Just when it seemed things might be under control at Fukushima, we find they are worse than ever.

Immeasurably worse.

Massive quantities of radioactive liquids are now flowing through the shattered reactor site into the Pacific Ocean. And their make-up is far more lethal than the "mere" tritium that has dominated the headlines to date.

Tepco, the owner/operator -- and one of the world's biggest and most technologically advanced electric utilities -- has all but admitted it cannot control the situation. Its shoddy performance has prompted former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Dale Klein to charge: "You don't what you are doing."

The Japanese government is stepping in. But there is no guarantee -- or even likelihood -- it will do any better.

In fact, there is no certainty as to what's causing this out-of-control flow of death and destruction.

Some 28 months after three of the six reactors exploded at the Fukushima Daichi site, nobody can offer a definitive explanation of what is happening there or how to deal with it.

The most cogent speculation now centers on the reality that, simply enough, water flows downhill.

Aside from its location in an earthquake-prone tsunami zone, Fukushima Daichi was sited above a major aquifer. That critical reality has been missing from nearly all discussion of the accident since it occurred.

There can be little doubt at this point that the water in that underground lake has been thoroughly contaminated.

In the wake of the March 11, 2011, disaster, Tepco led the public to believe that it had largely contained the flow of contaminated water into the Pacific. But now it admits that not only was that a lie, but that the quantities of water involved -- apparently some 400,000 gallons per day -- are very large.

Some of that water may be flowing from the aquifer. Much of it also, simply enough, flows down Japan's steep hillsides, through the site and into the sea.

Until now, the utility and regulatory authorities have assured an anxious planet that the contaminants in the water have been primarily tritium. Iodine-131 is a relatively simple isotope with an 8-day half-life. Its health effects can be substantial, but its short half-life has been used to proliferate the illusion that it's not much to worry about.

Reports now indicate the outflow at Fukushima also includes substantial quantities of radioactive iodine, cesium, and strontium. That, in turn, indicates there is probably more we haven't yet heard about.

This is very bad news.

Iodine-131, for example, can be ingested into the thyroid, where it emits beta particles (electrons) that damage tissue. A plague of damaged thyroids has already been reported among as many as 40 percent of the children in the Fukushima area. That percentage can only go higher. In developing youngsters, it can stunt both physical and mental growth. Among adults it causes a very wide range of ancillary ailments, including cancer.

Cesium-137 from Fukushima has been found in fish caught as far away as California. It spreads throughout the body, but tends to accumulate in the muscles.

Strontium-90's half-life is around 29 years. It mimics calcium and goes to our bones.

That these are among the isotopes being dumped into the Pacific is the worst news to come from Japan since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whose bombings occurred 68 years ago this week, and whose fallout has been vastly exceeded at Fukushima.

Indeed, Japanese experts have already estimated Fukushima's fallout at 20-30 times as high as the 1945 bombings.

This latest revelation will send that number soaring.

The dominant reality is this: There is absolutely no indication how or when this lethal outflow will stop.

Thus far, Tepco has built scores of tanks on the site to contain whatever contaminated water it can capture. But the company is by no means getting all of it, and it is running out of space.

Some of the tanks, of course, have already sprung leaks.

There is no clear idea whether this outflow is accelerating. Tepco has injected chemicals into the ground meant to harden and form a wall between the reactors and the sea.

There's also a surreal discussion of super-cooling a part of the site to conjure up a wall of ice.

But water has a way of flowing around such feeble devices.

We may yet hear that this massive outflow is a temporary phenomenon, but that's not likely.

The site is still unpredictably radioactive. It remains unclear what has happened to the melted cores of the three exploded reactors.

The recent appearance of a steam plume has raised the specter that fission may still be occurring somewhere in the area.

It is also unclear what will happen to the hundreds of tons of spent fuel perched precariously in a pool 100 feet in the air above Unit Four.

Sustaining that cooling system until the rods can be removed -- and it's unclear when that will happen -- is a major challenge.

Should an earthquake come before that's done, and should those rods go crashing to the ground where they and their zirconium cladding could ignite in the open air, the consequences could only be described as apocalyptic.

