The crisis situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan is deteriorating and threatens not only the survival of the population of Japan but could also become a significant global disaster. We express our deepest sympathies to the people of Japan for the tragic loss of life, habitat and infrastructure they are continuing to suffer as a result of the triple disasters – earthquake, tsunami and nuclear, that began on March 11, 2011. The potential for additional massive radiation releases now is cause for grave international concern. The attention and resources of the international community must be focused on Fukushima to resolve this crisis in the safest and most transparent way.
Decommissioning of the entire Fukushima nuclear power plant will take many decades; however, there are two urgent situations that require international intervention. First is contaminated water at the site and second, and more dangerous, is the spent fuel rods, particularly those in Building Four. TEPCO has not demonstrated the capacity to manage these problems nor has it been forthcoming in a timely way about the magnitude of the problems at Fukushima.
TEPCO delayed public admission about the problems with groundwater that is flowing from the surrounding hills into the site. The water presents two dilemmas: it undermines the structural integrity of the damaged reactor buildings and it must be contained because it becomes contaminated when it flows through the site. TEPCO is pumping the contaminated water into temporary storage tanks, some of which are already leaking. Each day, contaminated water leaks into the Pacific Ocean. The capacity to physically hold this contaminated water on site is diminishing. TEPCO lacks an effective long-term solution to this problem.
In November, 2013, TEPCO plans to begin removal of more than 1,300 spent fuel rods located in the heavily-damaged Building 4. The rods are in a pool that is 100 feet above the ground. The roof over this pool was destroyed in the earthquake and tsunami two years ago and debris litters the pool which further complicates removal of the rods. Under normal operation, these rods were moved by computer-assisted cranes that knew their exact location, but that equipment was destroyed. The rods must be removed under manual control because of the debris and damage that has displaced them.
This is a task that requires great skill and precision. If a spent fuel rod breaks, gets too close to another rod or is exposed to the air, there could be a massive release of radiation into the air. According to Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, “If you calculate the amount of cesium 137 in the pool, the amount is equivalent to 14,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs.” This could badly contaminate the Northern Hemisphere.
Removal of the spent fuel rods is urgent because another earthquake could also lead to the release of radiation. However, it is imperative that this task be performed with the greatest accuracy and transparency. TEPCO vice president, Zengo Aizawa, admitted in August, 2013 that “we need support, not only from the Japanese government but from the international community to do this job.”
The risks of these tasks are global and require assistance from the planet’s best experts. Therefore, we, the undersigned, call for the following actions to be taken immediately.
- That the government of Japan transfer responsibility for the Fukushima reactor site to an international engineering firm overseen by a civil society panel and an international group of nuclear experts independent from TEPCO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as outlined in this open letter to the United Nations.
- That the decommissioning process be done safely so that workers at the Fukushima site are protected from exposure to hazardous materials, are compensated fairly and are provided with all necessary support given the tremendous risks that they are taking in this disastrous situation.
- That the Japanese and global media be permitted around-the-clock access to accurate information throughout the entire process of removal of the spent fuel rods so that the Japanese people and the international community can be informed of any risks to their health.
In addition, we call for three days of global action focused on the crises at Fukushima on November 9 through 11 to coincide with Armistice Day and the 32 month anniversary of the disaster.
Green Shadow Cabinet Sub-committee on Fukushima:
Jackie Cabasso, Secretary for Nuclear Affairs
Dr. Margaret Flowers, Green Shadow Cabinet, Secretary of Health
Bruce Gagnon, Green Shadow Cabinet, Secretary of Space
Steven Leeper, Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, adviser to the sub-committee
Dr. Jill Stein, Green Shadow Cabinet, President
Harvey Wasserman, Green Shadow Cabinet, Secretary of Energy
Endorsing individuals and organizations: