"Think of driving a car, and the car all of a sudden lunges out of control. You hit the brakes. The brakes don’t work. That’s because the earthquake wiped out the safety systems in the first minute of the earthquake and tsunami. Then your radiator starts to heat up and explodes. That’s the hydrogen gas explosion. And then, to make it worse, the gas tank is heating up, and all of a sudden your whole car is going to be in flames. That’s the full-scale meltdown.
what do you do? You drive the car into a river. That’s what the utility did by
putting seawater, seawater from the Pacific Ocean, in a desperate attempt to
keep water on top of the core. But then, seawater has salt in it, and that gums
up your radiator. And so, what do you do? You call out the local firemen. And
so, now you have these Japanese samurai warriors. They know that this is
potentially a suicide mission. They’re coming in with hose water—hose
water—trying to keep water over the melted nuclear reactor cores. So that’s the
situation now. So, when the utility says that things are stable, it’s only
stable in the sense that you’re dangling from a cliff hanging by your
fingernails. And as the time goes by, each fingernail starts to crack. That’s
the situation now." (From Despite Japanese Gov't Claims of Decreasing Radiation, Fukushima a "Ticking Time Bomb," on DemocracyNow.org)
This is the partial transcript of an interview with Dr.
Michio Kaku, a Japanese American physicist, a bestselling author, professor of
theoretical physics at City University of New York and the City College of New
York. His brand new book is Physics of the Future: How Science Will Change
Daily Life by 2100.
So, talk about this raising of the category level to 7, on a par with Chernobyl.
Well, Tokyo Electric has been in denial, trying to downplay the full impact of
this nuclear accident. However, there’s a formula, a mathematical formula, by
which you can determine what level this accident is. This accident has already
released something on the order of 50,000 trillion becquerels of radiation. You
do the math. That puts it right smack in the middle of a level 7 nuclear
accident. Still, less than Chernobyl. However, radiation is continuing to leak
out of the reactors. The situation is not stable at all. So, you’re looking at
basically a ticking time bomb. It appears stable, but the slightest
disturbance—a secondary earthquake, a pipe break, evacuation of the crew at
Fukushima—could set off a full-scale meltdown at three nuclear power stations,
far beyond what we saw at Chernobyl.
Talk about exactly—I mean, as a physicist, to explain to people—exactly what has
taken place in Japan at these nuclear power
MICHIO KAKU: (See quote at top of page)
What do you think has to be done now?. . .
Well, TEPCO is like the little Dutch boy. All of a sudden we have cracks in the
dike. You put a finger here, you put a finger there. And all of a sudden, new
leaks start to occur, and they’re overwhelmed.
suggest that they be removed from leadership entirely and be put as consultants.
An international team of top physicists and engineers should take over, with the
authority to use the Japanese military. I think the Japanese military is the
only organization capable of bringing this raging accident under control. And
that’s what Gorbachev did in 1986. He saw this flaming nuclear power station in
Chernobyl. He called out the Red Air Force. He called out helicopters, tanks,
armored personnel carriers, and buried the Chernobyl reactor in 5,000 tons of
cement, sand and boric acid. That’s, of course, a last ditch effort. But I think
the Japanese military should be called out.
Because of the fact that the radiation levels are so great, workers can only go
in for perhaps 10 minutes, 15 minutes at a time, and they get their year’s dose
of radiation. You’re there for one hour, and you have radiation sickness. You
vomit. Your white corpuscle count goes down. Your hair falls out. You’re there
for a day, and you get a lethal amount of radiation. At Chernobyl, there were
600,000 people mobilized, each one going in for just a few minutes, dumping
sand, concrete, boric acid onto the reactor site. Each one got a medal. That’s
what it took to bring one raging nuclear accident under control. And I think the
utility here is simply outclassed and
And yet, these workers are in for much longer periods of time.
That’s right. And we don’t even know how much radiation levels they’re getting,
because many areas around the site have no monitors. So we don’t even know how
much radiation many of these workers are getting. And that’s why I’m saying, if
you have access to the military, you can have the option of sandbagging the
reactor, encasing it in concrete, or at least have a reserve of troops that can
go in for brief periods of times and bring this monster under control.
