Japan’s nuclear disaster should serve as a wake-up call for the United States.
Now that many Americans have stopped paying attention to Japan’s nuclear catastrophe, shocking new details about its severity are finally coming to light.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently revealed that the cores of three of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station’s reactors started to melt within hours after the loss of offsite power, right after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Tokyo Electric Power, which owns the wrecked reactors, has announced that the accident probably released more radioactivity into the environment than the Chernobyl debacle. That would make it the worst nuclear accident on record. Meanwhile, a nuclear waste advisor to the Japanese government reported that about 373 square miles near the power station — an area roughly 17 times the size of Manhattan — may now be uninhabitable.
Nearly 40 percent of the radioactivity in U.S. spent fuel is cesium-137. The 4.5 billion curies of radioactive cesium in U.S. spent reactor fuel is roughly 20 times more than what all worldwide atmospheric nuclear weapons tests released. The United States has 31 boiling water reactors (BWR) with pools elevated several stories above ground, similar to those at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi station. Consider this: the pool at the Vermont Yankee reactor, a BWR Mark I (the same design as the four crippled Fukushima nuclear reactors), currently holds nearly three times the amount of spent fuel stored at Dai-Ichi’s Unit 4 reactor.
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