And now, for a more realistic assessment of the situation at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant than what you'll hear on Fox News, here's physicist Michio Kaku this morning on Good Morning America with George Stephanopoulos, talking about the lame effort to pour water on the melting reactor cores from helicopters:
KAKU: It's like a squirt gun, using a squirt gun against a raging forest fire. They're overwhelmed, they're floundering, they just don't know what to do. They're clueless.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And ironically, U.S. officials are most concerned about the spent fuel in Reactor No. 4 -- that's fuel that had been taken out of the reactors back in November. Now originally, officials thought that it had been out for some time, but this is relatively fresh fuel, which is why they're so concerned.
KAKU: Very concerned. Hollywood likes to focus in on the meltdown, the melted core's exposed uranium. But old fuel is actually more dangerous than the meltdown, because there's more radiation in an unguarded spent-fuel pond than the reactor itself.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So it could ignite, that's the concern?
KAKU: That's right. You could have a fire -- it would be like fireworks -- go off like roman candles. Zirconium will oxidize with air, releasing hydrogen gas. So that when someone lights a cigarette, or lights a light switch, you have a roman candle gas bomb.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that just makes the rest of the situation that much worse, because no one can get close enough then to try and contain the damage in Reactors 1, 2 and 3. And that's where the longer-term dangers are.
KAKU: That's right. At a certain point, they're going to have to abandon ship, it will be a suicide mission to go in there. The radiation levels are near lethal right now. You're committing suicide to spend large amounts of time there.
On Nightline last night, Kaku warned that "we are very close now to something that is even bigger than Chernobyl". He explained this morning:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what is the worst case -- if they can't get No. 4 under control, then that leads to further meltdowns. Is an explosion possible, like we saw at Chernobyl?
KAKU: An explosion, or a melt-through -- we're talking about radiation being released into the larger environment. At Chernobyl, it was an uncontrolled release -- 25, 30 percent of the core just shot into the air.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That can't happen here, because it hasn't been active, right?
KAKU: Well, it can happen in the sense you have hydrogen gas. Hydrogen gas can ignite -- not just from the containment, but in the vessel itself, and rip the vessel to pieces.
More from ABC News:
Radiation levels have risen rapidly at the plant and there is a fear that the situation is heading for the worst. The next 24 to 48 hours are viewed as critical in the effort to stabilize the crisis.
If levels continue to rise, the doses emergency workers experience near the reactors could be lethal. One U.S. Official told ABC News that "it would be hard to describe how alarming this is right now" and that a suicide mission might not even be enough to avert disaster.
A group of 180 workers rotate shifts working at the plant in teams of 50 men. The men have been nicknamed the "Fukushima Fifty."
One U.S. official told ABC News that they are urging the Japanese to get more people to help the workers inside the plant.
"This is very, very radioactive material...if there is core on the floor and containment penetration, there will be significant public health consequences," Ken Bergeron, a physicist and nuclear reactor safety expert, said.
The term "core on the floor" means that the containment vessels' wall give way at the bottom. There is no longer a way to cool the nuclear cores so they melt down, bleed out and send toxic nuclear clouds into the air.
More like this
- bart cop
- The Reality-Based Community
- Ed Cone
- daily howler
- Juan Cole/Informed Comment
- Pour Me Coffee
- Lawyers, Guns & Money
- The Immoral Minority (Alaska)
- 43 Ideas Per Minute
- Mock, Paper, Scissors
- Whiskey Fire
- Blue Gal
- Nicole Sandler - Radio or Not
- Rising Hegemon
- Balloon Juice