Japanese government has stepped in to take over control of the response from Tepco. For more on this, click here. For a National Geographic article on what you need to know about the radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean by the Fukushima disaster, click here. It reports that scientists have estimated that contaminated seawater could reach the West Coast of the United States in five years or less. For more on the environmental devastation of nuclear power, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima has probably been leaking contaminated water into the ocean for two years, ever since an earthquake and tsunami badly damaged the plant, Japan’s chief nuclear regulator said on [July 10]. In unusually candid comments, Shunichi Tanaka, the head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, also said that neither his staff nor the plant’s operator knew exactly where the leaks were coming from, or how to stop them. The operator, Tokyo Electric Power, has reported spikes in the amounts of radioactive cesium, tritium and strontium detected in groundwater at the plant, adding urgency to the task of sealing any leaks. Radioactive cesium and strontium, especially, are known to raise risks of cancer in humans. Mr. Tanaka’s comments bring into sharp relief the precariousness of the cleanup at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, where core meltdowns occurred at three of the six reactors. A critical problem has been the groundwater that has been pouring into the basements of the damaged reactor buildings and becoming contaminated. Workers have been pumping the water out to be stored in dozens of tanks at the plant, but have not stopped the inflow. Until recently, Tokyo Electric ... flatly denied that any of that water was leaking into the ocean, even though various independent studies of radiation levels in the nearby ocean have suggested otherwise. Mr. Tanaka said that the evidence was overwhelming. “We’ve seen for a fact that levels of radioactivity in the seawater remain high, and contamination continues — I don’t think anyone can deny that,” he said.
Note: For more on dangers from the nuclear power industry, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has removed most anti-nuclear researchers from a revamped post-Fukushima energy policy advisory board to the government. After a landslide victory in a December election, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the previous administration’s policy to abandon atomic power needs to be reviewed. Six of eight members that voted for phasing out nuclear power on the board advising the previous government have been dropped from the LDP panel. Another ten members were reappointed, including Akio Mimura, an adviser for Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., as chairman. He headed an energy advisory board under a previous LDP government that promoted nuclear power. “It’s wrong to let the same man who led discussions on pre-Fukushima energy policy be in charge,” said Tetsunari Iida, the executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies. Iida was one of those dropped from the advisory board. In September, the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan approved phasing out nuclear power by the end of the 2030s. Around 160,000 people were evacuated because of radiation fallout. Three options were considered for the country’s future energy supply: Zero nuclear, 15 percent nuclear, and 20 percent to 25 percent. A government poll in August found 47 percent of citizens favored zero, with the remainder split on the other choices. “The LDP wants to avoid the zero nuclear scenario at all costs and is looking for a point of compromise between 15 percent and 20 percent nuclear,” said Hiroshi Takahashi, a research fellow at Fujitsu Research Institute.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the grave dangers posed by nuclear power, click here.
Within weeks of setting off a geiger counter and scrubbing three layers of skin off his hands and arms, former Navy quartermaster Maurice Enis recalled being pressured to sign away U.S. government liability for any future health problems. Enis and about 5,000 fellow sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier had finally left Japan, after 80-some days aiding victims of the March 11, 2011, Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, and were about to take a long-awaited port call in Thailand. But first, they were told they needed to fill out some paperwork. "They had us [to] sign off that we were medically fine, had no sickness, and that we couldn't sue the U.S. government," Enis [says], recalling widespread anger among the sailors who ... felt they had little choice. [On] the [second] anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, Enis joined a lawsuit with more than 100 other service members who participated in the rescue mission and who have since developed medical issues they contend are related to radioactive fallout from the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Rather than targeting the U.S. government, the federal lawsuit names plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Co. the defendant. TEPCO, as the company is known, provided false information to U.S. officials about the extent of spreading radiation from its stricken reactors, according to Roger Witherspoon on his blog Energy Matters.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing nuclear power news articles from reliable major media sources.
This month, the Department of Energy announced that a tank at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state is leaking up to 300 gallons of radioactive waste a year. Nuclear sludge left over from Cold War plutonium production is drip-drip-dripping into American soil, infiltrating the groundwater, slowly making its way into our rivers. The leak is just another in a long line of mild disasters at America’s most contaminated nuclear-waste site, a radioactive drop in the already-polluted Columbia River. Hanford is the worst kind of mess: the kind that humanity is capable of making, but not capable of cleaning up. It was the home of the world’s first full-scale plutonium reactor and the epicenter of American nuclear production during the Cold War. Now the 586-square-mile campus is the subject of the largest environmental cleanup operation the United States government has ever undertaken. There are other sites in America with long nuclear histories—places like Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, Yucca Mountain. But none have become sprawling disasters with quite as much panache as Hanford. The human and environmental consequences of Hanford have spread beyond those borders, across Washington and Oregon. A decade ago a rash of radioactive tumbleweeds blew across the nearby plains. In the early 1960s, an irradiated whale was killed off the Oregon coast, having apparently been contaminated by nuclear waste flowing down the Columbia River.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on environmental and health devastation caused by the nuclear weapons and energy industry, click here.
The U.S. government said it will stop issuing permits for new nuclear power plants and license extensions for existing facilities until it resolves issues around storing radioactive waste. The government's main watchdog, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, believes that current storage plans are safe and achievable. But a federal court said that the NRC didn't detail what the environmental consequences would be if the agency is wrong. There are 14 reactors awaiting license renewals at the NRC, and an additional 16 reactors awaiting permits for new construction. Nuclear waste disposal has been a daunting political question that is still unanswered after decades of study. Nuclear watchdog groups -- which don't agree with the NRC's assertion that the waste is currently safely stored -- are hoping the new review will provide an opportunity to push for stricter standards at nuclear power plants. There are currently 104 operating nuclear reactors at 64 plants across the country. Half are over 30 years old. '"The court is ordering them to do this analysis that should have been done a long time ago," said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In particular, UCS and others want less of the waste to be stored in pools of water, which they believe are vulnerable to sudden draining and possible meltdown.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on corruption in the nuclear power industry, click here.
