Summer Quarterly 2018
The World Nuclear Association says on its website that its goal is “to increase global support for nuclear energy,” and repeatedly claims that “there have only been three major accidents across 16,000 cumulative reactor-years of operation in 32 countries.” At least the lobby group acknowledges the catastrophes at Three Mile Island in 1979 (US), Chernobyl in 1986 (USSR), and at Fukushima in 2011 (Japan).
However, claiming that these three stand alone as “major” disasters cynically ignores the series of large-scale disasters that have been caused by uranium mining, nuclear power and weapons, radioactive waste, handling, and the nuclear fuel chain. The following is an abbreviated list of some of the world’s other major radiation accidents.
CHALK RIVER (Ontario), Dec. 2, 1952: A Canadian reactor’s loss-of-coolant caused a meltdown and an explosion and became the first major commercial nuclear reactor disaster.
ROCKY FLATS (Colorado), Sept. 11,1957: This Cold War factory that produced plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons factory 16 miles from Denver caused 30 to 44 pounds of breathable plutonium-239 and Pu-240 to catch fire in what would come to be known as the second largest industrial fire in US history. Filters used to trap the plutonium were destroyed and it escaped through chimneys, contaminating parts of Denver. Nothing was done to protect its downwind residents.
WINDSCALE/SELLAFIELD (Britain), Oct. 7, 1957: The worst of many fires burned through one reactor igniting three tons of uranium and dispersed radionuclides over parts of England and northern Europe. The site was hastily renamed Sellafield.
KYSHTYM/CHELYABINSK-65 (Russia), Sept. 29, 1957: A tank holding 70 to 80 metric tons of highly radioactive liquid waste exploded, contaminating an estimated 250,000 people, and permanently depopulating 30 towns which were leveled and removed from Russian maps. Covered up by Moscow until 1989, Russia finally revealed that 20 million curies of long-lived isotopes like cesium were released and it was later declared a Level 6 disaster on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The long covered-up disaster contaminated up to 10,000 square miles making it the third- or 4th-most serious radiation accident ever recorded.
SANTA SUSANA (Simi Valley, Calif.), July 12, 1959: The meltdown of the Sodium Reactor Experiment just outside Los Angeles caused “the third largest release of iodine-131 in the history of nuclear power,” according to Arjun Makhajani, President of the Institute for Energy & Environmental Research. Released radioactive materials were never authoritatively measured because “the monitors went clear off the scale,” according to an employee. The accident was kept secret for 20 years.
CHURCH ROCK (New Mexico), July 16, 1979: Ninety-three million gallons of liquid uranium mine waste and 1,000 tons of solid wastes spilled onto the Navajo Nation and into Little Puerco River, and became the largest radiological disaster in US history. Little Puerco feeds the Little Colorado River, which drains to the Colorado River which feeds Lake Mead—a source of drinking water for Los Angeles.
MONJU (Japan), Dec. 8, 1995: This sodium-cooled “breeder reactor” caused a fire and a large leak of sodium coolant that contaminated the Pacific. Liquid sodium coolant catches fire on contact with air, explodes on contact with water, and costly efforts to engineer commercial models of breeder reactors have failed.
TOKAI-MURA (Japan), Sept. 30, 1999: A uranium “criticality” or “neutron burst” killed three workers and dispersed radioactivity across the populated urban area surrounding the factory.
—Sources: Gar Smith, Nuclear Roulette (Chelsea Green, 2012); Joseph Mangano, Mad Science: The Nuclear Power Experiment (OR Books 2012);Stephanie Cooke, In Mortal Hands, (Bloomsbury, 2009); Jinzaburo Takagi, Criticality Accident at Tokai-Mura (Citizens’ Nuclear Info. Center, 2000); Helen Caldicott, Nuclear Madness, Revised (Norton, 1995); Arjun Makhijani, et al, Nuclear Wastelands (MIT Press, 1995), and The Nuclear Power Deception (Apex Press, 1999); Catherine Caufield, Multiple Exposures (Harper & Row, 1989); John May, Greenpeace Book of the Nuclear Age (Pantheon, 1989); Anna Gyorgy, No Nukes (South End Press, 1979).
