Action Alert from Credo

Written on: November 6, 2013

Recently, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck off Japan’s east coast, triggering small tsunamis. While it didn’t trigger a nuclear accident, a disaster of “apocalyptic” proportions could be just days away at the Fukushima nuclear power plant that was swamped by a tsunami in 2011.1Decommissioning the plant will take years, but one of the riskiest steps in that process is starting this week as TEPCO – the power company that runs the plant – begins to remove spent radioactive rods from a holding area.

We can’t let TEPCO handle a process this dangerous without proper oversight. That’s why a group of scientists and engineers are coming together to demand the United Nations general secretary compel the Japanese government to allow international assistance with this project.2

Add your name as a citizen signer to the letter to United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon.

Nuclear experts agree that this removal process is an engineering project of epic proportions. Each rod – there are 1,331 – weighs over 600 pounds and must be removed from a rack by a crane, one by one.3

In normal circumstances, this process would take more than three months and be handled by a robot arm, programmed with each rod’s exact location.4 But these rods have been disturbed and possibly even misshapen by the earthquake, and TEPCO wants to try and finish the job by the end of the year – a schedule that will surely lead to mistakes from a company whose handling of the disaster has been described as sloppy and irresponsible.5, 6

As if that weren’t bad enough, the rods are currently housed in a pool of water perched 100 feet above the ground, in a building severely damaged by the earthquake and subsequent hydrogen explosion at the plant.7

The possible consequences of a botched removal job, or a failure of the containment pool are truly frightening. Journalist and activist Harvey Wasserman described this way:

The potential radiation releases in this situation can only be described as apocalyptic. The cesium alone would match the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs. If the job is botched, radiation releases could force the evacuation of all humans from the site, and could cause electronic equipment to fail. Humankind would be forced to stand helplessly by as billions of curies of deadly radiation pour into the air and the ocean.8

The United Nations must compel Japan to bring together an international group of scientists and engineers for this job, instead of rushing the job without experts and international oversight.

  1. Elizabeth Chuck, “7.3 magnitude earthquake hits Japan near Fukushima, NBC, October 25, 2013.
  2. [PDF] Letter to Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations, from 17 scientists and engineers.
  3. Aaron Sheldrick and Antoni Slodkowski, “Insight: After disaster, the deadliest part of Japan’s nuclear clean-up,” Reuters, August 14, 2013.
  4. Jun Hongo, “Fukushima 2020: Will Japan be able to keep the nuclear situation under control?,” Japan Times, October 19, 2013.
  5. Brian Feldman, “Two Years Later, the Fukushima Cleanup is Still Sloppy,” Atlantic Wire, October 22, 2013.
  6. “Nuclear regulators declare Fukushima leak a level-three ‘serious incident’,” Raw Story, August 23, 2013.
  7. “Apocalyptic” Fukushima Fuel Rod Removal Begins Nov. 8; TEPCO Subcontracts Yakuza gangsters,” Daily Kos, November 1, 2013.
  8. Andrea Germanos, “Fuel Removal From Fukushima’s Reactor 4 Threatens ‘Apocalyptic’ Scenario,” Common Dreams, October 24, 2013.

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