The Associated Press affiliate Japan Today is one of the major English news sources in Japan. Its antinuclear agenda has been obvious to this writer since I began following Japan’s Fukushima accident news in March, 2011. However, the June 12th posting, Gov’t OKs long-term Fukushima cleanup plan despite unknowns (1), one of its most error-filled to date. Not only does it preach the antinuclear dogmas of unbridled uncertainty and doubt, but it contains an incredible amount of misinformation and incorrect statements used to support the article.
The report concerns the freshly-revised roadmap for the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi. The opening blurb says, “The Japanese government on Friday approved a revised 30- to 40-year roadmap to clean up the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, but many questions remain.” This is followed by the obligatory reminders of the March, 2011 accident and the need to remove damaged fuel. Unfortunately, the confabulatory offal soon follows.
The first tainted statement goes thusly, “Experts believe melted fuel had breached the reactor cores and mostly fell to the bottom of the containment chambers, some possibly sinking into the concrete foundation.” First, the fuel is the reactor core. It cannot breach itself. I guess they mean “breached the reactor vessel”. On the other hand, the notion of the cores sinking into the concrete foundation is nothing more than fantasy. Nobody, other than a few foreign antinuclear prophets of doom, has said any melted mass actually breached the vessel’s bottom head and sunk into the base-mat below. The statements literally drip with uncertainty.
This is but the tip of the redolent iceberg. Four “uncertainties and questions” follow. The first concerns the removal of used nuclear fuel from units #1, #2, . The article says, “…they [fuel bundles] need to be removed to free up space for robots and other equipment to go down to the containment chambers.” This is pure hogwash. The spent fuel pool is completely outside the Primary Containment Vessel. The fuel in the SFP in no way, shape, or form, has anything to do with access to the PCV. But, this gross error is immediately followed with another, “…the building roofs must be taken off and replaced with a cover that prevents radioactive dust from flying out.” Actually, the temporary enclosure around unit #1 reactor building needs to be disassembled, but there is no roof at all over unit #3 and unit #2’s reactor building is completely undamaged. For units #1 and #3, a fuel-removal structure will be needed, similar to the one used to defuel the SFP for unit #4. Unit #2 has an essentially undamaged, already-installed fuel transfer system for used fuel removal that will be more than sufficient to empty the SFP. Two entirely incorrect statement that transcend uncertainty and doubt, and take us into the realm of fiction.
The next topic is entitled “The Melted Fuel”. In this case, there may well be currently unanswerable questions, but they get spun into something beyond the truth. It says, “The biggest questions are where the melted fuel is and in what condition.” Hey…hello! The fuel is fully melted in unit #1; that IS the condition. It is not entirely unknown. The fuel core may have fully melted in unit #3 and (probably) partially melted in unit #2. Again, these conditions are fairly-well known…not completely unknown. Also, the location of the fuel in each is not unknown. With unit #1, it’s inside the Primary Containment, either pooled up in the bottom head of the RPV or else piled up on the floor of the PCV directly below the RPV. The same goes for unit #3. Unit #2, it is probably still inside the RPV. Regardless, Japan Today makes it seem like some big, horrific mystery that smacks of the unrealistic “melted into the earth” fiction preached by many antinuclear sources.
The real problem is whether or not the melted fuel can be recovered by filling the PCVs with water. However, this option is not in order to keep the melted fuel cooled. It’s to use the water as a highly effective radiation shield! A foot’s thickness of water reduces radiation levels by a factor of 10. Two feet drops it by a factor of 100. Keeping the melted fuel cool has nothing to do with why the principle methodology is submergence! It’s to reduce the radiation exposures to the workers who will be doing it.
The third item is entitled “Contaminated water”. While admitting that the massive volume is being run through “treatment machines to remove most radioactive elements”, the article abruptly conjures up visions of radioactive harm by saying, “Water leaks pose environmental concerns and health risks to workers.” However, the environmental concerns from leaks of treated waters are entirely hypothetical. In addition, any leaks can only get as far as the wholly-barricaded inner port. It’s going nowhere else. And, what in tarnation does the contaminated water pose as a health risk to workers? Only those who ascribe to the non-scientific, fundamentally alarmist notion of no safe level of radiation, or the more irrational notion that detectible equates to inordinate danger, would believe the treated wastewater stored at F. Daiichi poses any real risk to the people working there.
The last item is entitled “radioactive waste”. It says Japan has no plan for the waste that comes out of the plant. A kernel of truth transformed into something entirely misleading. The material will either be buried at F. Daiichi or shipped to a geological repository. However, the antinuclear activists of Japan have been well-trained by foreign experts in socio-political obfuscation; how to keep either of these things from happening. Japan Time’s bottom line is that “…finding waste storage site is practically impossible considering public sentiment.” And, “This raises serious doubts about whether the cleanup can be completed within 40 years.” The appeals to uncertainty and doubt are obvious.
Japan Today makes the decommissioning processes seem hopeless, when the opposite is the reality. However, we can be confident on two points concerning the future. Japan Today will certainly do everything it can to keep fear of the unknown alive in Japan. The future is necessarily uncertain, and Japan Today uses this fact as if it is only applicable to Fukushima decommissioning. Secondly, we can surely doubt whatever rhetorical ploys the news outlet uses to try and “prove” its undeniably antinuclear agenda.
(End note – The same reporter posted a nearly identical report with the Associated Press on Saturday. (2) The preamble to the four main points is abbreviated from the Japan Today article, but the myriad of technical mistakes remain.)