Fukushima radioactive leak is 'the greatest threat humanity ever faced' - expert
Among the latest measures to tackle the problem of Fukushima there are creation of a decommissioning agency and the merger of Nuclear Regulation Authority with Japan’s Nuclear Energy Safety Organization. Do you think that such bureaucratic procedures can be effective for tacking the issue?
I think we should keep in mind that TEPCO declared plants 1, 2 and 3 to be in cold shut-down. And of course we now know that was not the case. Other people were pointing out that the cores had melted down through the facility. We now know that is the case.
This problem with radioactive water was an inevitability. So, this has been known for 2 years. So, I think it does point out that the time had passed to allow the people in government there and TEPCO to address the situation. This calls for international cooperation.
The leakage of water from these cores is bad enough but the most dangerous thing is the cooling pool of unit 4. Now it is terribly dangerous because the entire hot core of reactor 4 had been removed and put in this cooling pool shortly before the tsunami. So, there was a hot core in this cooling pool the entire superstructure building was blown off in a hydrogen explosion.
The entire area is weakened and there is a great risk of an aftershock. Now this pool contains something on the order of 400.000 kg of hot plutonium. So, the thing that people should be aware of is that TEPCO is going to begin attempting to remove these rods from this pool to some other type of storage. This has never been done with plutonium rods that have been out of a core for such a short period of time.
There is a great danger of a thermonuclear reaction if these rods become exposed to the air and the cooling pool itself is just barely containing the temperature levels of the core as it is.
When you are saying about international effort, how could other countries help with that?
I think it is imperative that this is not looked at as a contracting opportunity and opportunity to make money out of this situation. This has to be dealt with something like a space race, like with the funding of a space program and all the technology and resources brought there for that kind of an effort. The inertia that we have seen with this, we are not seeing that kind of focus internationally. That needs to be brought to bear.
The media coverage of the situation has been almost non-existent. The public must become engaged and the governments must become engaged because this is a global threat. They say that one microgram of plutonium could theoretically kill a person.
There are billion micrograms in a kilogram and there are 400.000 hot kilograms in this pool. So, if these rods combust, if the set of rods begins a thermonuclear reaction, it will vaporize the water in the pool and the entire pool can become an uncontrolled nuclear reaction open to the air. These particles will be spread through the northern hemisphere.
This is perhaps the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. And I think you would acknowledge there has been far too little attention given to this at this point and the measures that the Japanese government is discussing at this point are not sufficient, I believe. Other governments must become engaged in this.