Fukushima FAQ

What Led to the World-Threatening Problems at Fukushima?

On March 11, 2011, the nuclear reactor complex Fukushima Daiichi, located on the eastern Japanese coast, sustained massive damage from an earthquake and tsunami, resulting in huge and continuing releases of radiation into air, water, and earth. Power loss (including failure of back-up power) led to loss of cooling for radioactive fuel, accompanied by a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and releases of tons of radioactive materials that continue today such as plutonium, uranium, iodine-131, cesium-137, and strontium-90. (see also fukushima-update-how-much-threat, meltdown.) In addition to the nonstop continuing radiation releases from Fukushima, and the various critical problems threatening to release massive radiation, Japan is incinerating huge amounts of radioactive debris, and planning to continue through at least March 2014. (see also incinerator workers suffer cardiac arrest.)

The March 11, 2011, disaster spent a week or so as front-page news, and then the media (especially in Japan and in English-speaking countries) put out the word that things were under control at Fukushima — and dropped the crisis reporting, shifting what little coverage ensued to the effects on Japan, how Japan was restarting its affected industries (supposed return to business as usual), articles on what nuclear lessons were to be learned “post-Fukushima”, statements that the U.S./world is so safe from Fukushima radiation that no monitoring is necessary, that okay so the reactor 4 building is buckled and tilted — it’s perfectly safe — and okay so the ocean has 50 million times more radiation than usual — it’s not a problem. Do an internet search for the word “Fukushima” plus the name of any of the standard news outlets — including NPR, BBC, WSJ, NYT, CNN, HuffingtonPost — to see how, after the first week or so, they directed your attention away from the disaster unfolding at Fukushima. Continue reading this FAQ to learn what has really been happening.

Since the Fukushima accident, Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Company), the Japanese government, and various shady corporate, political, and underworld partners have been wrestling, mostly in private, with an almost impossible array of problems at Fukushima Daiichi, trying, in their fashion, to avert massive disaster on many fronts. Their actions have been colored by self-interest — such as avoiding liability and not wanting to spend money to fix the problems — as well as by callous incompetence and by the requirement that the full extent of the looming disasters be hidden from the public (frequent lies and more lies), for fear of crashing economies worldwide (Tokyo is the third-largest financial power on Earth) — and so as to avoid creating unrest among people facing, or already experiencing, irradiation.

Tepco’s plan for dealing with the ongoing crisis calls for beginning to remove spent fuel in 2014 (or maybe November 2013), and beginning to remove the melted fuel inside the reactors within 10 years or so of the accident, with an estimated 30 to 40 years needed to finish “clean-up“. (see also Tepco status reports.)

Fukushima Daiichi sits on a fault line, and sits directly on the Pacific Ocean coast, protected from tsunamis by only a few bags of rocks. Japan is located in the Ring of Fire and is very seismically active. Numerous earthquakes have occurred in the area of Fukushima Daiichi since March 11, 2011, some of which are thought to have further damaged the facilities. The Wall Street Journal reported in January 2012 that, according to Japanese scientists, seismic activity was picking up a great deal and Tokyo (212 km/131 mi from Fukushima Daiichi) has a 70% probability of being hit by “the big one” by 2016. There is great concern that various Fukushima reactors, especially reactor 4, could not survive another earthquake. In addition, Japan experiences frequent typhoons, with hurricane-force winds and torrential rain (bringing ground liquefaction, landslides, and storm surge). (see also Tepco pumping groundwater.)

The most pressing systemic problem at Fukushima — ongoing since the earthquake and into the foreseeable future — is the need to constantly keep the nuclear fuel cool despite the devastated conditions of the reactors and their cooling systems. Once fuel rods get too hot, they start burning, sending clouds of radioactive ash and dust into the air. Kirk James Murphy, writing on March 15, 2011, explains:

Translation for laypeople: Without enough water to cover them, the fuel rods will keep on igniting, just like trick birthday candles keep re-igniting after we blow them out. Just like trick birthday candles, the only way to put out the fuel rods is to put them under water. That’s why even after Monday’s reactor 4 spent fuel rod fire was quenched, the spent fuel rod pool caught fire again this afternoon.

Unlike trick birthday candles, the spent fuel rods burn hot (3300 degrees F) enough so that the radioactive material in the rods is aerosolized: carried into the atmosphere in clouds of hot smoke. And unlike our trick birthday candles, the spent fuel rods in reactor building 4 are four stories off the ground – just like the other five reactor spent fuel pools at Fukushima. And unlike our trick birthday candles, right now the radioactivity around the spent fuel rods is so high that no one can approach them to put out the fire….

(see also National Geographic video explanation.) As they burn, they release “large amounts of radioactive cesium-137, a very toxic, long-lasting, aggressively penetrating radioactive element with a half-life of thirty years. When cesium-137 it enters the environment, it essentially acts like potassium and is taken up by plants and animals that use potassium. (For the record, that includes you.)” There are an estimated 4,277 metric tons of nuclear fuel at Fukushima Daiichi (24 more times than at Chernobyl), including 66,550 fuel rods in a pool located in a buckled building (reactor 4), suspended 30 meters (100 feet) up in the air. Based on U.S. Energy Department data, Fukushima has an estimated 11,138 fuel assemblies on-site, and each fuel assembly contains about 50 to 80 fuel rods, for a minimum total of more than half a million fuel rods.

According to Robert Alvarez, former Senior Policy Adviser to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and the Environment at the U.S. Department of Energy, “Based on U.S. Energy Department data, assuming a total of 11,138 spent fuel assemblies are being stored at the Dai-Ichi site, nearly all of which is in pools, they contain roughly 336 million curies (~1.2 E+19 Bq) of long-lived radioactivity. About 134 million curies is Cesium-137 — roughly 85 times the amount of Cs-137 released at the Chernobyl accident as estimated by the U.S. National Council on Radiation Protection (NCRP)…. Many of our readers might find it difficult to appreciate the actual meaning of the figure, yet we can grasp what 85 times more Cesium-137 than Chernobyl would mean. It would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.”

Fukushima’s caretakers have been cooling the fuel rods by pumping in ocean water, which had never been done before anywhere, and which is having some unappealing effects, such as uranium buckyballs that have been rising in sea mists on the U.S. west coast. (see groundwater radiation, groundwater wells, strontium-90 releases.)

Since the March 2011 disaster, Fukushima has experienced repeated and continuing criticalities, meltdowns, releases of radioactive steam and smoke, flashes of light, intense light in reactor sections for long periods of time, failures of cooling systems, fires….

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See also:

^ August 12, 2014. Gov’t Expert: Fukushima hot particles can’t be dissolved, even with hot nitric acid! — Huge amounts of fallout are still bound to organic material

^ Study: Fukushima airborne plumes “caused significant deposition of radioactivity over North America” according to February 17, 2014, report — Especially for West Coast and eastern U.S. — Around 13% of all radioactive iodine released into atmosphere was deposited over USA and Canada

^ ‘Quite Something’: Extremely radioactive sample from Tokyo air filter — 150 times more uranium than expected, July 25, 2012.

^ 2014 Update - Total Fukushima Radiation Released Into Ocean, Air, Groundwater, Storage Tanks, etc

^ August 19, 2014. No One Wants You to Know How Bad Fukushima Might Still Be

^ Risky Repair of Fukushima Could Spill 15,000 Times the Radiation of Hiroshima, Create 85 Chernobyls

^ The Crisis at Fukuhsima's Unit 4 Demands a Global Take-Over

^ The Real Fukushima Danger

^ Reuters: Insight: After disaster, the deadliest part of Japan's nuclear clean-up

^ Nuclear Fuel Response to Reactor Accidents

^ August 27, 2013. Excellent video summary of the Fukushima situation from Thom Harvey's EcoReview. Topics covered: Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Meltdown: What has happened, is happening, and likely will happen, and what options there are to remedy this cataclysmic event. Guests: David Pu’u - CDO Blue Ocean Sciences; Eddie Leung - CEO of Secured Environment; Dr. Andrea Neal CEO – Ocean Lovers Collective; Phone Guest Arnie Gundersen – Chief Scientist Fairewinds Energy Education.