What about the evacuation zone? Is it big
It’s pathetic. The United States government has already stated 50 miles for
evacuating U.S. personnel. The French government has stated that all French
people should consider leaving the entire islands. And here we are with a
government talking about six miles, 10 miles, 12 miles. And the people there are
wondering, "What’s going on with the government? I mean, why aren’t they telling
us the truth?" Radiation levels are now rising 25 miles from the site, far
beyond the evacuation zone. And remember that we could see an increase in
leukemia. We could see an increase in thyroid cancers. That’s the inevitable
consequence of releasing enormous quantities of iodine into the environment.
What has to happen to the plant ultimately?
Well, in the best-case scenario—this is the scenario devised by the utility
itself—they hope to bring it under control by the end of this year. By the end
of this year, they hope to have the pumps working, and the reaction is finally
stabilized by the end of this year. . .
They’re literally making it up as they go along. We’re in totally uncharted
territories. You get any nuclear engineering book, look at the last chapter, and
this scenario is not contained in the last chapter of any nuclear engineering
textbook on the planet earth. So they’re making it up as they go along. And we
are the guinea pigs for this science experiment that’s taking place. Then it
could take up to 10 years, up to 10 years to finally dismantle the reactor. The
last stage is entombment. This is now the official recommendation of Toshiba,
that they entomb the reactor over a period of many years, similar to what
happened in Chernobyl.
Entomb it in...?
In a gigantic slab of concrete. You’re going to have to drill underneath to make
sure that the core does not melt right into the ground table. And you’re going
to put 5,000 tons of concrete and sand on top of the flaming reactor. . .
GOODMAN: . . . Japan was the target of the dawn of the
Nuclear Age, right?. . . The U.S. dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima, Nagasaki. Your own family
mirrors the history of the Nuclear Age. Can you talk just briefly about that,
before we talk about current U.S. policy?. . .
That’s right. In California, my parents were interned in the relocation camps
from 1942 to 1946, four years where they were put essentially behind barbed wire
and machine guns, under the supervision of the United States military.
And yet, you became a nuclear physicist, interestingly enough, and you worked
with the people who made the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan.
Yeah. In fact, my high school adviser was Edward Teller, the father of the
hydrogen bomb. And he arranged for me to get a scholarship to Harvard, in fact,
and that began my career as a nuclear scientist. And Edward Teller, of course,
wanted me to work on the Star Wars program. He put a lot of pressure and said,
"Look, we’ll give you fellowships, scholarships. Go to Los Alamos National
Laboratory, Livermore National Laboratory. Design hydrogen bombs." But I said
no. I said, "I cannot see my expertise being used to advance the cause of war."
And you’ve been very outspoken when it comes to nuclear power in the United
States. . . President
Obama is taking the opposite position. He really is very much the nuclear
renaissance man. He is talking about a nuclear renaissance and has not backed
off, in fact reiterated, saying this will not stop us from building the first
nuclear power plants in, what, decades.
MICHIO KAKU: . . . [I]n the United States, we’re now poised, at this key juncture
in history, where the government has to decide whether to go to the next
generation of reactors. These are the so-called gas-cooled pebble bed reactors,
which are safer than the current design, but they still melt down. The
proponents of this new renaissance say that you can go out to dinner and
basically have a leisurely conversation even as your reactor melts down. But it
still melts. That’s the bottom line.
And so, what do you think should happen? Do you think nuclear power plants
should be built in this country?
I think there should be a national debate, a national debate about a potential
moratorium. The American people have not been given the full truth, because, for
example, right north of New York City, roughly 30 miles north of where we are
right now, we have the Indian Point nuclear power plant, and the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission has now admitted that of all the reactors prone to
earthquakes, the one right next to New York City is number one on that list. And
the government itself, back in 1980, estimated that property damage would be on
the order of about $200 billion in case of an accident, in 1980 dollars, at the
Indian Point nuclear power station.
No private corporation could even build a nuclear power plant: you have to have
the taxpayers footing the bill.
You have to have what is called the Price-Anderson Act, having the United States
government guarantee the insurance. Nobody will guarantee—nobody will sell an
insurance policy for a nuclear power plant, because who can afford a $200
billion accident? That’s why the United States government has underwritten the
insurance for every nuclear power plant. So the Price-Anderson Act is an act of
Congress that mandates the U.S. government, the taxpayers, will underwrite the
insurance, because nuclear power stations are not insurable.
You can watch the whole interview at DemocracyNow.org/2011/4/13/