A Yale Professor is compelling the world to wake up from its nuclear slumber and face some cold-hard facts, “All of humanity will be threatened for thousands of years” if the Fukushima Unit 4 pool can’t be kept cool. Your worries about eating cesium-contaminated fish from the Pacific Ocean are grounded in fact, but this is a world-wide disaster of the most epic proportions just waiting to happen. If nothing else, it points to the necessity of nuclear-free power to fuel the planet, but in the meantime, more than 1,535 fuel rods must be meticulously removed from Unit 4, which in all likelihood is crumbling.
Charles Perrow, Professor Emeritus of Sociology from Yale University cautions:
“Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable. The radiation emitted from all these rods, if they are not continually cool and kept separate, would require the evacuation of surrounding areas including Tokyo. Because of the radiation at the site the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years. […]”
In early stages of the Fukushima disaster Tepco, under influence of the Nuclear and Industiral Safety Agency (NISA), tried to keep the full ramifications of Fukushima under wraps, and now the entire country faces a possible trillion dollar price tag and multiple decades of active clean up to make this go away, but that will all be a moot point if the fuel rods aren’t removed properly. …
More about Unit 4 and the other reactors damaged at Fukushima:
When the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster began on 11 March 2011, reactor unit 4, 5 and 6 were all shut down. An explosion damaged the unit 4 four days after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Damages from the earthquake and tsunami on unit 5 and 6 are relatively minor.
The unit 4 was shut down and all fuel rods had been transferred to the spent fuel pool on an upper floor of the reactor building. On 15 March, an explosion damaged the fourth floor rooftop area of the unit 4 reactor; the source of the explosion is still unknown, although it is speculated to be due to hydrogen generation in the spent fuel pool. Japan’s nuclear safety agency NISA reported two large holes in a wall of the outer building of unit 4 after the explosion. It was reported that water in the spent fuel pool might be boiling. Radiation inside the unit 4 control room prevented workers from staying there permanently. Visual inspection of the spent fuel pool of reactor 4 on 30 April showed that there was no significant visible damage to the fuel rods in the pool.
Reactors 5 and 6 were also shut down when the earthquake struck although, unlike reactor 4, they were still fueled. The reactors have been closely monitored, as cooling processes were not functioning well.
How is the clean up going? Here is a report (.pdf) from August 2018.
Nucleotides detected in release water included Cesium-134 (there was less than the detection limit of 0.68 Bq/L), Cesium-137 (<0.54 Bq/L), Beta particles from all sources (measured 0.53 Bq/L), and H-3 (measured 920 Bq/L). They don’t detect or didn’t check for Strontium-90 (<0.0011 Bq/L). Plutonium was detected at Fukushima in the past but also is not in the monthly report.
The contamination of released water is measured as Bq/L, which is becquerels per liter of water.
The becquerel (English: /bɛkəˈrɛl/; symbol: Bq) is the SI derived unit of radioactivity. One becquerel is defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second.
What is H-3?
Tritium (/ˈtrɪtiəm/ or /ˈtrɪʃiəm/; symbol Tor 3H, also known as hydrogen-3) is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The nucleus of tritium (sometimes called a triton) contains one proton and two neutrons, whereas the nucleus of protium (by far the most abundant hydrogen isotope) contains one proton and no neutrons. Naturally occurring tritium is extremely rare on Earth, where trace amounts are formed by the interaction of the atmosphere with cosmic rays. It can be produced by irradiating lithium metal or lithium-bearing ceramic pebbles in a nuclear reactor. Tritium is used as a radioactive tracer, in radioluminescent light sources for watches and instruments, and, along with deuterium, as a fuel for nuclear fusion reactions with applications in energy generation and weapons. The name of this isotope is derived from Greek τρίτος (trítos), meaning ‘third’.
So, as of July 26, 2018 the contamination is at 920 nuclear decays per second from Tritium (H-3). After 12 years, 1/2 of the Tritium created in the reactor will have decayed.
What are the health risks of H-3? Surprisingly, it is less dangrous in summer than winter.
Since tritium is a low energy beta emitter, it is not dangerous externally (its beta particles are unable to penetrate the skin), but it can be a radiation hazard when inhaled, ingested via food or water, or absorbed through the skin. HTO has a short biological half-life in the human body of 7 to 14 days, which both reduces the total effects of single-incident ingestion and precludes long-term bioaccumulation of HTO from the environment. Biological half life of tritiated water in human body, which is a measure of body water turn over, varies with season. Studies on biological half life of occupational radiation workers for free water tritium in the coastal region of Karnataka, India show that the biological half life in winter season is twice that of the summer season.
In the USA, the legal contamination limit for drinking water of Tritium is 740 Bq per liter of water.
You can continue to monitor the progress at Fukushima by the IAEA here: