In December 2016, Japan’s government nearly doubled its projections for costs related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster to 21.5 trillion yen ($188 billion), increasing pressure on Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to step up reform and improve its performance. Less optimistic observers estimate total cleanup costs will end up between $300 billion and $500 billion. Although 34.5 billion yen ($309 million) in taxpayer money has funded an "ice wall" to keep out groundwater from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant site, the frozen barrier may not be meeting hopes and expectations. In theory, the ice wall should serve as a dam to prevent groundwater from the mountainside of the plant from flowing into the reactor buildings. The groundwater level rose rapidly and the average daily flow of groundwater into the building basements for October was estimated to be 310 tons. That was close to the 400 tons that was flowing into the building basements before any measures were implemented to deal with the contaminated water. - Fukushima “Ice Wall “ Linchpin not living up to high hopes November 26, 2017 by The Asahi Shimbun
One Tepco manager shared the status at the plant in late November 2017:
We’re struggling with four problems: (1) reducing the radiation at the site (2) stopping the influx of groundwater (3) retrieving the spent fuel rods and (4) removing the molten nuclear fuel. Seven years after the triple meltdown, they do not know what’s going on inside. Nobody knows, nobody can possibly know, which is one of the major risks of nuclear meltdowns. Nobody knows what to do.
From Fukushima to San Francisco
It is plain to see that the continued flow of water from the nuclear plant extends the problems of Fukushima into the Pacific ocean. Marine life could be at risk. On the West Coast st of North America, children and adults may be affected. (See my previous article.)
The University of Hawaii at Manoa published a report this year, In the Wake of Fukushima: Radiocesium Inventories of Selected North Pacific Fish:
Thirteen commonly consumed types of fish caught in the North Pacific and locally available in Hawaii were analyzed using gamma spectroscopy to measure Fukushima-derived and historic 134 Cs and 137 Cs isotopes. All fish samples had detectable 137 Cs above 95% Confidence Intervals. Three out of the thirteen samples had 134 Cs, an isotope indicative of Fukushima releases, detected above 95% Confidence Intervals. The highest 134 Cs and 137 Cs concentration in the examined species was in ahi tuna carrying 0.10±0.04 Bq/kg and 0.62±0.05 Bq/kg, respectively. Other samples with 134 Cs activities found above their 2-sigma uncertainty were albacore tuna and swordfish. Five samples showed the Fukushima tracer 134Cs, present above critical levels and at the 68% confidence interval (CI at 1-sigma uncertainty) but only three of those fish exhibited activities above the range of their 2 sigma uncertainty representing 95% CI. This study suggests that about 40% of fish tested and consumed on the islands of Hawai’i were recently exposed to the path of the Fukushima-derived radiocesium plume in the North Pacific Gyre. Fukushima-derived radio cesium fallout in Hawaiian soils
This study, which shows that fish have come into contact with radiation but have not been affected by it, is the result of only six years of accumulation after the Fukushima nuclear power accident. Given that, as we hear from Tepco, the contaminated water will continue to flow for up to eighty years, we must expect this to get worse. We should prepare from now all possible means to reduce the unavoidable burden that our descendants will face definitely in coming decades when most of this article readers might be in other spiritual world.
Despite this steady stream of contamination and a host of unknowns, U.S. West Coast politicians have remained silent. Why will they not speak up? I have four thoughts.
- Contaminated food and water is bad for business. People in fishing, agriculture, or tourism do not want to consider the unknowns as they consider their budgets.
- The military industry thinks of nuclear technologies as linked to defense and security.
- Environmentalists and climate change activists focus on nuclear power as a zero-carbon source of electricity.
- Some scientists believe that the current level of radiation is no harm to human or fish chain and farm products after seven years of the Fukushima accident. Some nuclear scientists knowingly speak out for the benefit of the government and nuclear industry.
For all of these interest groups, it is in their short term interest to close their eyes and hope that what went into the ocean drops down to the floor and never returns. The one example we do have, however, Chernobyl, provides a perfect example of how radiation takes several years to manifest as cancer and other severe ailments.
The full extent of the damage will not be understood until the fifth generation of descendants.
Most congressmen, governors, and mayors also have an interest in waiting this out if possible. In two to eight years their terms will be up. No voters want to consider potential effects decades from now, so the politician has no incentive to tackle it. I have worked alongside politicians from many countries for 40 years. Above all, we discussed issues of humanity – war, peace, the environment. I admire their talent of understanding people’s mind and their demand for the short term solution through their election.
Developing Deep Leadership: a California-led Solution
The issue of Fukushima and the contaminated water that continues into the Pacific is a question of eternal values. It includes issues of economic growth and health, but also runs much deeper: Who will take responsibility for our planet?
This summer I went to Sacramento to visit Governor Brown. We have known each other for decades. I have always thought of him as a different sort of politician. Who else could I talk to about an issue that might affect life for tens of thousands of years to come? We both agreed that we need a new vision to look at this great environmental issue.
I envision an International Lawmakers Conference. Its aims will be to (1) develop a new type of leadership among elected politicians, (2) determine how we invest now in the field of medicine and (3) build a global mechanism to safely store the 250,000 tons of radioactive waste we have already produced.
In the short term, the International Lawmakers Conference would raise awareness for the ongoing flow of water into the Pacific. This would encourage more scientific studies, attract the attention of politicians and the funds of institutions. Eventually it will help instill a sense of greater values in our leaders. Participants would include federal and state lawmakers, governors, mayors, as well as religious and business leaders, scientists, and representatives from international organizations. The international members of the Nuclear Emergency Action Alliance (NEAA) could play a critical role of expert nuclear guidance.
I do hope some US Congressmen of the West Coast States will stand up and speak out on these serious long-term effect issues for the sake of our descendants and the earth.
To end, I would like to remind readers of the heroic mission and sacrifice of the late Yastel Yamada, founder of the Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima. The rationale behind the Skilled Veterans Corps is that even if workers get cancer from the radiation, it may take 20 years to develop, wherein average life expectancy only gives them 12 to 15 years to live anyway. He didn’t believe the young should risk their lives to do work that his group could handle on their own. Mr. Yamada passed away two years ago from cancer, much earlier than he expected after. His mission to save young lives will be remembered by younger generations who will carry on its mission for their next generations to come.