Reactor Meltdown Could Make Much of Japan Uninhabitable

Fukushima nuclear power plant reactor 4 is currently on verge of collapse

• Prime minister says Fukushima Reactor 4 a peril to entire region

By Frank Whalen

On March 11, 2011, Japan endured a massive earthquake and tsunami that caused a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. A year later, the site remains a toxic wasteland, and only now is the full extent of the catastrophe being revealed.

The mainstream news reported that the deadly earthquake and tsunami killed at least 16,000 people and that airborne radiation levels in parts of Fukushima prefecture were expected to remain near dangerous levels at least until 2022.

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However, now Reactor 4 is currently on the verge of collapse. Its collapse, according to published reports, could result in the evacuation of 1/3 of Japan’s population.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) recently visited the scene and had some alarming impressions. In a letter to Japan’s ambassador to the U.S., he commented upon the fact that “the irradiated nuclear fuel stored in spent fuel pools amid the reactor ruins may have far greater potential offsite consequences than the molten cores.”

The Fukushima site, he wrote, has an “extremely large radioactive inventory without a strong containment structure,” and “several pools could possibly topple or collapse from structural damage coupled with another powerful earthquake.”

If that were to occur, the lack of water would “cause melting and ignite its zirconium metal cladding—resulting in a fire that could deposit large amounts of radioactive materials over hundreds of miles.” This is significant, as the “Fukushima Daiichi site is storing nearly 85 times the amount estimated to have been released at Chernobyl.”

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Wyden is calling for “an international effort” to fund the placement of “spent reactor fuel into dry, hardened storage casks. This will require about “244 additional casks, at a cost of $1M per cask.”

Much like what happened with the economic meltdown in the U.S., those behind Japan’s nuclear disaster are asking for financial assistance. Associated Press reports that TEPCO, Japan’s power company, “needs to fund billions of dollars of compensation payments as well as the massive cost of scrapping the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant,” and “it intends to cut $37B in costs and raise electricity bills by 10% in exchange for a $12B public bailout.”

Online news outlet The Huffington Post added that in January former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan “said that a meltdown at Unit 4 would force the evacuation of Tokyo and close half of Japan. “Where would all these people go? The Japanese government reportedly spoke with Chinese and Russian officials about sending them 40M Japanese citizens because of the “extreme danger of life-threatening radiation poisoning.”

It’s estimated the majority of municipalities around the Fukushima plant will likely maintain high levels of radiation for at least a decade. The soil in and around Fukushima is heavily contaminated and will likely never be safe again.

The nightmare has already led to some changes. According to Greenpeace, “safety and maintenance concerns have led the country to at least temporarily shut down all but one of 54 reactors, and the last one will likely shut down by the beginning of May.”

Frank Whalen has been a radio talk show host for the past 17 years, and worked as a consultant for Maxim magazine. For more news and views from Frank, see

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