Modern ghost towns, abandoned houses, and far stretching roads lined with plastic bags of radioactive garbage have replaced the once bustling neighborhoods and cities of the Fukushima Prefecture. Formerly home to thousands, the massive release of radiation has forced residents to evacuate their beautiful homeland, leaving the land they love behind without knowing whether or not they may ever return without putting their lives at risk. Join the Fairewinds Crew and ask yourself this: With 99 operating atomic power reactors generating electricity in the U.S., what’s so different about your home, your town, your state that what happened to Fukushima couldn’t happen to you and your family?
Many Japanese and millions of Americans are currently living in the shadow of atomic reactors, plutonium reprocessing plants, and atomic waste dumps. It will be five years in March since the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi began and the Japanese public and people around the world continue to search for the truth about nuclear risk and honest answers to their energy future. Fukushima@5 exposes the truth of the ongoing atomic devastation caused by the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi.
Hi, I’m Arnie Gundersen chief engineer and Board member for Fairewinds Energy Education.
It’s March, 2016, and five years ago this month the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi began. Maggie and I, and the Fairewinds Crew, have received many questions about how this disaster began, its current status, and what the future after such a major catastrophe may look like for the Daiichi site, the Fukushima Prefecture, and the people of Japan. All of us at Fairewinds created this video to answer your questions and share the truth about the ongoing tragedy at Fukushima Daiichi.
First, let’s take a look at why this disaster happened at all. Many of you know that in addition to the public information work we do with the non-profit Fairewinds Energy Education, we work together in a paralegal services and expert witness firm Maggie founded in 2003 named Fairewinds Associates. During the first quarter of 2011, we were working on several cases and uncovering a number of significant safety issues at very different plants in the US. One night on an after dinner walk only 3 weeks prior to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, Maggie said, “You know, we look at a lot of aging nukes, and we are uncovering so many significant safety risks. Arnie, where do you think the next radioactive disaster will occur?” I said “I’m not sure where, but I am sure it will be in a General Electric Mark 1 BWR reactor”. Unfortunately, I was right. The Fukushima Daiichi atomic reactor is a GE Mark 1 BWR design.
If you listen to the mainstream media, you might believe that these three atomic reactor meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi are strictly a problem produced in Japan. That is absolutely wrong. All of the major design decisions at Fukushima Daiichi were made in the USA, including placing the diesels in the basement and ignoring the 2000-year history of HUGE tsunamis. The atomic reactor itself was designed by General Electric in San Jose California, while the entire Unit 1 power plant was designed and constructed by Ebasco, located in downtown Manhattan. Today, in the United States, there are 23 atomic reactors identical to those still in meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi.
The atomic power industry would also have you believe that the Japanese nuclear program is somehow inferior to its US counterpart. Moreover, it wants you to believe that such a catastrophe could not happen in the US, and once again the nuclear industry is absolutely wrong.
All of the mechanical problems that caused the equipment malfunctions at Fukushima Daiichi are also present in each of the 23 GE Mark 1 BWR reactors here in the United States. But more importantly, the same engineers that designed 100 atomic power reactors in America used the same skills to design the six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. Finally, the people we are supposed to trust to regulate US nuclear plants, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), have been compromised by the atomic power industry just like the Japanese regulators. Japanese technology is not inferior to US atomic technology, and regulation of Japan’s nuclear power and materials industries are not less regulated than those that we have here in the US. For that matter, several US plants are in such decrepit condition or also located on earthquake faults or downstream from leaking dams, that it is only dumb luck that none of the American atomic power plants have suffered meltdowns since 1979 at Three Mile Island (TMI) in Pennsylvania.
For more than 40 years, both American and Japanese engineers have been aware of the many design flaws that caused the meltdowns and accompanying explosions at Fukushima Daiichi. Senior managers at the Atomic Energy Commission, the regulatory precursor to the NRC, expressed grave concerns about the GE Mark 1 BWR containment design as early as 1972. Subsequently, in 1985, a report issued by the NRC identified that if a meltdown occurred, there was a 90% probability that the GE Mark 1 BWR containment would explode.
Afterwards, another NRC report from the early 1980s showed that General Electric’s entire reactor design was more prone to meltdowns than other atomic reactor because it was designed with many, many holes in the bottom of each nuclear reactor to facilitate movement of the control rods required to slow down or almost stop the atomic chain reaction inside the reactor. These control rod holes significantly weakened the floor of each GE BWR reactor. And, finally again in the 1980s, NRC reports indicate that GE and NRC engineers knew that the high pressures, high temperatures, and high radiation levels after a nuclear meltdown would cause the plumbing and electrical conduits in each containment to fail totally, thereby allowing groundwater to leak in to the molten core. The ongoing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi atomic reactors simply proves that early engineering analysis from the 1970s and 80s was absolutely correct – not one safety system operated as it was designed and consequently massive amounts of radiation continue to enter Japan’s water and air, and the Pacific Ocean, daily.
No one in the atomic power industry wants to discuss why these reactors were operated for 40 years knowing that they were ticking time-bombs, and why dozens of similar reactors are even allowed to operate today. You’ve heard me say it before here at Fairewinds, follow the money! Quite simply, the atomic power industry and its regulators put the interests of investment bankers, atomic power and nuclear weapons brokers, and governments eager to retain atomic capability ahead of public health and safety.
It was obvious back in 2011 that these poorly designed and aged reactors that are sitting in earthquake zones at Fukushima Daiichi continue to bleed radiation into the Pacific. Clearly, leaking radioactivity will be an ongoing phenomenon for decades at least. Here is what I said when I was one of the first to identify this leakage back in 2011.
