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Start Thinking Fukushima

Since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami of March 11, 2011 struck Japan, the destroyed nuclear power plant at Fukushima Daiichi has been a cause for worldwide concern. Being only the second nuclear incident to rank a seven on the international nuclear events scale, matched only by the now-infamous Chernobyl meltdown, the lasting effects of this tragedy are not easily quantified.

As a result, fears continue to mount over meltdowns, radiation clouds, contaminated food and water sources and the entire future of nuclear energy. With videos of Geiger counters reading extremely dangerous levels at California beaches, stories of fish containing radioactive materials and the tragic fate of the USS Ronald Reagan’s crew — a crew now plagued by leukemia and radiation poisoning as a result of its proximity to the 2011 disaster — it is impossible to avoid seeing and feeling the effects of this tragedy, even here in sunny Santa Barbara.

Although the United States was not initially exposed to the radiation of the Fukushima fallout, there are concerns that the ocean’s tides and food chain may be carrying this radiation much farther than the air itself could do. Recently, there has been a great deal of concern surrounding the potential consequences of this kind of radiation: Is our seafood still safe to eat? Is the Pacific Ocean still swimmable? How far could the radiation reach if it is actually a part of the Pacific’s ecosystem?

The answers to these questions are not easily ascertained. Seafood may be as healthy as ever or it might deliver a dangerous dose of Caesium-137 with each bite. The radiation that has been measured at California beaches may be an anomaly or we may have to come to terms with the possibility that skin cancer is no longer the biggest danger of laying out in the sand.

Fearing that exploring these questions further could lead to the destruction of the fishing industry of the Pacific Ocean, it is a difficult topic for any official government agency to address and, thus, the uncertainty remains. However, what we do know is that there are hundreds of thousands of fuel rods stored in the three melted reactor cores at Fukushima, a great number of which are still in a highly unstable state.

In order to keep reactors from melting down, the official plan has been to use enormous amounts of water to continuously cool and stabilize the fuel rods. But what happens to this water after it has been circulated around these radioactive rods?

Thus far, 330,000 tons of contaminated water — a number which is said to be growing by 400 tons per day — has been stored in a large system of tanks which do not appear to be successfully keeping this water out of the environment. There have been many incidences of leakage and faulty repairs on these water storage tanks that may have caused large amounts of this water to seep into the ground and ocean near Fukushima.

Not only is there concern over the water that is already stored in these tanks, but also over how to accommodate future needs for water storage and isolation. Once again, there are not many feasible solutions on the horizon.

Currently, the plan at Fukushima is to slowly remove the fuel rod assemblies, one at a time, using a highly advanced crane to remove each assembly and place it upon a rack for transport. If this system were to be put into effect immediately and operated for 24 hours a day, every day, one of the four decommissioned reactors would be expected to be emptied this year. Even the most optimistic of estimates do not foresee this project and the subsequent cleanup to be completed before 2020.

Being an ocean-side community, Santa Barbara needs to be concerned with the handling of the Fukushima tragedy. Whether or not the Pacific is already contaminated with radiation, Santa Barbara needs to start paying attention to how the aftermath of the crisis at Fukushima is being handled because it will absolutely affect our future, one way or another.

If we want to keep our community safe from the effects of this tragedy, we need to remind the world that we are watching and paying attention and that we will not simply stand by as our world deteriorates. Think something, write something, say something or do something, just don’t ignore the fact that one day, safely surfing or even walking the beach at UCSB may be nothing but a bittersweet memory.

Emile Nelson is the Nexus’ Opinion Co-Editor.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, January 9, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.
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14 Responses to Start Thinking Fukushima

  1. Umi Hagitani Reply

    February 28, 2014 at 1:03 am

    Thank you for the post, it is a good reminder for me to learn what local people of my age are thinking about my homeland Japan and about your local contaminated places such as Diablo an Hanford!

    Join and support our peace walk against nukes between Santa Barbara, Vandenberg, to Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant!

    For the third anniversary of the ongoing Fukushima Disaster, Reverend Sawada and concerned activists from the Bay Area, Japan, Switzerland, Hawai’i will be walking from Santa Barbara to Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo. We will walk in solidarity with all people who are affected by the accident, nuclear testings, and global nuclear military industrial complex.