Through it all, Japan's new pro-nuclear administration has been talking of restarting the 48 reactors that remain shut since Fukushima.

Tepco has been among the utilities pushing to resume operations at its other plants.

In the U.S., there is talk of atomic reactors somehow solving the global warming crisis.

But what we now know all too well at Fukushima is that the world's worst atomic catastrophe is very far from over.

The only thing predictable is that worse news will come.

And when it does, our increasingly fragile planet will be further irradiated, at immeasurable cost to us all.

Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org. His Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm.

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Comments

To suggest that electricity is cheap and clean is being misinformed at best and hypocritical at its worst. There are 6 Nuclear power stations in Canada. Three in Ontario plus the one in Chalk River, 2 in Quebec, and one in New-Brunswick. However, nuclear plants usually have multiple nuclear reactors. Canada has about 19 active Nuclear Reactors, most of them in Southern Ontario. All of these reactors generate huge toxic radioactive waste including the reactors themselves that will remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. So who will pay the piper for all that? How many generations of people will die as a result of the cancers generated by the world wide us of atomic reactors? Nuclear power in Canada would be non-existent were it not for the mega-billions of taxpayers dollars stolen by politicians to build them. It also costs multiple billions of dollars to maintain them and then to shut them down. Never mind getting rid of nuclear waste; you never get rid of nuclear waste; it remains toxic to humans for hundreds of thousands of years. The best way to get rid of nuclear waste is to ship it to the sun. Nuclear power is the most dangerous and toxic method of producing electricity. Must I mention the events at Fukushima (Japan), Cehrnobyl (Ukraine), and how about Three-mile Island (US). There are hundreds if not thousands of event every year where operators of nuclear plants fail to disclose hazardous events at their plants. The US is the biggest culprit with 99 Nuclear Rectors. Chernobyl and Fukushima will cause the death of hundreds of millions of people worldwide and has already contaminated hundreds of millions of acres of land. Fukushima will require at least another 50 to 100 years to clean the site, but then where does the contaminated water, soil, air, and rain go to. Where will they bury all those insanely radioactive materials. Cancer will never be eliminated because of Nuclear Power. Severe increases in cancer related diseases began appearing in the world at the onset of the development of nuclear power by the US. After bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki the US channelled billions into developing nuclear plants to ensure they had a good supply of lethal radioactive bombs. That is the only reason for having nuclear power today; it has nothing to do with being clean and cheap. In fact if you factor in all the taxes and costs to make electricity; it would be totally uncompetitive in the market. There would be no market for electricity generated by Nuclear Reactors. By the way, people should not forget that the US used depleted (more falsehoods) Uranium to target tanks and other structures in the Iraq invasion and others. They freely admitted to that and the contamination has spread everywhere they shot enemy tanks and structures. They are fighting all attempts to determine the health effects on the Middle Eastern population. They claim that it is no worst than background radiation. Using depleted uranium in weapons and armour is like using rat poison to wash your hands. What is Canada's role in the Nuclear industry. Canada produced around 22% of the world's uranium, it being the highest grade and having the largest reserves of it. Now Kazakhstan produces more than Canada. Production comes primarily from the McArthur River and Cigar Lake mines in northern Saskatchewan. One final point. Our sun occasionally lets go giant solar winds and flares that blow across the Earth. It has been scientifically noted that thee is very serious probability that one of these events will destroy hundreds of massive electrical transformers that supply electricity to the entire North America electrical grid. The construction of these huge transformers requires a full year, and each one costs around 1 million dollars. No contingency plans are in place. No electricity also means no oil. A solar wind event will destroy most of these transformers meaning that electricity will stop flowing. Nuclear plants have a very limited backup strategy for electricity and it will last at the most a couple of weeks to one month if we are lucky. What that means is that all the nuclear rods that are stored in pools of water will no longer have water flowing over them to keep them cool including the reactors. That means they they will ALL blow up contaminating the entire US and Canada with nuclear debris; we shall all die from exposure to radioactivity. Now is a good time to start shutting them down. Protesting will not help you. They must be shut down

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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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