At first it was minor damage. Then the "possibility" of a release of small amounts of contaminated steam that posed "no significant health risk."
Now, as a third explosion rips through Tokyo Electric's reactors and a fourth one catches fire, the company and national authorities continues to deny that there's any significant risk. They're a bunch of liars.
This isn't new. A radiation leak at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura in 1999 that killed 2 and irradiated 600 had the public skeptical about whether Tokyo Electric actually took safety seriously. Sure enough, in 2002 it came to light that Tokyo Electric Power Company had faked safety reports since the 1980s.
In one of the most shocking ones, brought to light by Wikileaks, the company injected air into the containment area of the Fukushima reactor (yup, the one now leaking like a sieve) to artificially lower the leak rate.
Then in February 2003, eight workers were accidentally sprayed with radioactive water. Oops. Wrong hose.
Senior management was shuffled around, the Chairman was forced out, and the company temporarily closed all 17 of its plants in 2003.
… and nothing changed.
This is nuclear power we're talking about. Not some kid's fun ride that could hurt a dozen people and some bystanders.
So the company promised to clean up its act and be safe. Sure. For a whole year.
One year later, in August 2004, blasts of radioactive steam killed four workers and severely burned 7 others. But the company vowed to make sure its nuclear facilities were actually safe. I mean, really, really safe. Especially against radiation leaks in one of the most earthquake prone countries in the world.
Then, come 2007, the largest nuclear reactor in the world was hit by an earthquake with magnitude 6.8. That, on the logarithmic Richter Scale, means it was less than 1/100th the size of the most recent 8.9 magnitude earthquake.
Once again, the plant sent plumes of contaminated steam into the air and spilled 317 gallons of contaminated water.
The president of the Japan Nuclear Technology Institute was quick to criticize Tokyo Electric: "The plant did an excellent job of ensuring the safety of the reactors." Say what? Oh, a minor earthquake the shut them down, caused a fire, and leaked radiation into the sea and atmosphere… ensured the safety of the reactors?
But to his credit, he did question why Tokyo Power would build a reactor on a fault line. I think in grade one in primary school my teacher said, "Now remember, children, ever build a nuclear reactor on a known fault line. And if you do, make damn sure it's earthquake proof." I think she added, "And don't build it near the coast in the path of tsunamis. That's a Japanese word, so they must have a lot of them over there."
Naturally, after the 2007 earthquake, the Japanese government set up a committee to set new guidelines to earthquake-proof the rest of Japan's nuclear reactors. So the committee set guidelines that looked more stringent, but didn't affect any of the existing plants or force them to increase safety standards.
One member of the committee, who in a very un-Japanese style outburst, resigned in disgust saying, "The new guidelines are very insufficient and have loopholes."
His critics responded with their own detailed incident analysis: "The Kashiwazaki plant was just unlucky."
It also resulted in 50 unlucky cases of water leakage, fire and other problems at the seven reactors. Well heck, you can't get unluckier than building on an earthquake fault-line.
Oh, except building in the path of a tsunami.
Damn unlucky. A tsunami hasn't ever hit Japan except for an unlucky one in 1993. And another unlucky one in 1983. And in 1952, 1946, 1923…
But the new guidelines simply ignored the possibility of luck and stuck to proper issues, with the attitude of crossing that bridge when it got washed away.
But back to Tokyo Power and The Authorities…
According to Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano yesterday, there's little or no health danger from radiation outside the 12-mile evacuation zone.
This is slightly better than Tokyo Electric. The only thing on its website that would make you even suspect there was a major problem was this little announcement:
At approximately 6:00am, a loud explosion was heard from within the
power station. Afterwards, it was confirmed that the 4th floor rooftop
area of the Unit 4 Nuclear Reactor Building had sustained damage.
After usage, fuel is stored in a pool designated for spent fuel.
Plant conditions as well as potential outside radiation effects
are currently under investigation.
TEPCO, along with other involved organizations, is doing its best to
contain the situation. Simultaneously, the surrounding environment
is being kept under constant surveillance.
Talk about forthcoming!
Meanwhile, the USS Ronald Reagan, operating 100 miles away -- eight times as far as the evacuation zone -- had to reposition because crew members were exposed to radiation.
A reporter friend of mine fresh from Japan once told me, "You can call up a Japanese in an office building with smoke billowing out of his window and he'll still insist that there's no fire and everything's under control.
Well everything seem to be under control right now, according to the authorities. They may change their tune at the first sign of a mushroom cloud. Maybe.
Update: Not an effing chance. Now, far greater levels of radiation are being found in water and the government's telling people, "But it's still safe for you. Just not for babies." But this is a one off. Apparently there was a natural phenomenon that caused this. Yup, the Science Ministry blamed it on the rain.
And to make sure people know they're in no real danger, they raised the decontamination threshold from 6,000 cpm to 100,000 cpm. Say what???
That's the equivalent of raising the safe blood alcohol content for driving from 0.06% to 1%. It's ludicrous. It's insane. The lies and the coverups are getting worse.
Two nuclear plant workers were hospitalized with radiation injuries. One wonders if they had been within the decontamination threshold.
For news on the coverup and how bad this is really going to get, have a look at http://thekeytoeternity.blogspot.com/2011/03/worlds-worst-nuclear-disaster-newly.html
Second update: The Japanese government