Photo: The cement tomb built in 1986 over the destroyed Chernobyl reactor No. 4 in Ukraine needed replacement by 1996. It finally got re-covered in 2016. Similar abandonment has been recommended for three wrecked General Electric reactors in Fukushima, Japan.
The radiation dispersed into the environment by the three reactor meltdowns at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan has exceeded that of the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, so we may stop calling it the “second worst” nuclear power disaster in history. Total atmospheric releases from Fukushima are estimated to be between 5.6 and 8.1 times that of Chernobyl, according to the 2013 World Nuclear Industry Status Report. Professor Komei Hosokawa, who wrote the report’s Fukushima section, told London’s Channel 4 News then, “Almost every day new things happen, and there is no sign that they will control the situation in the next few months or years.”
Tokyo Electric Power Co. has estimated that about 900 peta-becquerels have spewed from Fukushima, and the updated 2016 TORCH Report estimates that Chernobyl dispersed 110 peta-becquerels. (A Becquerel is one atomic disintegration per second. The “peta-becquerel” is a quadrillion, or a thousand trillion Becquerels.)
Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 in Ukraine suffered several explosions, blew apart and burned for 40 days, sending clouds of radioactive materials high into the atmosphere, and spreading fallout across the whole of the Northern Hemisphere — depositing cesium-137 in Minnesota’s milk.
The likelihood of similar or worse reactor disasters was estimated by James Asselstine of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), who testified to Congress in 1986: “We can expect to see a core meltdown accident within the next 20 years, and it … could result in off-site releases of radiation … as large as or larger than the releases … at Chernobyl. Fukushima-Daiichi came 25 years later.
Contamination of soil, vegetation and water is so widespread in Japan that evacuating all the at-risk populations could collapse the economy, much as Chernobyl did to the former Soviet Union. For this reason, the Japanese government standard for decontaminating soil there is far less stringent than the standard used in Ukraine after Chernobyl.
Fukushima’s Cesium-137 Release Tops Chernobyl’s
The Korea Atomic Energy Research (KAER) Institute outside of Seoul reported in July 2014 that Fukushima-Daiichi’s three reactor meltdowns may have emitted two to four times as much cesium-137 as the reactor catastrophe at Chernobyl.
To determine its estimate of the cesium-137 that was released into the environment from Fukushima, the cesium-137 release fraction (4% to the atmosphere, 16% to the ocean) was multiplied by the cesium-137 inventory in the uranium fuel inside the three melted reactors (760 to 820 quadrillion Becquerel, or Bq), with these results:
Ocean release of cesium-137 from Fukushima (the worst ever recorded): 121.6 to 131.2 quadrillion Becquerel (16% x 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq). Atmospheric release of cesium-137 from Fukushima: 30.4 to 32.8 quadrillion Becquerel (4% x 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq).
Total release of cesium-137 to the environment from Fukushima: 152 to 164 quadrillion Becquerel. Total release of cesium-137 into the environment from Chernobyl: between 70 and 110 quadrillion Bq.
The Fukushima-Daiichi reactors’ estimated inventory of 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq (petabecquerels) of cesium-137 used by the KAER Institute is significantly lower than the US Department of Energy’s estimate of 1,300 quadrillion Bq. It is possible the Korean institute’s estimates of radioactive releases are low.
In Chernobyl, 30 years after its explosions and fire, what the Wall St. Journal last year called “the $2.45 billion shelter implementation plan” was finally completed in November 2016. A huge metal cover was moved into place over the wreckage of the reactor and its crumbling, hastily erected cement tomb. The giant new cover is 350 feet high, and engineers say it should last 100 years — far short of the 250,000-year radiation hazard underneath.
The first cover was going to work for a century too, but by 1996 was riddled with cracks and in danger of collapsing. Designers went to work then engineering a cover-for-the-cover, and after 20 years of work, the smoking radioactive waste monstrosity of Chernobyl has a new “tin chapeau.” But with extreme weather, tornadoes, earth tremors, corrosion and radiation-induced embrittlement it could need replacing about 2,500 times. — John LaForge
 Duluth News-Tribune & Herald, “Slight rise in radioactivity found again in state milk,” May 22, 1986; St. Paul Pioneer Press & Dispatch, “Radiation kills Chernobyl firemen,” May 17, 1986; Minneapolis StarTribune, “Low radiation dose found in area milk,” May 17, 1986.