October 23, 2013.

^ "Experts Warn of Another Disaster Awaiting at Fukushima" video from ABC Australia, June 25, 2012. When another large earthquake hits near Fukushima, it will be "the end of Japan" and a disaster of international dimensions. Transcript.

^ "U.S. Army General: The Whole Northern Hemisphere Is At Risk Of Becoming Largely Uninhabitable", May 25, 2012.

^ 28 Signs that the U.S. West Coast Is Being Fried with Nuclear Radiation from Fukushima

^ Japan’s former Ambassador to Switzerland, Mr. Mitsuhei Murata, warns that Fukushima has the potential to destroy the world, the environment, and our civilization and the nuclear fallout may take 50 years to contain.

^ NASA animation showing jetstream for North America. Higher-level winds and incidence of rainfall are also critical components determining where fallout will come to Earth. The Northern and Southern hemispheres have largely separate jetstreams, so predictions are that the Southern hemisphere will be much safer — although the quantity of radiation expected to be released into the air will also devastate the Southern hemisphere. And then there are radioactive ocean currents and the their radioactive buckyballs to consider, among many other effects. Antarctica is safest.

^ The damaged reactors at ocean-side Fukushima are being "protected" from tsunamis by “a small, makeshift sea wall erected out of bags of rock” according to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden after his visit to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. See more of Senator Wyden's comments.



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Fukushima-diary.com... daily news

Humankind's Most Dangerous Moment, by Harvey Wasserman

Greenpeace International

Military, fascism rising in Japan against the people

Fukushima facts that you have not been told about, dire update August 19, 2013.

December 9, 2012, podcast, Arnie Gundersen update on Fukushima

"Fukushima reactor No. 4 vulnerable to catastrophic collapse; could unleash 85 times Cesium-137 radiation of Chernobyl; human civilization on the brink"

Fukushima Emissions Far Greater than Reported

Tepco Fukushima web page

Webcams for Fukushima Daiichi and throughout Fukushima Prefecture

April 5, 2013. ABC San Diego: Fukushima fallout harming U.S. infants

Do Nuclear Crimes Include Mass Genocide?

Court documents of the Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial, for the Right to Education in a Safe Place

Naturalnews.com... Fukushima

Fukushima Life

Large amounts of radioactive black substance in Tokyo, many other places in Japan

Professor says government research shows that Tokyo is as radioactive as Fukushima prefecture

An hour of very strange activity at Fukushima, September 2, 2012 (Tepco video)

Nuclear Mafia Derails Democracy in Japan

"The crisis was caused by absolute, gross negligence on the parts of General Electric, Tepco, and the Japanese Government"


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Majia's Blog

Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

Alternet.org/health... worst yet to come...






Infowars.com (search for "Fukushima")

Fukushima Children

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen's website, fairewinds.org

Radiation in Los Angeles compared to Chernobyl

TEPCO live camera of Fukushima Daiichi. Discrepancies between TEPCO's video and video from the other, unofficial live camera of TBS News/JNN — not caused by camera functions — suggests TEPCO may be editing footage before releasing it as "live".

TBS News/JNN live camera of Fukushima Daiichi (poor quality).

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden: Fukushima Fuel Pool Is a U.S. National Security Issue

Plutonium from Fukushima Made It Around the Planet

Fukushima really blew up, launching TONS of Uranium and Plutonium into the atmosphere

4-hour Fukushima special on Coast to Coast radio, featuring David Blume, Arnie Gunderson, and others.