Kelp off California was contaminated with short-lived radioisotopes a month after Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant accident, a sign that the spilled radiation reached the state's coastline. Scientists from CSU Long Beach tested giant kelp collected off Orange County, Santa Cruz and other locations after the March 2011 accident and detected radioactive iodine, which was released from the damaged nuclear reactor. The largest concentration was about 250 times higher than levels found in kelp before the accident. "Basically, we saw it in all the California kelp blades we sampled," said Steven Manley, a CSU Long Beach biology professor who specializes in kelp. The radioactivity had no known effects on the giant kelp, or on fish and other marine life, and it was undetectable a month later. Iodine 131 "has an eight-day half-life, so it's pretty much all gone," Manley said. "But this shows what happens half a world away does effect what happens here." Some radioactive material probably accumulated in fish that eat the kelp. "We just don't know if it was harmful," Manley said. Iodine 131, found in nuclear fission products, is not naturally occurring and is not naturally found in oceans.
A nuclear reactor on the Southern California coast will remain shut down indefinitely while a team of federal inspectors determines why several relatively new tubes became so frail that tests found they could rupture and release radioactive water, a federal official said [on March 15]. The Unit 3 reactor at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, located about 45 miles north of San Diego, was shut down as a precaution on Jan. 31 after a water leak from another tube in a massive steam generator. Since then, investigators have been looking into excessive wear found on steam generator tubes in the seaside plant and its twin, Unit 2, which has been offline for maintenance and refueling. The two huge steam generators at Unit 2, each containing 9,700 tubes, were replaced in fall 2009, and a year later in Unit 3 as part of a $670 million overhaul. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission dispatched a special, five-member team to Unit 3 ... after pressure tests showed three of the metal-alloy tubes had become so degraded that they could rupture under some circumstances. Such ruptures can require a plant to shut down, if spewing water reaches 150 gallons a day. According to the NRC, the tubes have an important safety role because they represent one of the primary barriers between the radioactive and non-radioactive sides of the plant. If a tube breaks, radioactivity from the system that pumps water through the reactor could escape into the atmosphere.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on the dangers of nuclear power, click here.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted 4-1 ... to grant a license to build two reactors at a nuclear plant in Georgia. It was the first time the commission decided to grant a license for a new reactor since 1978, a year before the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania. The sole vote against approval was cast by the commission's chairman, Gregory B. Jaczko. He said the construction and operating license would not assure that all of the safety improvements mandated by the agency in response to Japan's Fukushima disaster would be accomplished before the reactors begin operating in 2016 and 2017. The plant, which already has two reactors dating from the 1980s, will be the largest nuclear complex in the United States. The reactors were supposed to be the first in a wave of new projects after the Bush administration set aside $17.5 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear projects. But the nuclear rebirth has been so puny that much of that money is still available. The Energy Department has promised an $8.3 billion loan guarantee for the two reactors.
Note: Why is this happening less than a year after the Fukushima disaster which left huge areas of land uninhabitable to this day?
The Japanese government [has] declared that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant had reached a stable state known as “cold shutdown.” But the formal status change at the plant, experts cautioned, means only that its problems have become less dire; they have not disappeared. The plant still leaks radiation into the sea. Its makeshift cooling system is vulnerable to earthquakes. And the cleanup work remains dangerous, with many flooded and debris-strewn areas of the reactor buildings difficult even for robots to access. In normal circumstances, a reactor in cold shutdown mode is entirely stable, its fuel intact, with no chance of a chain reaction. To achieve its version of a cold shutdown at Fukushima Daiichi, ... Japan had to loosen the definition. Fukushima now meets the government’s requirements because temperatures at the bottom of the three damaged reactor pressure vessels have dropped below 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit). Airborne leaks into the environment have also been almost halted. The declaration poses new questions for many of the 80,000 people who fled towns around the plant ... since the government had made the cold shutdown a precondition for even considering reopening parts of the no-go zone to residents. Many areas within the no-entry zone — a 12-mile radius around the plant — will be uninhabitable for decades, maybe longer.
This spring’s nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant released almost double the amount of radiation the Japanese government has claimed, according to a new analysis. The authors say the boiling pools holding spent fuel rods played a role in the release of some of the contaminants, primarily cesium-137 — and that this could have been mitigated by an earlier response. Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Air Research ... say the amount of cesium-137, a long-lived isotope that persists in the atmosphere, was about twice as high as the Japanese government’s official estimate. The researchers also say about 20 percent of the total fallout landed over Japan, but the vast majority fell over the Pacific Ocean. (The effects of this fallout on fisheries and aquatic wildlife are still being determined.) Cesium-137 emissions peaked three or four days after the quake and tsunami, remaining high until March 19, according to this new study. That’s the day authorities started spraying water on the spent-fuel pool at reactor unit 4, the researchers note. “This indicates that emissions were not only coming from the damaged reactor cores, but also from the spent-fuel pool of unit 4 and confirms that the spraying was an effective countermeasure,” they say. This contradicts Japanese government reports claiming the pools released no radiation.
Note: According to the French nuclear agency, the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN, Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire), even the higher estimate of radiation release described in this article is too low. The agency estimates that 20 times more cesium-137 was released than has been admitted by Tepco.
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