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Japan nuclear agency raises crisis level to 7 (top)

On Tuesday, April 12, (still Monday, April 11 here in California), Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency raised the severity level of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant crisis from 5 to 7, the highest level, a level equivalent to the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union. Level 7 equates to a “major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.” The worst nuclear accident in the United States, so far, was the 1979 partial reactor core meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, which rated a 5.

The nuclear power industry will never be the same. At least, let’s hope.

There are always those who say, “Trust us; we have to ability to handle these things.” :-) Supremely overconfident of their own abilities (I’ve had several managers like this!), such folks include those who LOST a hydrogen bomb off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, and folks who manage a nuclear power station at Diablo Canyon in Avila Beach, California, near San Luis Obisbpo. The nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon is ALSO near the Hosgri Fault, several miles offshore, which was discovered by the time of the plant’s completion in 1973. The Hosgri Fault had a 7.1-magnitude quake on November 4, 1927. A previously unknown fault was recently discovered 1/2 mile from the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

JUST a few HOURS AGO, in BREAKING NEWS, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) WITHDREW its license renewal application  for the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant until the company can complete new seismic safety studies! The company cited “considerable public concern” over reactors in earthquake zones after the Fukushima Dai-Ichi accident  in Japan. The application withdrawal earned the praise of state Senator Sam Blakeslee (R- San Luis Obispo), who had threatened to introduce legislation blocking PG&E’s license renewal if the company did not complete the seismic studies first.

Back in Japan, the government ordered the evacuations of several towns beyond the previously declared danger zone, warning that the communities are likely to see long-term radiation levels that exceed international safety standards. Also on Tuesday (California’s Monday), a magnitude 6.6 aftershock forced workers to abandon the plant and knocked out electric power to the plant for 40 minutes.

Japanese officials attributed growing concentrations of cesium-134 (half-life of 2 years) and cesium-137 (half-life of 30 years) to the radioactive decay of iodine-131 (half-life of 8 days).

In the very “civil” society of Japan, Tokyo Electric President Masataka Shimizu apologized to “the people of Fukushima and residents of the host towns of the Fukushima power plant” for the “enomous difficulties” that they have experienced after the quake, tsunami, and nuclear accidents. Shimizu, who had been hospitalized for “fatigue and stress” in late March, also expressed regret for not apologizing to Fukushima Prefecture residents earlier.

American society lacks the civility found in Japan, and I would not expect to hear such apologies from industry should another such nuclear accident occur here.

-Bill at

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