    The Bay Area activists will join Reverend Sawada from Vandenberg Air Force Base on March 7th. We need your kind support in transportation and shelters for 4 walkers in the course of the following schedule:

    3/7: The Bay Area crew arrives in either San Luis Obispo or Lompoc Amtrak station.

    3/8 We walk from Vandenberg towards Guadalupe.

    3/9 Stopping point day before to Arroyo Grande.

    3/10 Arroyo Grande to SLO. (Alima might leave from SLO due to work)

    3/11 Prayer/vigil at Diablo Canyon during the day. If we do not get permission to have PG&E, we will pray at the gates. 3/11 Evening event at the Steinberg Gallery in downtown San Luis Obispo at 6PM. We will show a movie on Hibakusha/ Fukushima.

    If you are interested in walking with us, or if you know of anybody who could volunteer to support the walkers by providing transportation or shelter, please contact Umi Hagitani of No Nukes Action Committee at 917-774-4079 or amnioticfluid@gmail.com

    The walkers from the Bay Area will give a report back on May 3rd, 2014 at Berkeley Public Library West Branch. This potluck event will start from 2:30pm, including report back from activists who visited Fukushima and Taiwan. Details to be announced at http://nonukesaction.wordpress.com/

    Reverend Sawada Gyosen is a Buddhist monk of the Nipponzan Myohoji sect, a small Nichiren Buddhist order that is known for being actively engaged worldwide in the peace movement.

    Reverend Sawada was born and brought up in Fukushima Prefecture in Japan but has been residing in the U.S. since the 90’s, practicing at the Myohoji Dojo in Boulder, Colorado and Los Angeles, California. Because of his ties to Fukushima, he is also personally dedicated to the anti-nuclear cause and believes that “all things nuclear, from weapons to power generation have caused misery and suffering to humanity – we must end this cycle.” As a monk, his way is through prayer and he has participated in not only the larger walks but smaller, independent personal walks.

  2. Rochelle Becker Reply

    January 16, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    UCSB might also consider that the last aging nuclear plant in California is 90 miles to the north of Santa Barbara. Diablo Canyon nuclear plant does not meet its Nuclear Regulatory Seismic requirements for a Safe Shutdown Earthquake.
    Senator Boxer and Congresswoman Capps are questioning why the federal government is allowing operation of the country’s most vulnerable nuclear power plant (statements can be seen at http://www.a4nr.org)

  3. Ann Reply

    January 15, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    As the mainstream media has been silent on Fukushima, here are some excellent sites reporting on the most important story of our generation:

    Highly recommend —>

    NUCLEARHOTSEAT (excellent interviews)

  4. vegas Reply

    January 14, 2014 at 10:29 am

    it has been three years and after many many multiple calls from japan for help there has been none coming. in the USA this catastrophe has been completely swept under the rug. it is all covered under obamacare .. when people start to get sick they are covered and the cancer treatment centers will get their money under obamacare. this disaster along with the Louisiana sinkhole emitting massive methane into the atmosphere everyday has been ignored this past three years that is affecting *ALL OF US*. the incompetent policy of ignoring these catastrophes is not helping solve the problems.

    • François Cartier Reply

      January 14, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      Let’s not forget Hanford. When the underground radioactive seepage will start seriously contaminating the Columbia river, it is going to affect a lot of people downstream.


    • Edward A. Hara Reply

      January 15, 2014 at 6:04 am

      This is an absolute WINDFALL for the $138 billion dollar a year cancer industry. I am sure they brought out the best champagne, ordered new a new Cadillac, and have produced new advertising designed to tell us that they will surely “find a cure — it’s just around the corner” for this new scourge.

      Meanwhile the sheeple of the American public docilely go along to their deaths, thinking that the AMA and our government actually care about us.

