Maggie Gundersen: Hello Mr. Hirose and hello people of Kansai. I am Maggie Gundersen. I am the President and the founder of Fairewinds Associates and the founding director of Fairewinds Energy Education non-profit.
I am here today with Arnie Gundersen, my husband, and Chief Engineer for Fairewinds Associates. We are here today to talk to you about the triple meltdown at Fukushima-Daiichi. We hope to answer all your questions. I wish we could have joined you in person, but I thank you for watching this video and please send us any follow-up questions. We will be happy to answer them. Now let’s bring Arnie into this conversation. Arnie, how dangerous is the situation now at Fukushima-Daiichi Unit 4, particularly in Japan with its continuous danger of earthquakes and seismic activity and chance for an additional tsunami.
Arnie Gundersen: Unit 4 has always been my biggest concern. If you watched our website on the very first week of the accident I was saying that if Unit 4 were to catch fire, you would have to evacuate Tokyo. As a matter of fact the book that we wrote talks about that a lot. It is really important and it remains the biggest concern that I have about the Fukushima site. Unit 4 has more fuel in it than any of the other units in the complex, but more
importantly it has the most recently used nuclear fuel. And all of that fuel is outside of the containment. So that would make it dangerous enough. Except that also, of course, Unit 4 has had a series of explosions and is weakened structurally. Before it might have withstood a 7.5 earthquake. I believe that the structural damage to Unit 4 is so great that if there is a 7.5 earthquake, it will not withstand it.
Here is what would happen if Unit 4 were to crack and the water were to drain out of the nuclear fuel pool. The fuel is hot enough that it needs to be water-cooled. If air is all there is cooling the fuel, it will burn. It will burn the zircaloy cladding on the fuel, (and) will react with the oxygen to create a fire. And it is a fire that once it starts, cannot be put out by water. Water would make it worse. So the nuclear fuel would have to burn completely before the fire would ever go out.
In the process, all that radiation would go up into the atmosphere and blow all over Japan and all over the world.
There is as much cesium in the fuel pool at Unit 4 as there was in all of the atomic bombs dropped in all of the tests in the 1940′s, the 1950′s, the 1960′s, and into the 1970′s. All of the above ground testing has less cesium in it than is in the reactor pool at Fukushima 4 right now. So it is a grave situation. I don’t believe that the Japanese Government is moving fast enough. If there is no earthquake, the plan to remove the fuel slowly is going to be adequate. But we cannot wait on Mother Nature. We have to quickly move that fuel out of that pool and onto the ground. The key here is quickly. The Japanese Government finally just this month came up with a plan to build a building around the fuel pool building and begin removing the fuel in 2013 or 2014.
I said that that is what they needed to do on the Fairewinds site in an interview with Chris Martenson a year ago. These things have been evident, but TEPCO is not moving fast enough and the Japanese Government is not pushing TEPCO to move fast enough either. I think the top priority of TEPCO and the top priority of the Japanese Government should be to move the fuel out of that pool just as quickly as possible. And in the meantime, they need to strengthen that pool to make sure that it can withstand an earthquake. Remember, that pool is not in a containment. You can look down in a satellite and see the nuclear fuel. The roof is blown off. And that is what makes it dangerous.
In America, we had the Brookhaven National Laboratory do a study to examine what would happen in a fuel pool fire. Brookhaven National Labs determined that there would be 187,000 people who would develop cancer from a fuel pool fire. It is a serious concern and I do not believe that Tokyo Electric and I do not believe that the Japanese Government is taking it seriously enough. For the last year I have been working with Akio Matsumora and finally it appears that the world community is listening to Akio Matsumora’s concerns about the pool. We need to tackle this as a concerned world community and encourage the Japanese Government and encourage Tokyo Electric to solve it quickly.
Maggie Gundersen: Arnie you mentioned cesium in your earlier discussion. Why is it important? What is the health effect of cesium and are there any other radioactive isotopes that would have been released during the triple meltdown?
Arnie Gundersen: Cesium is one of many radioactive isotopes that are created in a nuclear reactor. It has got a 30 year half life which means that it hangs around for 300 years and biologically it mimics potassium. You might remember that if you have a muscle cramp, you eat a banana and it goes to your muscles and relieves the cramp. Well, cesium also goes to your muscles. It is called a muscle seeker. When it goes to your muscles, it can cause cancer, but it can also cause a variety of other illnesses.
The Brookhaven study only looks at cancer. It does not look at all the other things that radioactive cesium can do. In young children with rapidly developing muscles, especially their heart muscle, it can create something called Chernobyl Heart which is damage to the heart muscle, which once it is damaged, never ever recovers for the life of the child. So cesium is just one of many isotopes, but it is relatively easy to measure and also biologically causes almost the most damage of any of the other isotopes that are in that reactor.
Maggie Gundersen: Arnie, you have said that you believe the explosion at Unit 3 was a prompt criticality. What is a prompt criticality and why do you believe that?
Arnie Gundersen: I developed my concern about a prompt criticality because of the nature of the explosion in Unit 3. Unit 1, when it exploded, blew sideways and with relatively low energy. You can measure the rate at which it moves and it moves less than the speed of sound. And that is called a deflagration. It does not do anywhere near as much damage. When I looked at the explosion on Unit 3, however, it was entirely different. You can see it, it is not hard to see. It is called a detonation. The speed at which Unit 3 exploded was faster than the speed of sound. And the important thing is not how Unit 3 exploded. What is the most important thing is that it exploded with a detonation, not a deflagration. The nuclear industry is not paying attention to this now, but it should be, because a nuclear containment can handle the slow moving deflagration, but it cannot handle the fast moving detonation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the international community are absolutely ignoring the fact that a detonation occurred in Unit 3.
See Fukushima Future tab on this site for the rest of this interview and more information.