Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Full and immediate disclosure needed in cases of nuclear reactor meltdown...including Japan

Japan nuclear plant suffers worst radioactive water leak

By The Associated Press, on CBC website, August 20, 2013

The operator of Japan's tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant said Tuesday that about 270 tonnes of highly radioactive water have leaked from one of the hundreds of storage tanks there — its worst leak yet from one of the vessels.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the contaminated water leaked from a steel storage tank at the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi plant. TEPCO hasn't figured out how or where the water leaked, but suspects it did so through a valve connected to a gutter around the tank.
TEPCO spokesman Masayuki Ono said the leaked water seeped into the ground after largely escaping piles of sandbags added to a concrete barrier around the tank. Workers were pumping out the puddle and the remaining water in the tank and will transfer it to other containers.

This is not the first such leak, although it may well be the most serious.
What is so striking, is the creeping, and we might add creepy, way in which the information, all of it, from day one of the disaster, has been meted out to the world. There is a kind of national pride that seems to be wrapped up in this story that few countries in the world would deem appropriate under the circumstances.
National pride, while useful in some circumstances, is no excuse for withholding deadly information, either from one's own citizens or from the world. And while there is, as there must be, some tolerance for individual country cultural differences, and respect paid to those differences, under normal circumstances, surely the nuclear aspect of this disaster is not and cannot be considered 'normal'.
The survival of individuals, including workers at the Japanese nuclear reactor, and those in a growing radius around the facility, is more important, and must be considered so, than the national pride of those responsible for securing the facility following the tsunami. While the world's heart broke for the Japanese people, at the time of the disaster, and the story became front page news around the world, even then, officials were slow, reluctant even, to release the full scope of the damage to the civilian population and also to the nuclear reactor.
In the case of nuclear reactors, the IAEA needs both the freedom and the licence to require operators to release a full account of the information, as soon as it is verified, in order for the appropriate steps to be taken to protect lives in the region as well as further afield.
The world is playing with highly toxic materials, especially when forty-year-old reactors continue to operate, after many warnings to either shut them down or conduct major retrofits.
Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are two previous examples that come to mind, in which nuclear reactors suffered meltdowns, and in both cases I do not recall the kind of secrecy, even surreptitiousness, about releasing the information on the part of the U.S, and the then USSR authorities. What are the political and the cultural differences between these two cases and the Fukushima disaster?
While the world must respect the significant actions of the Japanese government following the disaster, including reducing dependence on nuclear power by some 40%, there continues to be a bleeding public relations wound in the latest spate of stories about radioactive water escaping from the damaged, and shut-down reactor.
And the further damage to human and both aquatic life will continue so long as the reactor is not fully and permanently sealed.
We are counting on both the Japanese authorities and the IAEA to assure the world that at least that action is fully and transparently completed in the most urgent and most effective manner.
What has the world learned

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