Explosion at Japan Nuclear Plant


Yesterday, March 29, 2001, according to a report released from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Studies, “The French radiation protection authority, Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN), estimates the radioactive releases of iodine-131 in Japan had reached about 2.4 million curies by March 22, 2011. That is about 160,000 times the best estimate of the amount released during the TMI accident in Pennsylvania (15 curies) and about 140,000 times the maximum estimate of 17 curies. It is about 10 percent of the estimated amount released during the Chernobyl accident, according to the IRSN. Combined cesium-134 (half-life: about 2 years) and cesium-137 (half life: about 30 years) releases from Fukushima are estimated at about half-a-million curies, about 10 percent of estimated Chernobyl cesium releases. “

This morning, March 30, 2011, DemocracyNow! hosted a fiery debate between The Guardian columnist and author George Monbiot and anti-nuclear activist, author, pediatrician, and co-founder of Physicians for  Social Responsibly, Dr. Helen Caldicott. Both Monbiot and Caldicott agreed that the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was in grave danger and that coal is no substitute for nuclear power. However, Monbiot and Caldicott pretty much disagreed on just about everything else.

Monbiot started off the debate by stating, “coal is hundreds of times more dangerous than nuclear power, not just because of climate change, though, of course, climate change is a big one, but also because of industrial accidents and because of the impacts of pollution on local people.” Monbiot went on to defend the Nuclear industry and its track record.

However, Caldicott, while agrees coals is a dirty and dangerous business, went into great detail into the dangers the Fukushima plant still pose to the people of Japan, and the world. Caldicott declared,

“The Guardian yesterday reported that Unit No. 2 had actually melted down. The fuel had melted through the reactor vessel onto the concrete floor below. That is a problem because the zirconium in the fuel reacts with the concrete, and it could form a huge hydrogen bubble like happened at Three Mile Island. There could be a huge hydrogen explosion, which would rupture the containment vessel, and out of Unit 2 would come huge plumes of radiation, which, if the wind is blowing towards the south, could devastate much of Japan forever, or it could be blown across the Pacific towards the American—North American continent and around the globe, indeed, and pollute the whole of the northern hemisphere.”

She went onto to state, “A new report from the New York Academy of Sciences has just translated 5,000 papers from Russian into English. It’s the most devastating report I’ve ever seen. Up to a million people have already died from Chernobyl, and people will continue to die from cancer for virtually the rest of time. What we should know is that a millionth of a gram of plutonium, or less, can induce cancer, or will induce cancer. Each reactor has 250 kilos, or 500 pounds, of plutonium in it.”

Last week,  Project Censored was alerted, by a long time supporter, that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA)  radiation watch site was down.  On Wednesday, Dr. Peter Phillips of Project Censored contacted the EPA, inquiring about the large number of downed radiation monitoring sites, known as RadNet. At first, the EPA was not able to respond to Project Censored’s questions.

Then, a couple of days later, the EPA announced through the Associated Press,” Parts of America’s radiation alert network have been out of order during Japan’s nuclear crisis, raising concerns among some lawmakers about whether the system could safeguard the country in a future disaster.”

According to the EPA, “About 20 monitors out of 124 nationwide were out of service earlier this week, including units in Harlingen, Tex. and Buffalo, N.Y. on Friday.”

March 30, 2011 the EPA announced on the RadNet site, “In response to the ongoing situation in Japan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken steps to increase the level of nationwide monitoring of milk, precipitation, drinking water, and other potential exposure routes.”

The EPA told the Associated Press, “The network as a whole continues to detect even the slightest traces of radiation in the air.”

However, the AP article demonstrates a pattern of underfunding and neglect to the monitoring system. Defunding and deregulation of the EPA has long been a target of the Right-wing , corporatocracy.

It is important to note that the Republicans have targeted both the Department of Energy (DOE), and the EPA for major funding cuts in the 2012 budget. The EPA’s downed radiation monitoring sites is emblematic of the problems we can expect with the regulatory departments budget cuts.