 Ian Fairlie, “TORCH-2016: An independent scientific evaluation of the health-related effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster,” March 2016 (https://www.global2000.at/sites/global/files/GLOBAL_TORCH%202016_rz_WEB_KORR.pdf).
 James K. Asselstine, Commissioner, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Testimony in Nuclear Reactor Safety: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Energy Conservation and Power of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives, May 22 and July 16, 1986, Serial No. 99-177, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1987.
 Progress in Nuclear Energy, Vol. 74, July 2014, pp. 61-70; ENENews.org, Oct. 20, 2014.
Commercial Media Forgets Chernobyl Spread Radioactive Fallout Across Hemisphere, and “Wherever it rains in the United States”
By John LaForge, 25 April 2017
Commercial media recollections of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe almost always minimize its global impact. A New York Times editorial last Dec. described the April 26 explosions and fires as “a volcano of deadly radioactivity that reached Poland and Scandinavia.” This picture is both factually true and grossly understated — because Chernobyl’s carcinogenic fallout went far beyond northern Europe and all around the world — a fact that is easy to verify.
For example, the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) concluded in 2011 that the disaster “Resulted in radioactive material becoming widely dispersed and deposited … throughout the northern hemisphere.” Then, hammering the lesson home like a drill sergeant, UNSCEAR’s report (“Health effects due to radiation from the Chernobyl accident”) repeats the phrase “throughout the northern hemisphere” at least five times on pages 310, 311, 315, 316, and 343. Chernobyl’s hemispheric contamination was well known long before the UNSCEAR review, noted in hundreds of books, journals and scientific papers. The March 30, 2005 Oxford Journals reported, “The releases of radioactive materials were such that contamination of the ground was found to some extent in every country in the Northern Hemisphere.” An Environmental History of the World (2002) by Donald Hughes says, “There were measurable amounts throughout the Northern Hemisphere.”
Yet trivialization is the mainstream media rule, especially after three simultaneous reactor melt-downs at Fukushima-Daiichi have contaminated the whole of the Pacific Ocean. On April 23, Abu Dhabi’s “The National” said about Chernobyl: “Half a million ‘liquidators,’ mostly military reservists from all over the Soviet Union, tried to clean up the affected area.” This is flatly untrue, because no one decontaminated the entire Northern hemisphere. Soviet conscripts worked only the region knows as the “exclusion zone” around Chernobyl reactor No. 4 in Pripyat, Ukraine.
Understatements rewrite history, deceptively misinform
Understatements were the rule in the 1990s. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, on April 27, 1998, described “a deadly cloud of radiation across large sections of Russia and Europe.” ¶ The Appleton, Wisc. Post Crescent, April 26, 1998, said, “Ukraine and parts of Russia were hard hit.” ¶ The New York Times, on April 23, 1998, depicted the disaster as “a poisonous radioactive cloud north of Kiev.” ¶ The Los Angeles Times, on April 27, 1995, limited the fallout to “a radioactive cloud across Ukraine, Russia and parts of Europe.” ¶ A June 1, 1998, Associated Press story restricted the “deadly cloud of radiation” to “large sections of Russia and Europe.”
The website GlobalVoices.org reported this April 19: “Chernobyl… caused radioactive material to be spewed into the atmosphere, exposing hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of people in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe to extremely high doses of radiation.” In fact, half of Chernobyl’s total fallout was spewed far beyond the three hardest-hit states, going to every corner of the hemisphere.
Of course it misinforms the public to ignore the fact that reactor disasters have poisoned the whole earth, but why?
One reason is that downplaying the severity of Chernobyl — and Fukushima-Daiichi as well — sugar-coats the threat posed today and every day by operating power reactors beyond their original license limits, or near earthquake faults, volcanic regions, or tsunami zones. The hidden agenda behind the profit-driven media’s deliberate belittling of reactor accidents — and the dangers of radiation — is to protect significant advertising revenue. Big utilities, big pharma, big mining, big universities, and big weapons labs makes billions of dollars from increasing the “background” level of radiation. Official background exposure was 170 millirems per-year for decades; 18 months after Chernobyl it doubled to 360 mR/yr; and it nearly doubled again a few years ago to 620 mR/yr.) “Nuclearists” intend to keep it this way, even if it means buying pricey ads claiming that reactors are safe and small radiation doses are harmless.
