Axis of Logic
Finding Clarity in the 21st Century Mediaplex

Fukushima: Unsung Heroes
By Lauren McCauley (report). Mankh, Walter E. Harris III (poem).
Common Dreams (report). Axis of Logic (poem)
Wednesday, Nov 6, 2013

Editor's comment: The perilous attempt to clean up Fukushima Reactor 4 is scheduled to begin on November 8. There have been many stories promulgated on the internet about the disaster at Fukushima disaster, initiated primarily by the tsunami of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011. It is the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl and by many accounts it is an even greater threat. Some of the reports are scientifically accurate and some are probably not so. Common Dreams has been reporting consistently on the aftermath of the disaster and Mankh, Axis of Logic columnist and poet, has been closely following the story and keeping us informed. One thing is clear: to a large extent Fukushima and it's aftermath are either disinforming or altogether "unsung" by the corporate media. Mankh introduces the cleanup scheduled to begin on Friday with his poem about the heroes who are placed in great danger as they begin to remove 1300 spent fuel rods.

- Axis of Logic 

unsung heroes
silverware used and washed every day the same routine
metals from the Mother Earth up inside our mouths
feeding us, sustaining
the mums you brought me yellow and lavender
also from the Mother Earth
scent like the warm blanket from my childhood
the workers the human beings and "remote-controlled crane"
that will remove the approximately "1300 radioactive spent fuel rods"
at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant

PS "Unfortunately, it’s no exaggeration to say that our survival may depend on it."
- Harvey Wasserman

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) sees off workers leaving for a patrol of tanks containing radioactive water after greeting them at the emergency operation center of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (AFP Photo/Japan Pool)

Japan Greenlights 'Perilous' Cleanup at Fukushima's Reactor 4

Removal of 1,300 spent fuel rods deemed 'humankind's most dangerous moment since Cuban Missile Crisis'

by Lauren McCauley

A worker in a protective suit and mask stands atop the badly damaged Unit Four reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
(ISSEI Kato photo modified by Axis of Logic)

Regulators with Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority gave the final OK Wednesday for the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to begin to remove the 1300 spent fuel rods from the badly damaged Unit 4 pool, thus initiating a decommissioning process which anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman describes as "humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis."

According to Associated Press, the NRA announced that the proposal to manually remove the radioactive rods put forth by the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. or TEPCO, was "appropriate" and that the removal "can start in November as planned, following an on-site inspection by regulators."

TEPCO estimates that the complete decommissioning process will last decades. Detailing the process, AP reports:

TEPCO has prepared a massive steel structure that comes with a remote-controlled crane to remove the fuel rods, which will be placed into a protective cask and transferred to a joint cooling pool inside a nearby building. To make room for the Unit 4 fuel rods, the company has been moving those already in the joint pool to safer storage in dry casks at a separate plant location.

The utility plans to empty the Unit 4 pool by end of 2014, and remove fuel rods from other pools at three other wrecked reactors over several years before digging into their melted cores around 2020.

However, according to nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, the spent fuel rods in the Unit 4 core are "bent, damaged and embrittled to the point of crumbling." And NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka warned that removing the rods would be difficult because of the risk posed by debris that fell into the pool during the explosions triggered by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent three reactor meltdowns at the plant.

"It's a totally different operation than removing normal fuel rods from a spent fuel pool," Tanaka said during the news conference Wednesday. "They need to be handled extremely carefully and closely monitored. You should never rush or force them out, or they may break."

Wasserman warns that there are "some 400 tons of fuel in that pool [that] could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima."

Wasserman, Gundersen and other nuclear watchdogs have warned that neither TEPCO nor the Japanese government has the "scientific, engineering or financial resources to handle" the job and that the situation instead demands a "coordinated worldwide effort of the best scientists and engineers our species can muster."

Over 100,000 people have thus far signed a petition echoing that call.  "[T]he impending removal of hugely radioactive spent fuel rods from a pool 100 feet in the air presents unparalleled scientific and engineering challenges," caution the signees, who are calling on President Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to intercept the Japanese authority's process. "We ask the world community [...] to take control of this uniquely perilous task."

Source: Common Dreams

The Poem

Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. A new book, “On Behalf of Those Who Speak Different Languages,” is in the works. He also hosts an audio show "Between the Lines: listening to literature online." You can contact him via his literary website.



Poem quotes from:  "Japan Greenlights 'Perilous' Cleanup at Fukushima's Reactor 4"

Wasserman quote from:  "Dear Climate Scientists, Please Note the Global Terror at Fukushima Four"

Read More:

"Fukushima Response: Mobilizing a global effort to fix the escalating nuclear catastrophe in Japan"

"Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples Council Statement on Fukushima"

"Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War: The Unspoken Crisis of Worldwide Nuclear Radiation"