  5. François Cartier Reply

    January 13, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    This article has many incorrect statements.
    “…matched only by the now-infamous Chernobyl meltdown.” Actually, it may surpass Chernobyl. Experts are now talking about a level 8 disaster.
    “…fuel rods stored in the three melted reactor cores.” The assemblies to be removed are in the spent fuel pools (SPF), not in the reactor cores.
    “In order to keep reactors from melting down…” The fuel in the 1st 3 reactors have already melted through. The placement of the melted corium for each reactor is unknown but is suspected to be at the bottom of the basement, maybe underneath. For unit 2, maybe in the suppression torus. It’s the SPF assemblies that could melt if not kept submerged.
    And so on. Please do your homework.

    • Dave Marks Reply

      January 14, 2014 at 11:06 am

      Actually, there are 6 reactors at the Daiichi site that are going to be decommissioned, although I doubt they will ever get to this process because of certain critical issues: the ground under the damaged reactor buildings & storage pools, is becoming very unstable due to the immense quantities of water beneath them.

      And the leaking water storage tanks are now emitting large amounts of x-rays (a form of gamma ray), and this radiation is a danger to all the workers on the site, since there is no way to protect them from this type of radiation. It comes in waves and travels across and beyond the entire site.

      Thus, even if no more major earthquakes or other such catastrophes occur, if no workers can maintain Fukushima Daiichi due to this gamma radiation, the nearby nuclear facilities and possibly all those in Japan, will explode and melt down. This is a nightmare scenario, but unfortunately there are other such scenarios, all of which lead to worldwide catastrophe.

      • François Cartier Reply

        January 14, 2014 at 5:49 pm

        The BWR units 5 and 6 are going to be easy to decommission, relatively speaking, as their cores are intact. The decommissioning of units 1, 2 and 3 is very problematical, as they don’t have the technology yet to deal with melted corium. Also the necessary removal of the fuel assemblies from SFP 1 through 4, where some of the assemblies in the racks are damaged is also of a high concern.
        X-Rays are not a form of γ-ray. The wavelength range for X-rays is typically from 10 picometers to 10 nanometers, while γ-rays typically have wavelengths less than 10 picometers.

  6. Lisa Zure Reply

    January 13, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Thank you, Emile, for writing this awakened Opinion. As an alumni of UCSB, and director of I Joined the WAVE (Worldwide Aqua Vida Emergency), I am urging all citizens to call the White House- 202 456 1111 – to tell the President not to dump another drop of radioactive water from Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean, or to store water or waste in the deep sea. IAEA is encouraging TEPCO to “dump it all.” They will deliver their final report to TEPCO at the end of this month. The US is the chief influencer and financier of IAEA, and thus has the most sway on their decisions. IAEA told me this personally. I applaud your courage in bringing forth this still-taboo topic, amidst so much denial, and support all UCSB students and Santa Barbara residents in taking action to prevent further unnecessary pollution of our shared Pacific Ocean.


    Lisa Zure

  7. ChemE Reply

    January 11, 2014 at 4:09 am

    I am a chemical engineer, I have run statistics on two years of fish kills due to algae blooms, red tide and hypoxia in Florida and I am coming up with a strong statistical link between locations of Doppler Microwave Radar Towers and damaged biology. These weather and military towers are pulsing 250,000 to 3,000,000(military) of polarized microwave radiation into the atmosphere 24/7, many times overlapping 3-5 towers. Based upon my data it appears the Dopplers may be gradually energizing the overhead atmosphere which in turn is increasing ionization of the surroundings. Pillar Point air station has approx. 7 of these radars near where the high radiation was detected. I have research on my blog @ darkmattersalot

  8. Hiroshi Suzuki Reply

    January 9, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Fukushima cowboy fights Japanese Government orders to kill contaminated cattle
    4 Jan 2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

    The Fukushima cowboy’s property is just 14 kilometres from the shattered reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant and his cattle have already been found to be contaminated with elevated levels of radioactive caesium.
    Some of his cattle have even developed white spots.

    The Fukushima cowboy is resisting Japanese Government attempts to have his herd slaughtered, saying the beasts should be studied to better understand the health effects of long-term radiation exposure.
    Instead of slaughtering his cattle, his cattle should be used to study the long-term effects of radiation. Killing his cattle is destroying evidence.

    • Edward A. Hara Reply

      January 15, 2014 at 6:06 am

      QUOTE: “Killing his cattle is destroying evidence.”

      Of course it is. Criminals always look to destroy the evidence of their malfeasance.

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