May 9, 2012, interview with Micio Kaku, Fukushima reactor 4 still threatens the world.

Nuclear Power in Japan Pushed by CIA

Fukushima webcam discussion thread, starting June 30, 2012. What are those flashes, those emissions?

What Is the U.S. Government Waiting For?

The Non-Battle for Fukushima

Timeline of Fukushima Accidents

Tokyo Faces High Quake Probability

Michiyuki Matsuzaki, M.D.: "A Statement of Facts: What Is Currently Happening to Fukushima Children?" May 19, 2012.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency information on radionuclides

FAQs re radioactive isotopes, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control

Reactor 4 Structure Shows Signs of Sinkage

It May Be Too Late

Evacuate Fukushima, Days of Infamy"

Wall Street Journal: TEPCO has no plan to deal with Fukushima collapse

Fukushima's Children Worse Off than Chernobyl's

North America received large fallout from Fukushima

Fukushima Wiki

China Syndrome "inevitable" — massive hydrovolcanic radioactive explosion(s)

Extensive links concerning March 11 through May of 2011 events at Fukushima

Plutonium, U.S. National Institutes of Health

Trillions of becquerels per day still being emitted from Fukushima Daiichi — Radioactive steam continues

Arnie Gundersen: If water is lost from reactor 4 spent fuel pool, "a beacon of radiation will bathe site in ‘sky shine’ from gamma rays".

Harvey Wasserman: "We May Yet Lose Tokyo (and Alaska and Georgia)", February 20, 2012.

ABC News Australia: "Fukushima kids cop 'lifetime' radiation dose", July 12, 2012.

Science Daily: "How Low Doses Of Radiation Can Cause Heart Disease And Stroke", October 9, 2009.

Nuclear fallout archive, the Watchers

Fukushima worker says all reactors will be in crisis after a major aftershock.

"Effects of radiation come to weak-spirited people"

Opinion: Fukushima deniers are evil

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Former Fukushima Daiichi Worker: ‘I believe the country will be evacuated if No. 4 fuel pool collapses’ — ‘Should be hundreds or thousands of people working furiously every day’

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Weather warnings/advisories for Fukushima

Current Japan earthquake information

Radiation And Jet Stream Forecast Monitoring Sites

Black Cat Systems map of current radiation monitoring

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Arnie Gundersen: "Everybody’s focused on Unit 4, and rightfully so, but Unit 3 had a more severe explosion and is likely structurally weakened more than Unit 4."

Jeff Thomas: Ignoring the obvious

June 30, 2012. Reactor 4 cooling system shuts down; backup system also inoperable.

"47 hours" at reactor 4 shows how close we are to a nightmare scenario

"Fukushima: Washington Hides 'Black Swan' of Economic Collapse"

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Tepco seeks to reduce groundwater flowing into reactor buildings

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PDF: April 2012. Holophi CH AG Special Report on Fukushima Daiichi SFP 4

60 Minutes Australia: Fukushima will impact all of humanity

Russian media: Over a third of Fukushima children at risk of cancer.

Record high radiation levels detected at Fukushima reactor 1, July 3, 2012.

"NY Times: Computer worm used by U.S. to attack nuclear facilities ‘had broken free, like a zoo animal that found the keys to the cage’ — In 2010 ‘it began replicating itself all around the world’", June 1, 2012.

"Gundersen: If in Oregon, Wash., Calif. you need to demand officials test how Fukushima fallout has affected rivers and fish — Significant radiation hit west coast and settled in on Cascades"

BBC VIdeo: Inside the Meltdown, February 2012.

"Minamisoma Official: Highly contaminated black algae observed everywhere — due to bioaccumulation"

Wall Street Journal Fukushima Watch: Highlights of Tepco video of officials 'dealing with' nuclear accident in March 2011, recently released, August 6, 2012.

National Resources Defense Council: "What if the Fukushima nuclear fallout crisis had happened here [U.S.]?"

Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commision Report, Executive Summary

"Professor in Japan Blasts Government, Tepco: 'These are lies, they’re absolutely lies'"

Wikipedia article: "Corium, also called fuel containing material (FCM) or lava-like fuel containing material (LFCM), is a lava-like molten mixture of portions of nuclear reactor core, formed during a nuclear meltdown, the most severe class of a nuclear reactor accident."

Cesium implicated in heart attack death and injuries at radioactive debris incineration site.

Nature International Weekly Journal of Science: Fallout forensics hike radiation toll: Global data on Fukushima challenge Japanese estimates, October 25, 2011.

Excerpt from Statement of Ira Helfand, MD, Physicians for Social Responsibility: "Unfortunately, there are a number of radioactive elements produced in large quantities in a nuclear reactor that are biologically active—they are actively taken up by the body and incorporated into our tissues. Iodine-131 is concentrated in the thyroid gland and causes thyroid cancer. Cesium-137 behaves like potassium. It is absorbed and distributed throughout the body. Cesium-137 has a half life of 30 years, and causes many different types of cancer. Strontium-90 is chemically similar to calcium. It is deposited in bone and, with its 29 year-half life, continues to irradiate bone and bone marrow for decades. It causes bone cancer and leukemia. Plutonium-239 with a half life of 24,200 years, is intensely carcinogenic if inhaled and causes lung cancer in microscopic doses." October 21, 2011.

PDF re Birth Defects: Expert's Statement from Eisuke Matsui, Director, Gifu Environmental and Medical Institute: "In this chapter, various kinds of potential health damage (late damage) are predicted in Koriyama City based on health damage surveys conducted in equally contaminated territories in Belarus and Ukrania after Chernobyl accident as in Koriyama City after Fukushima accident."

Majia's Blog: "All Hell Has Broken Loose at Fukushima Since Tepco Went on Vacation", May 26, 2012

New York Times: Fukushima vs. Chernobyl: How Have Animals Fared? "Contaminated areas of Chernobyl and Fukushima are unlikely to be hospitable habitats for years to come. In Chernobyl, for example, the amount of americium-241, a highly radiotoxic isotope if ingested, is actually increasing as its parent nuclide, plutonium, decays. Radioactive materials like cesium are brought back to the surface soil each year by plant growth and pollination." August 11, 2012

"Hot Particles and Measurement of Radioactivity", May 8, 2012.

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"The nuclear accident at Fukushima was a preventable disaster rooted in government-industry collusion and the worst conformist conventions of Japanese culture, a parliamentary inquiry concluded Thursday. "

"Fukushima is falling apart — are you ready?" June 2012.

Scientific American: "Nuclear Experts Explain Worst-Case Scenario at Fukushima Power Plant", March 12, 2011.

Interesting Early Information: New York Times: "With Quest to Cool Fuel Rods Stumbling, U.S. Sees ‘Weeks’ of Struggle", March 17, 2011.

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National Geographic: Mt. Fuji Overdue for Eruption. Mt. Fuji erupts on average every 30 years, but has not erupted since 1707, stirring up concerns that it may be building up explosive force. " Volcano expert Shigeo Aramaki says, "in the last 300 years there has been no eruption. With the past level of activity in mind, you cannot deny that 300 years of repose is pretty long—too long." July 2006.

"Japanese professor warns of high probability of eruption of Mt. Fuji within 3 years." Professor Emeritus Kimura from Ryukyu University: 34-kilometer-long fault found under the volcano, fumarole emissions, huge bubbling holes in ground. May 21, 2012.

Index of Tepco press releases

New York Times Current Overview of Japan, includes Fukushima status reports, August 10, 2012.

"Deadly Silence on Fukushima", May 11, 2011.

Satellite pictures of Fukushima Daiichi, extensively notated in Japanese.

"Forest near Fukushima nuclear plant turning into high-radiation jungle", August 17, 2012.