#5 Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Deepens

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The 2011 nuclear reactor meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, continues unresolved, despite both assurances by government authorities and major news media that the situation has been contained and the assessment of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency that Japan has made “significant progress” in cleaning up the site.

The continued dumping of extremely radioactive cooling water into the Pacific Ocean from the destroyed nuclear plant, already being detected along the Japanese coastline, has the potential to impact entire portions of the Pacific Ocean and North America’s western shoreline. Aside from the potential release of plutonium into the Pacific Ocean, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) recently admitted that the facility is releasing large quantities of water contaminated with tritium, cesium, and strontium into the ocean every day.

While acknowledging that the water in remaining tanks at the Fukushima facility is heavily “tainted,” a December 2014 statement from the Japanese government’s Nuclear Radiation Authority affirmed a decision to dump it into the Pacific. Aside from the potential release of plutonium into the Pacific Ocean, TEPCO admitted that the facility is releasing a whopping 150 billion becquerels of tritium and seven billion becquerels of cesium- and strontium-contaminated water into the ocean every day. By contrast, the Japanese government does not allow over 100 becquerels per kilogram to be sold to its citizenry. “This water contains plutonium 239 and its release into the ocean has both local as well as global repercussions,” wrote Michel Chossudovsky at Global Research.

In August 2014, TEPCO acknowledged that nearly every fuel rod at Reactor 3 in the No. 1 plant had melted as a result of the earthquake and tsunami, Sarah Lazare reported, drawing on Japanese press sources. Previously, TEPCO had estimated that only 63 percent of the reactor’s nuclear fuel had melted. The TEPCO statement also noted that the fuel began melting six hours earlier than previously believed. Both factors, Lazare wrote, would make the extraction and disposal of melted fuel more difficult.

More than four years since the tsunami and earthquake devastated Fukushima, corporate media do not treat the ongoing disaster itself as significantly newsworthy. Instead, most developing corporate coverage focuses on whether other countries, including the US, are adequately prepared if a similar type of nuclear disaster were to occur elsewhere. Certainly this is an important consideration, but the plight of the Japanese people displaced by the disaster, not to mention its long-term, potentially global environmental consequences, remain dramatically underreported in the corporate press.

In May 2015, the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority gave final clearance to the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant, which is owned and operated by the Kyushu Electric Power Company, to restart operations. It is the nation’s first nuclear power plant to resume operations, under new government regulations, since the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Russia Today reported that, “despite objections from almost two thirds of the public,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “wants nuclear plants to supply about 20–22 percent of Japan’s energy needs by 2030.”

“TEPCO Drops Bombshell About Sea Releases; 8 Billion Bq Per Day,” Simply Info: The Fukushima Project, August 26, 2014, http://www.fukuleaks.org/web/?p=13700.

Sarah Lazare, “Fukushima Meltdown Worse Than Previous Estimates: TEPCO,” Common Dreams, August 7, 2014, http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/08/07/fukushima-meltdown-worse-previous-estimates-tepco.

Michel Chossudovsky, “The Fukushima Endgame: The Radioactive Contamination of the Pacific Ocean,” Global Research, December 17, 2014, http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-fukushima-endgame/5420188.

Student Researcher: Cassie Kahant (Florida Atlantic University)

Faculty Evaluator: James F. Tracy (Florida Atlantic University)