People around the world write to Fairewinds asking why the cleanup is taking so long and how soon will the disaster be over. Less than one week after the triple meltdowns started I was interviewed by CNN. As I said then, I’ll say again now, cleaning up Fukushima is going will be a “long slog”.
While we at Fairewinds Energy Education were speaking truth to power during the first week of the meltdowns, government officials here, in Europe, and in Japan were trying to convince people around the world that nothing bad had happened at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi site. Don’t worry, be happy seemed to be the theme song around the world, so that each country that owned atomic power plants could continue operating its reactors without its citizens being concerned for their health and safety.
Many FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) document requests given to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have produced a series of emails from inside the NRC that prove US NRC engineers and the Commission itself knew exactly that what the world was watching via the internet and social media was a real tragedy of enormous proportion. In spite of this knowledge, throughout the world, in atomic reactor countries government officials didn’t tell anyone just how severe this calamity was.
I have spent almost 45 years in the atomic power industry, and I am a nuclear engineer with both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree. I also was a licensed reactor operator, taught reactor physics at RPI where I had an Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship, and I also patented a nuclear safety device. When I was interviewed by John King on March 18th 2011, I was the first person in both America and Japan to publicly say what many nuclear engineers, regulators, and government officials all over the world already knew, that Japan’s atomic reactor emergency was as bad or worse than the atomic reactor debacle at Chernobyl.
Two months after I said that on The John King Show, while nuclear engineers and regulators maintained silence, and after the US nuclear power industry called me a liar, Japan’s government officials belatedly told the world the truth about the failures at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plants. The world was finally told that the system failures and meltdowns in Japan were as bad as Chernobyl.
What took them so long? As, I have said before, follow the money!
As we look back on these devastating atomic power induced tragedies, it is easy to determine the moment that both the debacle at Chernobyl began and the moments in time that TEPCO’s Fukushima atomic reactors began to melt down.
But now, five years later, no one knows when any of these ongoing manmade radioactive cataclysms will end. As Yogi Berra, the famous American baseball player and coach would say, “It ain’t over till it’s over”. Sadly, Fukushima is far from being over. For me as a nuclear engineer, it was obvious immediately after the disaster began, as it was to many others with a similar technical background to mine, that it would take an extraordinary amount of time and a phenomenal sum of money to cleanup the worst industrial calamity in human history.
In February 2012, I was an invited speaker to the Foreign Correspondents Press Club in Tokyo where I told the worldwide media that a manmade radioactive disaster of this magnitude would take decades to cleanup and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
As an experienced nuclear engineer and former nuke industry corporation senior vice president, I did not want to see the cover-ups and risk to families around the world that I saw after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Fairewinds and I spoke truth to power immediately in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Global Post. The two-hour interview I gave to The Wall Street Journal was never published. We at Fairewinds worked unceasingly to make sure that accurate information reached media all over the world.
The saddest thing that has happened for me during the last five years is to witness how the governments in Japan and the US, and the world-wide atomic power industry continue to claim that little or no radiation is impacting people living in Japan. The truth is already beginning to make itself known, and during the next five years the world will see a rapid increase in thyroid cancers followed by organ cancers, hard tissue cancers, and leukemia in those exposed to the massive amounts of radiation released in Japan. Many of Japan’s government officials continue to apply pressure to doctors, scientists, teachers and journalists in order to prevent them from analyzing, discussing, and informing people about the health ramifications from such extensive and invasive Fukushima Daiichi induced radiation. Because they are so much more radiosensitive, children, especially young girls, and their mothers will be the real casualties of this disaster for decades to come. We at Fairewinds estimate at least 100,000 and very possibly as many as 1,000,000 cancers as a result of this ongoing and immitigable atomic induced tragedy.
The tissue damage to people in Japan due to radioactive hot particles has been and continues to be completely ignored by the world’s nuclear community. I was the very first scientist to discuss the release of Fukushima Daiichi hot particles. The ongoing radioactive legacy of hot particles will linger throughout Japan literally for centuries.
Maggie and I and the Fairewinds Crew have repeatedly been the first organization to talk about and publish information informing you about dozens of other significant issues that other scientists and government officials in the nuclear power field have not. Some of these scientists, engineers, and officials have told us that they were either afraid to discuss or were forbidden by their corporate or government employers from speaking about information we have made public.
While we are proud to share our knowledge with you, we are also dismayed that mainstream media has failed to tell the truth about the worst industrial disaster in human history.
What did we learn from the triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi? 1. There will be more atomic reactor catastrophes. 2. During the next nuclear disaster, emergency evacuation plans will fail again because government officials place atomic power profits before the health and safety of its people. 3. Nuclear containment systems are absolutely incapable of enclosing and isolating radiation released as catastrophes begin and as they continue unmitigated. 4. These prolific radiation releases will cause upwards of a million deaths even though officials will claim none have occurred as was done at Chernobyl and TMI. 5. The irreversible costs of atomic power to us, the people of the world, greatly exceed any profits and benefits to its corporate owners. 6. Due to its triple meltdowns and immitigable radioactive releases, Fukushima Daiichi will continue to bleed radiation into the Pacific Ocean for more than a century. 7. There is no road map to follow with directions to stop the ongoing debacle that is Fukushima Daiichi. It will be a long slog.
Renewable energy is so much safer and economically viable. With the legacy of TMI, Chernobyl, and now the ongoing calamity at Fukushima Daiichi, why is the world even considering building more atomic power plants? And, with aging degraded atomic reactors, climate change induced flooding, tsunamis, hurricanes, and typhoons, along with moving tectonic plates creating earthquakes worldwide, why indeed are any atomic reactors operating anywhere in the world?
I’m Arnie Gundersen from Fairewinds, and we will keep you informed.