Hiding the meltdowns in Fukushima

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I read recently that the Japanese nuclear crisis at Fukushima continues. Amazingly, if you read newspapers in Australia on a daily basis (as I do) you probably wouldn’t know it.

Thankfully, The Guardian has a report on the latest on crisis – and the scary news that authorities may have tried to hide the fact that there was a nuclear meltdown shortly after the earthquake and tsunamni.

Japan nuclear plant rubble - Fukushima Daiichi plant's No 3 reactor building
Rubble near Fukushima Daiichi plant's No 3 reactor building. The sign reads: 'Attention high radiation dosage. Stay away from this area due to high dosage rubbles 1000mSv/h found'. Photograph: Ho/Reuters.

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said fuel rods in two more reactors were likely to have suffered a meltdown soon after they were crippled by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami in north-east Japan.

Confirmation by Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) that fuel in the cores of reactors 2 and 3 had melted came days after new data confirmed a similar meltdown in reactor 1 about 16 hours after the disaster.

The utility, which last week suffered the biggest annual loss by any Japanese firm outside the financial sector, said most of the melted fuel in all three reactors was covered in water and did not threaten to compound the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Tepco said it had been unable to confirm the meltdowns until it had finished analysing data, but Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University, suggested the revelation was timed to minimise its impact on the public.

“In the early stages of the crisis Tepco may have wanted to avoid panic,” he told Reuters. “Now people are used to the situation … nothing is resolved, but normal business has resumed in places like Tokyo.”

Tepco’s handling of the crisis will come under closer scrutiny with the arrival in Tokyo of a delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The United Nations nuclear inspectors will visit the Fukushima plant and present their findings at a meeting of ministers from IAEA member-states on 20 June.

The crisis in Japan continues. Over 21 workers at Fukushima have suffered radiation sickness and experts estimate that more than 4000 people (or many times more) will die from cancer caused by the radiation from the nuclear disaster.

It is clear that nuclear energy is not the answer.

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