Report: Radiation levels falling at Japanese nuke plant; Update: U.S. officials "alarmed" by Japan's handling of crisis
Now I’m really confused. All day long, from congressional testimony to a televised appearance on CNN to interviews with print reporters, U.S. nuclear chief Gregory Jaczko has insisted that radiation levels at the plant are “extremely high.” Not only that, but he reaffirmed for ABC tonight that his staffers on the ground at Fukushima say there’s no water left in the cooling pools for spent fuel rods at reactor four, which means there should be a constant dose of radiation spewing out at the plant. In fact, he went this far earlier:
On Wednesday night, Mr. Jaczko reiterated his earlier statement and added that commission representatives in Tokyo have confirmed that the pool is empty. He said Tokyo Electric and other officials in Japan have confirmed that, and also stressed that high radiation fields are going to make it very difficult to continue having people work at the plant…
While radiation levels at the plant have varied tremendously, Mr. Jaczko said that the peak levels reported there “would be lethal within a fairly short period of time.”
A retired nuclear engineer tells WaPo that spent fuel rods being exposed to the air is “unprecedented” and could only happen if severe structural damage has occurred — a very possible scenario under the circumstances. And yet, and yet, if all that’s true, how on earth can this be possible?
The level of radiation detected at the Tokyo Electric Power Co Fukushima plant has fallen steadily over the past 12 hours, an official at Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said on Thursday.
A level of 752 microsieverts per hour was recorded at the plant’s main gate at 5 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Wednesday, said the official, Tetsuo Ohmura. The monitoring point was then changed to the plant’s west gate and readings were taken every 30 minutes, he said. At 5 a.m. the reading was 338 microsieverts per hour.
Those levels aren’t even considered dangerous. My ignorance of this subject is on full display here, but shouldn’t that be impossible under Jaczko’s scenario? Assuming Japanese officials are telling the truth (which is a big assumption), there’s no way spent fuel rods melting in the open air should produce lower levels of radiation, right? Either he’s wrong or they’re lying. Or, I suppose, it’s possible that he was right but the facts on the ground have since changed yet again and there’s now water in the cooling ponds. Somehow.
Conflicting information continues. It reminds one of "the fog of war" - a thought which leads into this article:
Does the Japan government know more than it's saying?
Catastrophe inches closer every day, and the radiation map on the front page of the Japan Times just gets worse. It seems, more than ever, that Fukushima could become Hiroshima.
Yesterday morning had begun badly, too, with another explosion at another nuclear reactor, as usual over the past four days around six in the morning. Another blaze engulfing it, this time more mysterious than the ones before. A blurry still photo shown on television displayed the remnants of a cloud of smoke with a grayish core and a tiny object shooting on high, apparently from the force of the blast.
Beyond that, no further details were provided. But the next piece of frightening news arrived a little bit later. It was raining in Sendai, the city that was hardest hit in the big quake on Friday. The rain could spread radioactive fallout, which would be vastly more serious.
And if that was not enough, the afternoon brought the next piece of frightening news. The chief cabinet secretary, who has been holding news conferences every day in an effort to calm the public, was announcing increasingly worrying information. Then he disclosed that the government had decided to evacuate the last of the staff at the afflicted reactors, due to the extreme radiation that was being emitted.
In other words: Japan was giving up on efforts to cool the Fukushima reactors and catastrophe was closer than ever. At this point they might bring in helicopters, like some primitive remedy for a dying patient, but the airspace above the reactors has been closed for a while. And the radiation map on the front page of the Japan Times just gets worse, as does the sense of threat here.
There is a growing sense that maybe the government knows more than it's reporting, or even worse, that maybe no one knows the truth, even the government. One way or another, the decision yesterday to abandon the reactors was a bad omen. Japan was throwing up its hands, even if just for now. More than ever, it seemed yesterday that Fukushima could become Hiroshima.
OK, to the rest of the world:
Wisdom of Israel's much-criticized Gaza blockade proven when it bagged ship laden with Iranian arms
Remember that much-maligned Israeli embargo of Gaza-bound ships, the one in which commandos boarded vessels - consistent with international law - to prevent weapons shipments under the guise of delivering humanitarian aid?
Try maligning the operation again today: The Israeli Navy checked out a Liberian-flagged ship headed from Syria to Egypt and found roughly 2,500 mortar shells, nearly 75,000 bullets and six C-704 anti-ship missiles.
In all, the vessel was hauling 50 tons of armaments capable of vast destruction. Many were in locked crates registered as containing lentils and cotton. Apparently, the plans were to get the goodies into Egypt, then smuggle them into Gaza.
Israeli Warplanes Hit Gaza Security Compound
The Israeli military says it carried out Wednesday's airstrike on the Hamas facility in response to the firing of a rocket from Gaza into southern Israel. No Israeli casualties were reported. Hamas identified the two men killed in the airstrike as members of its Al-Qassam Brigades.
Christians Speak Out Against Muslim Mistreatment in Mideast
American Christians are beginning to speak out against mistreatment of their Middle East brethren by the Muslim majority with whom they live.
The “Chicago Initiative” – a one-day conference held March 12 near Chicago – was focused on raising media awareness of the issue.
More than a dozen organizations, including churches and Middle Eastern Christian groups in the U.S., were behind the event.
Keynote speaker Walid Phares, author of “The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East,” told attendees that hostility toward Christians is “an undeniable fact of life in Muslim countries.”
Other speakers described how Christians in Iraq, Iran and Egypt have been attacked by their neighbors and their governments.
Diplomats: Iran weapons material seized
South Korea and Singapore have intercepted suspect nuclear and weapons materials bound for Iran that breach UN sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic, diplomats said Thursday.
The two seizures, made in the past six months but only revealed now, add to a growing list of alleged Iranian attempts to breach an international arms embargo, which are bringing mounting pressure to tighten sanctions, they said.
EU officials: Bahrain situation more dangerous than Libya
Security specialists in the EU institutions are concerned that Shia-Sunni unrest in Bahrain has the potential to cause a sectarian conflict in the wider Arabian Gulf.
"What is happening in Bahrain is Sunni versus Shia, Saudi Arabia versus Iran. It's big powers facing off against each other in a small place. It's really explosive. We share the same concerns with the US and with Russia," one EU source told this website on Wednesday (16 March) on condition of anonymity.
"From a foreign policy point of view, it's a very big issue. We don't know where it will go," another EU contact noted, referring to a decision by Sunni powers Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to send security forces to Bahrain to quell protests. "If Saudi Arabia and Iran become openly involved, it could become much more dangerous than Libya."