Highlights of the UN Association Town Meeting _ "Fukushima/Diablo Canyon—Now What?" (October 24, 2013) A Report by Julian Gresser
1. Reason Not the Numbers—The Town Meeting began with an admonition from Nobel Laureate Walter Kohn not to attempt to compare or compute the horrors of Fukushima versus Chernobyl by a calculus of human lives endangered or lost. Dr. Kohn cited the Talmudic maxim: "to save one life is tantamount to saving the whole world" (Sanhedrin 37a). The value of human life is infinite: a fraction of infinity is still infinity.
2. Fukushima: A Dynamically Unstable Situation—What are the costs of misjudging the window of time? Julian Gresser, Dick Wullaert, Ph.D. (materials scientist), Dan Sythe, president of International Medicom (monitoring radiation levels in the U.S. and Japan), and others made the following key points:
* There is an extremely high probability that the core assumptions upon which the Japanese government is currently proceeding are invalid. In fact, there may be no sound basis to assume any window of safety. Specifically:
* Time Threshold—The Japanese government and TEPCO appear to be assuming there is a “safe window of time” to regain control. What is the scientific basis for this assumption? In fact a M 7.1 earthquake located 281 miles from Fukushima occurred the very day after the conference. Fortunately, it appears that this time TEPCO and the Japanese government have dodged another bullet. It is apparent to our team, which includes leading seismologists, this is only the most recent and palpable sign of a pattern of aftershocks connected with the original M 9+ earthquake. TEPCO has announced that it will begin removing hot fuel assemblies on November 8, 2013 and intends to continue until late 2014. Our team is prepared to show that there is an extremely high probability that some natural event (an earthquake or typhoon, for example), occurring before the end of 2014, either at or near Fukushima, or even remotely, will combine with other natural phenomena—a tsunami, for example—and collapse or seriously damage the most vulnerable facilities, especially the spent fuel pools in Reactors 3 & 4.
* Robustness/Experience --How robust are the facilities? How experienced is the TEPCO team to undertake emergency removal of the fuel assemblies in Reactors 3 & 4? We have reason to believe that some earthquake retrofit has been installed at Reactor 4 to withstand a M 6 level earthquake, originating at or near the epicenter. But the probability of a strike greater than M 6 is extremely high. What will happen then?
* Domestic and Global Emergency Management— Who will mount, finance, and implement a Global Emergency Plan in case there is an accident during the removal of the fuel assemblies, and the fuel rods combust, the pool catches fire, or worst of all, an irreversible fissionable reaction occurs? No Emergency Management Plan appears to be in place for Japan much less internationally.
* Contingent Legal Liability--What will be the effects of radiation upon exposed populations in Japan and worldwide? What about the cascading financial and economic repercussions for Japan and the world? Because these cascading effects are clearly foreseeable under almost all developed legal systems (See, for example, Japanese 民法 709, etc.), what is the contingent legal liability of the Japanese government, the designers, manufacturers, and builders of these nuclear facilities, if reasonable precautions are not immediately undertaken to prevent an already bad situation from becoming far more serious? Every American and other foreign company operating in Japan, including the U.S. Armed Forces, has an affirmative legal responsibility to assess the potential ramifications of Fukushima on the health of its employees; to take protective action and safeguard its personnel.
3. What is the New Medical Model to Shield and Heal Millions from the Radiation of Fukushima? Any time after November 8 it is likely there will be a serious event at Fukushima which will result in a continuous release into the atmosphere (greater Tokyo is almost contiguous to Fukushima) of significant amounts of radiation in the form of Cesium 134/137, Strontium 90, and “hot” nano particles, including plutonium. The likely cause will be human error as non-expert engineers and staff of TEPCO attempt to remove over 1,000 fuel assemblies (each ? ton) from damaged spent fuel pools located 100 ft. above the ground. It is also highly likely there will be some new earthquake or other natural event (tsunami, typhoon, volcano, etc.), originating somewhere in Japan or elsewhere, that will further compromise the facility, in particular Reactors 3 & 4, causing the hot fuel rods to combust, catch fire, or worse, to undergo a fissionable reaction. In addition to the resulting airborne contamination, populations around the world are already being exposed to radiation by eating Pacific seafood, contaminated by the daily discharge of over 300 tons of highly radioactive water. No emergency management plan is in place in Japan, much less California, other parts of the U.S., or the rest of the world. Indeed even if there were, the possible exposure of huge numbers of people will be without precedent and will present the global medical community with a unique set of challenges. For in the number of illnesses it causes (direct as well as opportunistic illnesses resulting from compromised immune systems) Fukushima has the potential to far exceed Chernobyl. Certainly conventional western medicine, and perhaps even eastern and indigenous medical systems, may not include the knowledge or technologies (monitoring, detection, measurement, testing, diagnostic, care, and treatment, etc.) to cope with a situation of this magnitude or subtlety. For it is extremely difficult to detect and to measure the invasive effects of continuous exposure of radiation on the human body. In preparing a global emergency and humanitarian response the core question then is: What is the new medical model (scientific foundation, therapies, protocols, procedures, etc) to shield, and if possible to heal, millions from the radiation of Fukushima?