Last year, all of America was glued to the images in the murky waters at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The oil gushing out from a burst drill pipe astonished everyone. Especially since the oil companies and U.S. government seemed to have no idea how to quickly “shut off the valve.”

In the months following the B.P. disaster, an investigation into the events that led up to the explosion and spill has revealed multinational companies putting profits over safety and exceedingly lax government oversight.

Now we find the Republicans, due to the national budget problems created by the deregulation of the banking industry, aim to defund vital parts of the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. For the DOE, the Republicans have been proposing we cut job creating investment in clean, green renewable energy. Last month, Science Magazine wrote and extended expose’ on the Republican’s plan to cut DOE funding. Here is a summary of the report:

“A spending bill passed by the House of Representatives last week would bring the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) entire science program to a screeching halt and wreak havoc on research funded by other agencies and by private industry (see p. 993). The so-called continuing resolution, which provides funding for the federal government for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, would cut DOE’s Office of Science by 18%. The $4.9 billion agency supports 10 national laboratories as well as research at hundreds of universities. Republican opposition to the Obama Administration’s plans to beef up clean energy research may be the driving force behind the deep cuts, but if they are enacted—the bill now goes to the Senate, which takes issue with many provisions—the impact would extend far beyond research geared toward developing green energy technology.”

In response to the 18% budget cuts, the Obama administration proposed a 12% spending increase to the DOE.

Likewise, the Republican have in their crosshairs the EPA. In fact, some Republicans, Rand Paul most notably, have called for the complete elimination of the EPA. Of course, this is the agency that provides America with mostly up to date, day by day, information about radiation levels in the air we breathe and the water we drink.

However, in spite of the fact the U.S. just experiences one of its worst man made environmental deseasters, both the Republicans and the Obama administration has called for cuts in the EPA. According to a Reuters article on March 2, 2011:

“Congress passed a stopgap spending bill on Wednesday that keeps the government going for two weeks, but did nothing to resolve a bitter debate over this year’s budget.

Before Congress came to the agreement, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a bill that would have slashed the EPA’s 2011 budget by about 30 percent.

Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2012 would trim the EPA’s budget by far less. His budget released last month would cut the budget $1.3 billion, or about 13 percent, to $9 billion with reductions in a clean diesel program and in Great Lakes restoration projects.”

However, Obama own agency pointed out the short-sightedness of this the proposed budget cuts. Reuters reports, “The EPA released a report this week that said cutting pollution under the Clean Air Act will save $20 trillion by 2020 in health costs. It will also have prevented 230,000 premature deaths annually from heart attacks, and other health problems that can be brought on by smokestack pollutants such as soot, it said.”

And this gets to the root of the problem. Republicans claim they are the party that protects American lives. Yet, the approach to protecting American lives from corporate abuse and incompetence is to let the multinational corporations (who often pay little to no taxes in the U.S.) run roughshod over the health and welfare of American.

Dr. Helen Caldicott warned Americans that if there were to be a hydrogen explosion the Unit 2 reactor in Fukushima Daiichi, “huge plumes of radiation, which, if the wind is blowing towards the south, could devastate much of Japan forever, or it could be blown across the Pacific towards the American—North American continent. Yet, a week after the EPA announced they had 20 of the RadNet monitoring sites down for repairs, many are still fully down or at least partially down, including San Jose and San Diego.

The Republican agenda of tax cuts and corporate handout for the rich, while cutting the budgets for education and vital regulatory agencies, has come at great cost to our nation. And yet, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that strong regulations saves both money and lives, the Republican’s continue to shove down the throats of everyday Americans their radical agenda. They do this at the expense of the wealth and more importantly the health of every American. Their radical, corporate agenda must be stopped. And the upcoming budget debates is one place to stop the Republicans from stripping away the basic protections Americans need to live a safe and healthy life.