Fukushima Safety Hanging By Fingernails

B. McPherson

Journalists had an opportunity to tour the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station on Tuesday. They witnessed wreckage still littering the plant grounds and makeshift repairs done to some of the critical systems that are keeping the radiation under control. For instance, plastic water pipes that supply cooling to the defunct reactors split during a cold spell and were repaired with tape. It is expected that the ultimate clean up of the site will take years.

"I have to admit that it's still rather fragile," said plant chief Takeshi Takahashi, who took the job in December after his predecessor resigned due to health reasons.TimeWorld

An independent group investigating the actions of TEPCO and the government in the critical days following the nuclear emergency, Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, delivered their report on the March 11, 2011 triple crisis which saw a massive earthquake, tsunami and radiation release combine. The report highlights the confusion and connivance of the Tokyo based power company to downplay the extent of the danger from the nuclear facility. They criticized both government and private industry for clinging to “a myth of safety” with regard to Fukushima.

Earlier I wrote about the announcements about the safety ofthe crops grown within 50 km of the crippled plant and the subsequent reversal of opinion. At the same time the US Nuclear Regulatory Agency was telling US citizens to evacuate to at least 50 miles(80 km) from the epicentre of the radiation. The US was also preparing to evacuate their citizens from Japan.

While the Japanese government was seeking to soothe worries about the spread of radiation a 10km evacuation zone was established. At the same time, officials fretted about having to evacuate Tokyo. Unacceptably high levels of radiation are being found periodically in Tokyo.

When the inquiry into the events surrounding March 11th requested the minutes of meetings held by TEPCO in the days immediately following, they were stonewalled. Officials claimed that minutes were not kept, minutes were destroyed or minutes could not be found. Since the crisis, TEPCO has released information that is at odds with other sources. While TEPCO denies it, former Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered the power company to keep personnel in the plant to fight fires to try to bring the crisis under control when the company executives wished to abandon the plant to self destruct.

No one has died of radiation poisoning since the early days of the meltdown, but that does not mean that deaths from the Daiichi plant will not occur. One of the results of exposure to radiation is damage to genetic material and subsequent cancers. Another is the tragic results when sperm and eggs are damaged by radiation resulting in fetal deaths or malformations.

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