The current TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) plan calls for the nuclear fuel rods of the severely damaged ‘Daiichi’ nuclear power plant fuel-pool #4 to NOT begin removal until possibly 2014. That’s right, 2 more years before they might start the 10-year process of removing fuel rods there according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Tepco says it’s working to remove the fuel rods as fast as it can. If all goes according to its timetable, the utility could start taking the rods out in 2014.
…the schedule allows up to ten years to get all the spent fuel in all the Fukushima reactor pools out.
Fukushima Daiichi suffered meltdowns at three of its reactors last year after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out power in the area. Much of the nuclear fuel in those three reactors is thought to be in a melted lump at the bottom of the vessels that surround the core.
Another big earthquake or tsunami could send Fukushima Daiichi’s fragile reactor buildings tumbling down, resulting in “an even greater release of radiation than the initial accident,”
Source: The Wall Street Journal, http://blogs.wsj.com/
The fuel pools are 100 feet above the ground, entirely open to the atmosphere (except for the water constantly being pumped into them) because the nuclear reactor buildings were blown apart by explosions back during 2011. The fuel pool (#4) which holds more than 10,000 nuclear rods could collapse from structural damage, should another strong earthquake occur there, and scatter the rods all over the ground. Emergency worker access to these rods will be impossible (except for suicide missions) as they will be emitting lethal levels of gamma radiation. The fuel rods will quickly heat up and ignite/explode, releasing massive clouds of radiation into the atmosphere.
Quote from a story on April-2, 2012 from the Mainichi Daily News in Japan written by Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer, “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.”
The only thing saving the planet from exposure to 85x Chernobyl is the few feet of water covering the rods at this very moment. There is no other containment. Period. In fact, the fuel pool apparently is, and has been, leaking. A constant re-supply of water is required to avert total disaster.
Okay, should this event occur (earthquake followed by collapse of fuel-pool #4), how would it affect us here in the U.S. and other countries outside of Japan? What, if anything, can we do to be prepared for such an event?
As the radiation began to spew into the atmosphere, the surface and upper winds would carry the ongoing invisible cloud with it. If it were carried along in the jet-stream, which spins around the globe at say, 100 mph (and higher), it would take about 10 days to circle and cover the globe, predominantly in the northern hemisphere. That said, a few days or even 10 days is not enough time to make any practical preparations for this type of disaster.
In fact, one wonders if there is anything at all that we can do to make a difference such that we could protect ourselves beyond just a short period of time. Let’s face it, if this were to happen, the effects would be long lasting, long term, wide reaching, and almost unimaginable.
What will happen?
In my own estimation, there would not be instant death. There would be immediate tragedy in Japan, as millions of people scramble to evacuate the regions there (imagine evacuating Tokyo?). What would happen is that we would slowly but surely become more and more contaminated with radiation as we potentially breath in particles, get doused with particles (from the rain), and most importantly… we consume them from the foods that we eat (which will have become contaminated) and the water we drink. The cancer rate will skyrocket, and the die-off will begin.
What can or could we do?
The most extreme precaution (meaning – life uprooting) would be to move to the southern hemisphere. The further south the better, as some of the radiation will eventually migrate to the equator regions and spill below.
For the U.S., the radiation ‘fallout’ will be the worst on the west coast, and possibly parts of Alaska, as this is the first landfall of the predominant jet-stream winds from Japan. Rains will scour out some of the radiation from the air and toxify the west and central U.S. a bit more than the East. Unfortunately this is where lots of food is grown. The top several inches of soil will become contaminated. For long term issues, the food supply will be the deadliest aspect of this disaster.
I suppose that food grown in the southern hemisphere and shipped north, will be less contaminated. Those foods would certainly demand a premium and become VERY expensive.
A limited amount of food safety may come from growing food ‘inside’, out of the elements, out of the contaminated air and rain, in greenhouses, in non-contaminated soil. A problem though will be feeding the plants (and yourself!) with non-contaminated water (where will it come from or how to filter it).
As far as I know, one ‘partially’ effective way to separate radioactive particles from water is through water distillation (However some distillers will not rid radioactive iodine). I found this apparent factoid… “One of the problems with distilling is that iodine has a low boiling point – it turns into a gas at 363-degrees F (184 C). The little home distillers use high pressure for efficiency and if they are using over ~140 psi they will be vaporizing the radioactive iodine along with the water. A low pressure distiller like the type used for distilling alcohol won’t boil off the iodine.”
Boiling water will NOT remove radiation (or any other chemicals), but instead will concentrate it. The evaporated steam will also contain ‘some’ radiation. I’ve also heard that a Reverse Osmosis water filter may be effective to remove ‘most’ of the radiation particles. Water from a natural spring, which itself draws water from deep below the ground, may be a good source of safer water than contaminated surface water.
Regarding finding non-contaminated foods, the most assured way is to have it stocked up ahead of time, before the nuclear disaster, in your long term food storage supplies. This of course will only last until you run out, and then you’re in the same radiated boat as the rest of the people.
There will be new food processes popping up that will claim to produce non-contaminated foods, as many will attempt to profit from the disaster. Some may be real while I’ll bet many others will be false claims. The problem is that most of these sources will likely only produce relatively small volumes of food while the majority of the population depend upon mass produced foods. Food will continue to be grown and produced as before because there will be no other choice. People who consume it will simply and horrifically become more and more contaminated themselves over time. The radiation particles accumulating in their bodies will eventually damage surrounding tissue and/or DNA, leading to cancer and premature death. It is a scary thing, for sure.
The only immediate and somewhat effective solution that I see, is to grow your own food, in a greenhouse environment with soil that has been scraped from a depth of at least 4 inches below the topsoil, and fed with water from a natural spring. Obviously, a sufficient amount of food would need to be grown, and a sufficient amount would need to be preserved for the non-growing season. It would be very difficult, at best, to successfully accomplish this unless you are a seasoned gardener with the right knowledge, tools, and resources to do it.
Surviving a Fukushima fuel pool collapse will involve arming yourself with the knowledge, skill, and resources to grow your own food as described, to procure your own water which is safe to drink, and to stay out of the elements when it is storming. The hardest part of all this is to actually have the land to accomplish this, as the majority of the population lives in suburbia or the city. If you believe strongly that the risk is of high potential, then your only course of action, is to take action now, before it is too late.
Oh, one more thing, you will probably want to invest in a Geiger counter…