Title: In light of further nuclear risks, economic growth should not be priority
Author: By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer
Date: April 2, 2012
[...] One of the biggest issues that we face is the possibility that the spent nuclear fuel pool of the No. 4 reactor at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant will collapse. This is something that experts from both within and outside Japan have pointed out since the massive quake struck. [...] not only independent experts, but also sources within the government say that it’s a grave concern.
The storage pool in the No. 4 reactor building has a total of 1,535 fuel rods, or 460 tons of nuclear fuel, in it. The 7-story building itself has suffered great damage, with the storage pool barely intact on the building’s third and fourth floors. The roof has been blown away. If the storage pool breaks and runs dry, the nuclear fuel inside will overheat and explode, causing a massive amount of radioactive substances to spread over a wide area. Both the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and French nuclear energy company Areva have warned about this risk.
A report released in February by the Independent Investigation Commission on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident stated that the storage pool of the plant’s No. 4 reactor has clearly been shown to be “the weakest link” in the parallel, chain-reaction crises of the nuclear disaster. The worse-case scenario drawn up by the government includes not only the collapse of the No. 4 reactor pool, but the disintegration of spent fuel rods from all the plant’s other reactors. If this were to happen, residents in the Tokyo metropolitan area would be forced to evacuate.
Former Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Sumio Mabuchi, who was appointed to the post of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s advisor on the nuclear disaster immediately after its outbreak, proposed the injection of concrete from below the No. 4 reactor to the bottom of the storage pool, Chernobyl-style. [...]
“Because sea water was being pumped into the reactor, the soundness of the structure (concrete corrosion and deterioration) was questionable. There also were doubts about the calculations made on earthquake resistance as well,” said one government source familiar with what took place at the time. “[...] fuel rod removal will take three years. Will the structure remain standing for that long? Burying the reactor in a concrete grave is like building a dam, and therefore expensive. I think that it was because TEPCO’s general shareholders’ meeting was coming up (in June 2011) that the company tried to keep expenses low.” [...]
Earthquakes in the neighborhood of level-5 on the seismic intensity scale continue to occur even now in the Tohoku and Kanto regions. We cannot accept the absurd condescension of those who fear the worse-case scenario, labeling them as “overreacting.” We have no time to humor the senseless thinking that instead, those who downplay the risks for the sake of economic growth are “realistic.”
Read the report here
Published: April 2nd, 2012 at 12:37 pm ET