Fukushima Accident Severity Level Raised to ‘7’: Gundersen Discusses Lack of US Radiation Monitoring Data

April 13th, 2011

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About This Video

Nuclear Engineer, Arnie Gundersen, discusses why TEPCO’s announcement of an increased accident severity level should not be a surprise. He also discusses similarities among the Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima nuclear accidents and how Governments are once again limiting public access to accurate radiation dose information. Lastly, Gundersen responds to the overwhelming number of email inquires regarding the Fukushima accident.

Video Transcript

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Arnie Gundersen: Hi, I’m Arnie Gundersen from Fairewinds, and today is Wednesday, April 13th.

I’d like to talk to you today about three things that have come up in the last couple of days.  The first is that Tokyo Electric [TEPCO] has raised the accident severity level to a seven [7].  The second is similarities that I’m seeing between how this accident is progressing and Three Miles Island [TMI] and Chernobyl in regards to controlling the information.  The third is that I’ve received a lot of emails about, “What should I do here in the states [U.S.A],” and “What should I do in different countries about potentially changing lifestyle habits or leaving?”  So I’d like to talk about those today.

The first one is, yesterday TEPCO changed the rating of this accident from a 5 to a 7.  What that means is: they had been saying it was like Three Mile Island, and now they’re saying it’s as severe as Chernobyl.  Well, I’ve felt that way for almost the last month.  Frankly, it should come as no surprise to anyone that this accident is as bad [as Chernobyl].  There are seven nuclear reactors and fuel pools that are not being cooled here, and there’s been three meltdowns and an explosion in a fuel pool.  So the net effect is that this is certainly a catastrophe on the level of Chernobyl and has been for the last couple of months, [correction] couple of weeks, rather.

It’s interesting because, before this accident occurred, the worst that anybody ever thought [would happen] would be one nuclear reactor, not with a meltdown but with one percent [1%] nuclear fuel failed, containment retained its integrity.  This is three nuclear reactors, a fuel pool, and etc.  This is about a thousand times worse than ever anticipated by the nuclear planners.

The second thing is that I’ve noticed some disturbing similarities between the information that’s coming out of Fukushima and what came out of Chernobyl and what came out of TMI.  You may remember [that] I was an expert at that [TMI] trial in the ‘90s and it seems as if the government, and also the people that own the reactors, begin to try to control the information and limit a couple of things.  They try to limit the amount of radiation released and they try to limit the effect of that radiation on people, and the other thing is they try to delay evacuations until they’re too late.  I saw that at Three Mile Island, and I saw it at Chernobyl, and I see it beginning to occur here too.

Back on the thirtieth anniversary of Three Mile Island I was invited to Harrisburg, to the capital [of Pennsylvania], and I gave a speech.  It’s up on the website, right next to the video here.  It was about what I call “The Three Myths of Three Mile Island.”  If trends continue, we could call it “The Three Myths of Fukushima” as well.  I’m hoping that, in an internet era, that more information will be available to more independent scientists, and that governments and utilities don’t try to monopolize that data.  It’s about a half an hour video, and at the beginning of it you’ll hear music in the background.  While I was giving this speech, there was a marching band in the rotunda next to the room, so I ask you, if you watch the video, to bear with me for the first ten minutes for the music in the background.  Right after my speech, Dr. Steve Wing gave a speech about the actual health effects of Three Mile Island.  Because the radiation releases had been downplayed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC] and by Three Mile Island itself, we have been led to believe there were no injuries.  Dr. Wing’s data clearly shows that that’s wrong.  I’m concerned that we’re beginning to see the industry circle the wagons, and make that presentation.  I heard it on NPR [National Public Radio] today, for example.  So, please be aware that the trend of trying to consolidate information is not new, but I think in the internet era we stand a chance to break that.

The last thing today is that I’ve had many, many emails from people saying:  “What should I do?  Should I move?  Should I change the way I eat?”  A lot of the U.S. Government [radiation monitoring] sites are down right now.  I’m not going to attribute motive to that, but I will let you know that I’m concerned that we’re not getting the radiation data that we should be getting from the U.S. Government sites.  There’s a lot of independent scientists out there that are gathering data, and I think that probably by next week I’ll be in a position to better estimate what that is.  I guess, if you’re concerned, washing leafy vegetables can’t hurt, and watching milk consumption can’t hurt but, short of that, I really don’t have any data to share with you this week.  I think maybe next week we will.

Finally, two things.  I promised a more thorough review of the Areva report.  With events like this upgrade [of the disaster severity] to a 7, I haven’t gotten around to that yet.  I will.  Last, but certainly not least, on Friday I’ve been invited to a two hour television show with Deepak Chopra and several other nuclear experts.  It’s going to be accessible via the net, and there’s a link on this page to link you to it.  It’ll be at 6:00 PM Eastern Time [EST] on Friday.  That probably will be the video for Friday from my standpoint.  I hope you can click that link and watch it.

Finally, Fairewinds actually has a day job, and making these presentations is not it.  I hope that you can look toward that donate button on our page and help support this.  We’re not drawing any salaries for making these presentations, however keeping up the web [site] and the web presences is costly, and I hope you choose to do it.

I will get back to you in a couple of days, but let me leave you with one last thought, and that is: everybody knows the moment that Three Mile Island, and the moment that Chernobyl happened, but who knows when they end?

Thank you.

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