Radioactive Cesium With A Half-Life of Approximately 30 Years Is Being Released At 60% of Chernobyl Levels
Why does it seem as though the nuclear crisis in Japan just keeps getting worse with each passing day?
TEPCO has announced that extremely radioactive water is now leaking from reactors 1, 2, and 3 at their damaged nuclear complex.
On Thursday, three workers stepped into water in reactor 3 that contained 10,000 times the normal amount of radiation. Two of the workers experienced significant radiation burns and all three were sent to the hospital. Authorities have also announced that it is very likely that the containment vessel in reactor 3 has been breached. That is extremely alarming because reactor 3 is the one that uses plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel ("MOX fuel").
...radioactive cesium-137 is being released at 60% of the level that it was being released at during the Chernobyl disaster. Cesium-137 has a half-life of approximately 30 years. That means that all of this cesium is going to be with us for a very, very long time.
So how much cesium are we talking about?
Keith Harmon Snow is estimating that each spent fuel pool at the Fukushima nuclear complex could have 24,000 times the amount of cesium that was produced by the nuclear bomb that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War 2.
Already there is quite a bit of evidence of cesium contamination across northern Japan.
For example, 25 miles from the Fukushima complex, one batch of a leafy green vegetable known as kukitachin was recently discovered to contain 11 times the legal limit of radioactive iodine and 82 times the legal limit of cesium.
So when the Japanese prime minister calls the situation at Fukushima "very grave and serious" he is perhaps understating things.
A recent CNN article explained why reactor 3 is such a concern....
That reactor is of particular concern, experts have said, because it is the only one at the plant to use a combination of uranium and plutonium fuel, called MOX, that is considered to be more dangerous than the pure uranium fuel used in other reactors.
Largely absent from most mainstream media reports on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is the fact that a highly-dangerous "mixed-oxide" (MOX) fuel in present in six percent of the fuel rods at the plant's Unit 3 reactor. Why is MOX a big deal? According to the Nuclear Information Resource Center (NIRS), this plutonium-uranium fuel mixture is far more dangerous than typical enriched uranium -- a single milligram (mg) of MOX is as deadly as 2,000,000 mg of normal enriched uranium
Japan reactor nuclear core may have been breached
Japanese nuclear safety officials said Friday that they suspect that the reactor core at one unit of the troubled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant may have breached, raising the possibility of more severe contamination to the environment.
High radiation levels found in Japan seawater
Tests of seawater outside Fukushima plant show radiation levels 1,250 times higher than normal. US rushes freshwater to help remove contaminated water from plant. Government official: Situation not getting worse, but vigilance is needed
On Friday, nuclear safety officials revealed that they suspected a breach in one or more of the plant's units, possibly a crack or hole in the stainless steel chamber around a reactor core containing fuel rods or the concrete wall surrounding a pool where spent fuel rods are stored.
Suspicions were aroused when two workers suffered skin burns after unexpectedly encountering water that was 10,000 times more radioactive than levels normally found in the units, NISA said.
Such a breach could mean a much larger release of radioactive contaminants. The most likely consequence would be contamination of the groundwater, experts said.
Thi ssituation appears to be deteriorating rapidly. We can only pray for the people of Japan and that somehow this situation can be fixed, but unfortunately that doesn't seem likely at this point. We'll continue to update this situation as the story evolves.