On Wednesday BBC News reported that radiation levels around tanks storing contaminated water at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have risen by a fifth to a new high. I don’t know what millisieverts are but Tuesday’s reading near one set of tanks was 2,200 (mSv), a rise from the weekend’s 1,800 mSv reading. ( Radiation levels hit new high near Fukushima water tanks )
The problem is that the fuel rods in the plant have to be cooled with water but the radioactive water stored on site cannot be contained from entering the sea.
The same day as the BBC news item was posted, m colleague Laurie MacBride forwarded to me a pretty alarming commentary by Gary Stamper in Collapsing into Consciousness titled, “At the Very Least, Your Days of Eating Pacific Ocean Fish Are Over”.
“The heart-breaking news from Fukushima just keeps getting worse…a LOT worse…it is, quite simply, an out-of-control flow of death and destruction,” writes Stamper. “It now appears that anywhere from 300 to possibly over 450 tons of contaminated water that contains radioactive iodone, cesium, and strontium-89 and 90, is flooding into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima Daichi site everyday. To give you an idea of how bad that actually is, Japanese experts estimate Fukushima’s fallout at 20-30 times as high as as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings in 1945.”
I can’t judge how much of his alarm is justified but it is alarming: seal and polar bear deformities, dead and starving sea lions, increased thyroid problems, elevated radioactivity levels in U.S. waters, radioactive plankton, a precaution against eating Pacific seafood.
Laurie need not have apologized for sending such horridly depressing news. But, she said, “It puts everything else into a rather different perspective....and makes me wonder what the heck to make for dinner (tonight or for the rest of my life).”
It is depressing news and not being covered well by the media. On the other hand, I follow the news enough to know what is happening but, unlike most of the other things I get involved in, I feel pretty powerless to do anything about the situation.
I’m old enough to have grown up “in the shadow of the bomb” and learned about cow’s milk contaminated by radioactivity from atmospheric testing carried aloft and deposited on pastures grazed by dairy cattle. People demanded “Ban the Bomb” and governments didn’t but they did stop testing in the atmosphere and, finally, stopped testing all together.
I don’t know how Fukushima’s radioactivity will be stabilized and how the radioactive water will be contained and kept out of the Pacific ecosystem. I do know that we humans may not be very wise in some of the things we do but we are very good at engineering solutions: the only hope I see is for an engineering solution to stop the leakage to keep the radiation from becoming any more harmful.
Every since the first time I saw the Japanese science fiction movie Godzilla, I’ve cheered for the monster. He arose out of Tokyo Bay as a result of radiation and mutation and wreaked havoc on man and his civilization. This time, at Fukushima, I’m going to cheer on the engineers. Get the best minds together, spare no expense, stop the destruction.