Is Fukushima Leaking … Or Are the Reactors Wholly Uncontained?
You may have heard that the cooling system in the spent fuel pools at Fukushima has failed for a second time in a month.
This is newsworthy stuff … but completely misses the big picture.
Associated Press notes:
Experts suspect a continuous leak into the ocean through an underground water system, citing high levels of contamination in fish caught in waters just off the plant.
In fact, Japanese experts say that Fukushima is currently releasing up to 93 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium into the ocean each day.
How much radiation is that?
A quick calculation shows that Chernobyl released around ten thousand times more radioactive cesium each day during the reactor fire. But the Chernobyl fire only lasted 10 days … and the Fukushima release has been ongoing for more than 2 years so far.
Indeed, Fukushima has already spewed much more radioactive cesium and iodine 131 than Chernobyl. The amount of radioactive cesium released by Fukushima was some 20-30 times higher than initially admitted.
Fukushima also pumped out huge amounts of radioactive iodine 129 – which has a half-life of 15.7 million years. Fukushima has also dumped up to 900 trillion becquerels of radioactive strontium-90 – which is a powerful internal emitter which mimics calcium and collects in our bones – into the ocean.
And the amount of radioactive fuel at Fukushima dwarfs Chernobyl … and so could keep leaking for decades, centuries or millenia.
The bottom line is that the reactors have lost containment. There are not “some leaks” at Fukushima. “Leaks” imply that the reactor cores are safely in their containment buildings, and there is a small hole or two which need to be plugged. But scientists don’t even know where the cores of the reactors are. That’s not leaking. That’s even worse than a total meltdown.
So what are the consequences for people living outside of Fukushima itself?