Nothing underlines the intellectual bankruptcy of the nuclear power lobby more than reports that Japan is lifting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster to a severity level of seven, the same as Chernobyl in 1986.
Reports from Japan this morning indicate that the authorities have lost the battle to keep the lid on problems far more serious than they have been prepared to admit since the March 11 earthquake and following tsunami struck the six reactor site and inundated a vast area of north-eastern Honshu, killing more than 40,000 people on current tallies of known dead and missing.
The truth about the Tohoku earthquake and its aftermath has been painfully slow to extract from the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo Electric Power Company, but this morning all of this tragic façade is being ripped away.
Communities more than 40 kilometres from the nuclear complex are to be forcibly evacuated. The arrival of the first of many large-scale water and concrete pumps on chartered giant Russian aircraft, and the banning and seizure of food produced in a wide area of Japan because of radioactive contamination is another illustration of the magnitude of a disaster the government of Japan, its nuclear regulatory agency, and the power company, consistently lied about to the long-term detriment of the health and welfare of its citizens.
What price face? What price this insane defence of the nuclear industry of the most dangerous method of boiling water ever devised?
Since the accident occurred a who’s who of leading nuclear industry experts, exponents and self-appointed apologists have welded their reputations to claims that Fukushima Daiichi was just a level four incident, and could never reach level seven like Chernobyl’s one reactor.
Today the reality is that we have six reactors that are suffering a wide range of serious issues, including partial meltdowns and “impossible” structural failures with consequences that will threaten the environment near Tokyo for the rest of this interglacial, the next glacial, and the interglacial beyond that.
In general terms, that is for more than 150,000 years into the future for the most serious high level radioactive by products. All of which we were assured was “impossible” but is now happening.
The monument to greed, dishonesty, and a massive failure of design capability, risk analysis and regulatory governance will be involve the sealing and mounding over of the affected reactors, three of which were in operation when the tsunami struck, and three of which were idled but surrounded by high levels of waste products in cooling ponds that were in some cases allowed to fully or partially evaporate.
Extracting the precise information from the Japanese authorities has been so difficult that sequence of events remains unknown, but the extreme levels of radiation make it apparent everything went atrociously wrong.
Early in the crisis nuclear treaty countries France, Germany and US, allowed their own regulators to break the protocol of not criticising the management of other party’s nuclear power programs because it was apparent truth was the first casualty in Japan.
It was only days after the crisis began that France declared the Japan crisis of level six intensity, which is where Chernobyl began.
The entire processes of managing the truth in incremental stages was signaled several days ago when official briefings adopted the same combination of words meaning “we have a 100-year battle”.
All that remains in terms of that figure is for the extra zeroes to be added as Japan is dragged towards the reality of this terrible calamity.