"Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind," Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, told Al Jazeera.
..."We have 20 nuclear cores exposed, the fuel pools have several cores each, that is 20 times the potential to be released than Chernobyl," said Gundersen. "The data I'm seeing shows that we are finding hot spots further away than we had from Chernobyl, and the amount of radiation in many of them was the amount that caused areas to be declared no-man's-land for Chernobyl. We are seeing square kilometres being found 60 to 70 kilometres away from the reactor. You can't clean all this up. We still have radioactive wild boar in Germany, 30 years after Chernobyl."
...Japan's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters finally admitted earlier this month that reactors 1, 2, and 3 at the Fukushima plant experienced full meltdowns.
...Meanwhile, a nuclear waste advisor to the Japanese government reported that about 966 square kilometres near the power station - an area roughly 17 times the size of Manhattan - is now likely uninhabitable.
In the US, physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published an essay shedding light on a 35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, and may well be the result of fallout from the stricken nuclear plant.
The eight cities included in the report are San Jose, Berkeley, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Portland, Seattle, and Boise, and the time frame of the report included the ten weeks immediately following the disaster.
Gundersen points out that far more radiation has been released than has been reported..."They recalculated the amount of radiation released, but the news is really not talking about this," he said. "The new calculations show that within the first week of the accident, they released 2.3 times as much radiation as they thought they released in the first 80 days."
According to Gundersen, the exposed reactors and fuel cores are continuing to release microns of caesium, strontium, and plutonium isotopes. These are referred to as "hot particles".
"We are discovering hot particles everywhere in Japan, even in Tokyo," he said. "Scientists are finding these everywhere. Over the last 90 days these hot particles have continued to fall and are being deposited in high concentrations. A lot of people are picking these up in car engine air filters."
Radioactive air filters from cars in Fukushima prefecture and Tokyo are now common, and Gundersen says his sources are finding radioactive air filters in the greater Seattle area of the US as well.
The hot particles on them can eventually lead to cancer.
"These get stuck in your lungs or GI tract, and they are a constant irritant," he explained, "One cigarette doesn't get you, but over time they do. These [hot particles] can cause cancer, but you can't measure them with a Geiger counter. Clearly people in Fukushima prefecture have breathed in a large amount of these particles. Clearly the upper West Coast of the US has people being affected. That area got hit pretty heavy in April."
..Why have alarms not been sounded about radiation exposure in the US?
Nuclear operator Exelon Corporation has been among Barack Obama's biggest campaign donors, and is one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was senator. Exelon has donated more than $269,000 to his political campaigns, thus far. Obama also appointed Exelon CEO John Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.
It never ceases to amaze me that companies which do billions of dollars a year can get favors worth billions for so little in return - hundreds of grand in campaign contributions, and then under the table promises to politicians that when they leave office they will get a job as a consultant or on the board of directors, that sort of thing.
It is technology that first and foremost is the reason why I think libertarianisms which appeal to (shall we say) Jeffersonian agrarian ideals are simply impossible. I think the same with regard to acre and an ox for every man distributivisms. That game is up. Nuclear technology is not going away - hell, we will need experts and sophisticated technologies simply to control clean up and waste for thousands of years to come; even were we to magically stop active energy production via nuclear technologies the demand for nuclear technology is not going away.
I have a friend, a physicist in East Tennessee, who is a fan of the Chinese reactor which avoids all of the problems and risks associated with Fukushima. When asking yourself why we would not go with an option that is safer and cheaper remember that investors tend to make more money on options that are more complicated and more expensive. I've noted many times over the years of the story of the "small-pharma" start-up making rather simple new versions of old antibiotics which stood to save many lives as these drugs were useful in fighting some of the "super-bugs" that have developed and would be used by many -- big-pharma was not interested in making these drugs because overhead to create them would be small, a lot of the intellectual property was open to public use (not "owned"), and thus even though a profit was virtually guaranteed, it wasn't the level of profit those companies are after. Remember that the companies that make the products which lead to the production of nuclear power are not in business to be safe or to provide cheap products. They are in business to make the greatest possible profits, so if they can rig the game so as to result in increased risk to the public, increased cost to the public, but greater profit for the company, that is the end the company will pursue.
Those of libertarian bents view the "fault" of the rigged game on the government, and believe that by reducing the role of the government in the game, things will be better than they are now. There is no doubt that multiple governments, including the Japanese and U.S. governments, are among those institutions culpable for the Fukushima disaster. But it seems to me that an outcry for less government or no government in response to such disasters is akin to declaring that we should get rid of referees when we find out that most of the refs in NCAA DIV I college football have been bought and paid for by various teams or bookies. It may be that the corruption is vast, but why can't we just enforce policies which make it harder to buy the refs?
Venny in this thread argues for strict liability. I think this is definitely one aspect of what needs to happen in the shorter to medium term. I think that one of the biggest problems is this - say I have a billion dollars. I can invest 10 million dollars into 100 different companies that have the capacity to wreak colossal damage to human beings and human habitats (Monsanto, BP, Exelon Corp., Xe Services LLC, and so forth). Over the course of decades of investment, it is possible that on many of those investments I may double or triple or quadruple or more the money I put into the company. But all I stand to lose, my only liability, is the initial 10 million I put in. There are easily many hundreds of companies in the world today who use technologies which are capable of wreaking havoc to many millions of human lives and even cause devastation across whole regions, even, if we want to think apocalyptically, most of the planet. Monsanto is one of the best examples of this phenomenon. Many of these companies use technologies which have not long been tested and which are being strewn throughout the world without much thought of local contingencies or long term effects on human persons or environments.
But this is not really of much concern to our investor. In the case of some catastrophes he can be confident that the company will pay out 20 or 30 or 40 billion dollars, even though much of this money will be poorly spent, and even though this will not result in anything like a comprehensive clean-up, but that company will still be back to making killer profits in a year or so. The investor might actually appreciate such a disaster because a short term drop in that company's stock value allows him to purchase even more and make a profit when the stock value raises again.
Then there may be the occasional mega-disaster which actually results in a long term loss of profitability for a few of the companies our investor has invested in. But this is part of the game, and our investor is making so much in his other investments it effects him little to have a few instances where a company goes under because of a catastrophe it can't even pretend to fix.
The end result is that very wealthy men can put a lot of money towards very risky businesses and know that while a few of them here and there in any given decade will destroy the lives of many, he'll still make his obscene profits in the end.
I believe the solution to the problem must involve some mechanism through which we effectively end liability protections for investors. If you give 10 million dollars to a nuclear power company that causes 40 million people to develop cancer within the first 15 years after a meltdown, then let's "rig the game" so that those maligned by the company can go after not only the company's assets but also (some of? all of?) the assets of the individual investors. That investor stood to be able to make 3 times or 5 times or 10 times his investment in the company, let's make it so that he also stands to lose 3 times or 5 times or 10 times what he put in, should it turn out his (invested in) company was playing with the lives of innocent persons by taking a gamble with technologies it could not control.