"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Thursday, April 14, 2011

FINALLY: Fukushima 101 -- Dr. Kaku makes it crystal clear

      "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.
     "So 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.  

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about this raising of the category level to 7, on a par with Chernobyl.

DR. MICHIO KAKU: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about exactly—I mean, as a physicist, to explain to people—exactly what has taken place in Japan at these nuclear power plants.

DR. MICHIO KAKU: (See quote at top of page)

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think has to be done now?. . .

DR. MICHIO KAKU: 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.

I 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.

AMY GOODMAN: To do...?

 DR. MICHIO KAKU: 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 overwhelmed.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, these workers are in for much longer periods of time.

DR. MICHIO KAKU: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the evacuation zone? Is it big enough?

DR. MICHIO KAKU: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: What has to happen to the plant ultimately?

DR. MICHIO KAKU: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: Entomb it in...?

DR. MICHIO KAKU: 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. . .

AMY 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?. . .

DR. MICHIO KAKU: 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. 

AMY GOODMAN: 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.

DR. MICHIO KAKU: 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."

AMY GOODMAN: 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.

DR. 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.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what do you think should happen? Do you think nuclear power plants should be built in this country?

DR. MICHIO KAKU: 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. 

AMY GOODMAN: No private corporation could even build a nuclear power plant: you have to have the taxpayers footing the bill.

 DR. MICHIO KAKU: 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/

No comments:

Post a Comment