Chernobyl Doused the Whole Hemisphere
Early on in Chernobyl reporting, it was common for the Associated Press and others to broadcast its global impact using plain language. On May 14, 1986, AP noted, “An invisible cloud of radioactivity… has worked its way gradually around the world.” On Oct. 9, 1988, it said flatly, “Chernobyl … spewed radiation worldwide.” And it reported in the Duluth Herald, May 15, 1986: “Airborne radioactivity from the Chernobyl nuclear accident is now so widespread that it is likely to fall to the ground wherever it rains in the United States, the EPA said.” This warning should never stop being flabbergasting, and should have been the death knell for nuclear power.
The Duluth News-Tribune & Herald reported May 22, 1986: “For the second time since the [Chernobyl disaster] last month, a slightly elevated level of radioactive iodine has been found in a Minnesota milk sample, state health officials said.” Western officials were precautionary. The AP reported May 15, 1986 that “State authorities in Oregon have warned residents dependent solely on rainwater for drinking that they should arrange other supplies for the time being.”
Again, author Donald Hughes notes, “For example, an increase of [radiation in rainwater] recorded on May 12 in Washington State was more than 140 times the background level measured immediately before the Chernobyl cloud reached the USA.”
Today, remember to read corporate minimization of Chernobyl’s effects with a radioactive grain of salt.
Chernobyl after the number 4 reactor exploded.
The Chernobyl barrier constructed immediately after the explosion.
Nukewatch Fact Sheet (PDF Download) – Chernobyl: How much radiation was released?
Nukewatch Quarterly articles
April 23, 2011
WALK FOR A NUCLEAR-FREE FUTURE
Coverage on Fox 11 News from the Wisconsin Fox Valley
Marchers Remember Chernobyl
Marchers remember Chernobyl
25 years since Chernobyl
Saturday, 23 Apr 2011, 9:24 PM CDT
Published : Saturday, 23 Apr 2011, 6:33 PM CDT
FOX 11, WLUK-TB Green Bay, Wisconsin reporter: Beth Jones
KEWAUNEE – Protesters hit the streets in Kewaunee County opposed to the area’s two nuclear power plants.
Saturday’s action follows ongoing troubles with damaged nuclear plants in Japan.
It also marks the approach of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine.
It’s been almost exactly two and a half decades since the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown.
Those who lived near the plant in the Ukraine back then say it was a tough time for everyone.
“I just remember the emotional impact it had on people and even to this day, 25 years ago, I’m keenly aware of the radiation being in the fallen leaves in the fall, in the tap water,” explained former Ukraine resident, Natasha Akulenko.
Natasha Akulenko lived through that disaster and now is marching in protest of nuclear power plants to prevent another.
More than two dozen people from all over the state protested peacefully around the Kewanee Power station and Point Beach Nuclear Power Plant.
Members of the non-profit group, “Nukewatch,” say they want to promote a nuclear-free future, in remembrance of what happened at Chernobyl, and what is ongoing at damaged plants in Japan.
“We just think the risks are too high to justify operation of nuclear reactors,” said Nukewatch Co-Director John LaForge.
The two nuclear power plants combined produce enough electricity to power more than one million homes in Wisconsin.
But marchers feel there are better alternatives to nuclear power.
“We’re asking for the phase out of nuclear, and its replacement with renewables like wind, and solar and energy efficiency,” said “Beyond Nuclear” group member, Kevin Kamps.
Marchers say they don’t want what happened in Chernobyl or Fukushima to happen here, and they believe it could.
The Associated Press reported earlier this month that both plants drew extra attention several years ago from regulators because of spotty safety records.
However officials say operating under new ownership the plants have improved those safety grades.
Point Beach officials say safety remains their number one priority.
“It’s about having redundant systems in place,” said Point Beach Communications Manager, Sara Cassidy. “It’s about having back up diesel generators that are ready in case we need them. It’s all about doing what we can to make sure we’re promoting public health and safety.”
The Kewaunee Power Station is licensed to 2033.
Point Beach is licensed to 2030 and 2033.
And in addition to federal regulators, these protesters say they too will continue to keep a watchful eye on the plants.
FOX 11 did contact the Kewaunee Power Station, however no one was available for comment.
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