Tokyo Electric Power Company’s foreign advisors Lake Barrett and Dale Klein have held a news conference on Friday to discuss the contaminated water at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. On September, 11 TEPCO announced that levels of tritium, which is considered one of the least harmful radioactive elements, had increased more than 15 times in groundwater near a leaked tank at the facility. The Voice of Russia discussed the current situation with Mr. Paul Gunter, director of Reactor Oversight at Beyond Nuclear.
Last month TEPCO said more than 300 metric tons of highly radioactive water leaked from one of the hastily built steel tanks at the plant, which was damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March of 2011.
The reports on the increased radioactive elements at the plant come just days after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the International Olympic Committee that the situation at the Fukushima facility, 230 km from Tokyo, was “under control”. Tokyo was chosen to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Mr. Paul Gunter, director of Reactor Oversight at Beyond Nuclear.
It’s been reported the levels of tritium increased more than 15 times. How do you estimate the situation with Fukushima radiation level? How dangerous is that?
In fact tritium while it is a low level admitter, it incorporates very intimately into the food chain. Tritium is hydrogen. So this is isotopic hydrogen mixed with water. There is no way to filter this stuff out and once it incorporates intimately with the biology there, this radioactive element can, clinically-proven, cause cancer, birth defects and genetic mutations. So, to trivialize the impact of tritium is a promotion of nuclear power and it takes a way to tries to obfuscate our concerns that a reverse tsunami of radioactivity is now moving back in to the ocean from the Fukushima wreckage and it is carrying radioactivity.
What areas are in danger to be affected by this because obviously the half life of any radioactive substances is a very long time. It is not going to go anywhere once it gets into the ocean. But what are the chances that we are going to see this in areas far away from Fukushima radiation source?
I think it is dependant on when the accident can finally be brought under control. Right now Fukushima is a nuclear catastrophe that remains out of control now for more than 2.5 years. Neither Tokyo Electric Power Company or the Japanese government have been able to stanch this radioactive hemorrhage that is occurring from the plant. So, the extent of the accident can spread right now is unknown. Clearly the first industry to be impacted is the coastal commercial fishing industry on the Eastern shores of Japan and this is a big concern because the fishing industry represents a vital economic business to Japan but also a pathway to radioactivity to come back into humans.
To what extent is the fish already not safe to eat in that area?
I think that the concern here is that the radioactivity will linger, it will bio-magnify up through the food chain and again the accident is not under control. There is more and more radioactivity, more and more radioactive isotopes not just tritium but we are concerned about the radioactive cesium and the radioactive strontiums, radioactive iodine. These are all now moving in grown water through the wreckage of the reactor meltdowns and into the ocean. So, this represents a very long-term problem that will only get worse over time as more radioactivity enters the food chain.
What is the problem with capping the source of radioactivity?
Nobody is really sure of where those melted radioactive cores are right now. They could be in the basement, in a giant molten but solidified elephant’s foot that is leaking radioactivity with all the water moving in there. It could have burned through the floor and now in the earth underneath the reactors. We are seeing reports of steam issuing off of the reactors just today through Japanese news services. The accident is still ongoing and because of high radiation fields you cannot get instrumentation in there, you cannot get people in there to determine where this accident is really moving right now.