Today on Fairewinds' Film series Fairewinds' Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen discusses the ongoing struggle for the people impacted by the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi disaster in his recent interview on Al Jazeera USA.
NWJ: Today on Fairewinds Film Series, Fairewinds Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen, discusses the ongoing struggle for the people impacted by the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi disaster in his recent interview on Al Jazeera USA.
AJ: Let’s talk about this with Arnie Gundersen. He joins us live from Tampa, Florida. He’s the Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Energy Associates. It’s an energy consulting company. He’s also a former executive in nuclear industry. Thank you so much for being with us. I’m curious to know when we see the pictures out of the area around Fukushima, what does the future look like for them? How long will it be before things are truly back to normal?
AG: Well, I think for the people within maybe 20 miles, they’ll never get back to normal. You see people walking around with these little hand-held radiation detectors and they’re not really measuring the worst of the radiation. What we’re finding are very, very small microscopic particles that are lodging in people’s lungs. And the Japanese government is not talking that exposure into effect. The health consequences within 20 kilometers and 30 kilometers out are really significant and will be for decades.
AJ: So do you think the Japanese authorities are moving too quickly and trying to move in people from the outlying neighborhoods in the Fukushima plant?
AG: Absolutely. You know, they’re really forcing them to move in because they’re taking away the money that they had been receiving to live remotely. And the only way they can continue to be on a stipend is to come back into that radiation. So it’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. It’s uncomfortable to live far away. On the other hand, it’s worse to be in a high radiation area.
AJ: So when you look at this disaster, what do you think other nuclear plants around the world have learned from this?
AG: Well, there’s been a lot of lessons learned. Unfortunately, most of the changes are not being implemented. We learned about this huge wave that can knock out the cooling systems of the plant. There’s plants in the United States that have that same problem, but yet we have given those power plants as long as 10 years to make the required fixes. Emergency planning was proven to be a joke, and yet we’ve got Indian Point, which is only 20 miles from New York City, which continues to operate. So while we know the problems, we’re really not getting to the meat of solving them.
AJ: But solving and fixing those problems, as you know, can cost an extremely large amount of money. So how do you balance the need for changes with the practicality that it takes a long time and a lot of money to fix these issues?
AG: (2:46) I guess I get back to what part of Fukushima don’t you understand. If you don’t make these modifications, you run the risk of destroying the fabric of a country. It happened at Chernobyl and it’s happening right now in Japan. So to me, it’s money well spent to make these modifications to prevent that from happening on our doorstep.
AJ: So let me ask you also, we’ve heard this reports about fish contamination across the ocean from the Fukushima disaster. How real of a threat or of an issue is that really?
AG: Well, the nuclear plant on the Japanese side of the Pacific is bleeding radiation into the Pacific every day – about 400 tons of radioactive water every day for over a thousand days now has been pouring into the Pacific. Now as that plume crosses the Pacific, it dilutes because the Pacific’s a big place. But we are beginning to see low levels of radiation in the water. I have told people I wouldn’t mind swimming in the water; I wouldn’t mind walking along the water. But until our government, whether it’s states or national government, tell me what’s in the fish, I remain very concerned about eating the fish that are coming from the Pacific.
AJ: Arnie Gundersen with Fairewinds Energy Associates. Thank you for your time today.
AG: Thank you for having me.
NWJ: Thank you for watching this interview with Fairewinds Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen. Today Arnie is in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at Penn State University giving a keynote address – The TMI at 35 Retrospective. Keep an eye out for this speech, as we will be releasing it very shortly.