4. Fukushima Smart Explorers’ Wheel: Applying Innovation Integration to the Inventive Challenges at Fukushima and for Global Emergency Relief
* Julian Gresser introduced his invention of a “Smart” Fukushima Explorers’ Wheel that integrates the best protocols of social media, crowd sourcing, smart technology, and narrative methodologies. The proposed Explorers’ Wheel would engage and empower millions of concerned citizens to meet the hazards of contamination from Fukushima. http://www.explorerswheel.com/kickstarter
5. Legal and Legal Political Challenges for California
* The stark lesson of Fukushima for California is the urgency of assessing the security and vulnerability of San Onofre, Diablo Canyon, and other nuclear power plants, and the necessity of installing accurate and reliable monitoring systems. http://www.enviroreporter.com/2013/10/songs-lethal-legacy/all/1/
* An equally important action for Governor Jerry Brown is to determine the necessity of commissioning an Emergency Management and Humanitarian Relief Plan to address the multiple hazards of fallout from Fukushima or a Fukushima-like event in California. (For example, a large earthquake in California or even Alaska would likely trigger a tsunami which could strike and damage the spent fuel storage pools in San Onofre or Diablo Canyon.)
* Senator Hannah Beth-Jackson reported on her proposed legislation (SB 418) to require a complete cost/benefit analysis as a precondition of the NRC’s approving a renewal license on the Diablo Canyon facility. Current federal legislation grants preemptive jurisdiction to the Atomic Energy Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission thereby stripping the State of California of its power to protect the health and safety of its citizenry. The AEC's General Counsel's opinion on the question of pre-emption is clear covering nuclear facilities in the U.S. It is less clear that it applies to nuclear radiation emanating from another country, not under the control of the AEC. ( http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/cfr/part008/part008-0004.html ; http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr0980/rev1/v... ; see also the Price Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act which strictly limits the liability of the nuclear industry, hence the amount of compensation that victims of radiation will receive; it further curtails other legal remedies. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price%E2%80%93Anderson_Nuclear_Industries_I... )
* The legal system is clearly equipped for global nuclear accidents on the scale of Fukushima. Whereas contamination by radiation will endanger all segments of society, vulnerable populations in California and other places, particularly the poor, pregnant women, infants, minorities, the elderly, and the sick, will be abandoned, essentially without recourse.
* The critical legal and policy question is whether California has the power to act in cases of an actual or imminent nuclear emergency where the lives and well being of its citizens are in jeopardy, especially when the federal government fails to act? One precedent is the Quantico situation, where a gunman ran amok and civilian authority came onto the federal base and neutralized the situation. A reasonable course is for Governor Brown to attempt to enlist the full support of the federal government and to request President Obama to issue an Executive Order modifying the current strictures placed on California by federal law. However, if President Obama fails to support Governor Brown’s plea, the Governor has a historic opportunity to display true leadership and initiative by ignoring the federal regulations and acting proactively and incisively on behalf of California’s citizens and the world.
© Copyright, Julian Gresser, October 2013, All Rights Reserved. Julian Gresser is the author of Piloting Through Chaos—The Explorer’s Mind (Bridge 21 Publications/August 2013), Environmental Law in Japan (MIT Press 1981) and Partners in Prosperity—Strategic Industries for the U.S. and Japan (McGraw Hill 1985) He was twice Mitsubishi Professor at the Harvard Law School (1976-77, 1979). His blogs on Fukushima and related issues can be read at: http://www.explorerswheel.com/blog The perspective of this article is personal, although it draws upon the insights from many discussions over the last six months among our small group of seismologists, materials scientists, nuclear and ocean engineers, systems analysts, environmentalists, physicians, alternative health specialists, Japan experts, public interest advocates, and others. The intent of the article is to interest the reader in investigating these questions independently and to reach your own conclusions. The goal is to seek the truth, or to come as near to it as we can. Uncertainty need not be so terrifying if one embarks on the journey with an Explorer’s Mind.