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Radiation Levels at Japanese Nuclear Plant Now Harmful

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 15, 2011 1:09PM

Shortly after 6 p.m. local CDT yesterday, another hydrogen explosion was reported from the Fukushima Dai-ichi in Japan, which was ravaged by last week's magnitude 9.0 earthquake. The radiation leaking from the plant has now reached levels dangerous enough that Japanese officials have ordered 140,000 residents near the plant to seal themselves indoors. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in a nationally televised statement that radiation had spread. Plant officials told the International Atomic Energy Agency the radiation was coming from a reactor fire in a storage pond and that radiation was being released directly into the atmosphere. That pool, which is used to cool spent nuclear fuel, may be boiling.

Emergency officials have been trying to pump in sea water to keep the reactor's control rods cool to little avail. Officials also couldn't rule out the possibility that the containment vessels containing the control rods may have been damaged in Friday's earthquake.

It might be hard to tell if officials are downplaying the severity of the damage to the plant. According to Greg Palast, a journalist familiar with the corners engineers but in nuclear power plants, the Tokyo Electric Power Company and its partners don't have the best record when it comes to safety, and they're in the process of building a power plant in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Nuclear plants the world over must be certified for what is called "SQ" or "Seismic Qualification." That is, the owners swear that all components are designed for the maximum conceivable shaking event, be it from an earthquake or an exploding Christmas card from al-Qaeda.

"The most inexpensive way to meet your SQ is to lie. The industry does it all the time. The government team I worked with caught them once, in 1988, at the Shoreham plant in New York. Correcting the SQ problem at Shoreham would have cost a cool billion, so engineers were told to change the tests from "failed" to "passed."

"The company that put in the false safety report? Stone & Webster, now the nuclear unit of Shaw Construction, which will work with TEPCO to build the Texas plant. Lord help us."