By Yoichi Shimatsu
YOTSUKURA, FUKUSHIMA The rising level of tritium measured in kelp samples south of the Fukushima 1 nuclear site is an indicator of intensifying nuclear reactions deep in the soil below the cracked reactors. Following the meltdowns in spring 2011, superheated fuel rods in up to three reactors have penetrated multiple barriers including the core shrouds, containment chambers and concrete foundations, escaping into the porous ground. Now inaccessible and scattered underground, the remnant fuel is getting hot enough to create huge flows of deuterium and radioactive tritium, which are commonly known as heavy water.
Two serious threats are emerging during this tritium build-up:
– medical effects of exposure to beta particles on top of gamma radiation from the Fukushima releases;
– and more ominous, the possibility of a tritium-deuterium fusion reaction that triggers a plutonium blast more powerful than the 2011 explosion at Reactor 3.
Apologists for the nuclear industry, including the Wall Street Journal, boldly assert beta radiation emitted by tritium poses no health threat. This irresponsible claim is based on a gross underestimate of the effects of beta rays. While less powerful than gamma radiation, beta radiation can ionize DNA. Externally beta rays can be blocked by a thin sheet of metal foil, but inside human tissues there are no physical barriers to prevent beta particles from rupturing chromosomes.
As summarized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: “The main chronic health effect from (beta) radiation is cancer. When taken internally beta emitters can cause tissue damage and increase the risk of cancer. The risk of cancer increases with increasing dose.” Tritium is a beta emitter.
The argument for tritium safety becomes even more fallacious because heavy water is at a practical level indistinguishable from normal water and readily ingested through beverages, food, bathing and respiration. Beta rays add to the daily exposure level from gamma, alpha, ultraviolet and electromagnetic radiation, significantly raising the risks of cancer and heart failure. Advice for visitors to Fukushima: Don’t drink the water.
Nuclear engineers with the Tokyo Electric Power Co. have hewed to the absurdly unscientific belief that hydrogen gas was the cause of the explosion that broke through Reactor 3 on March 15, 2011. Given its relatively low combustion energy, hydrogen cannot possibly crack thick steel alloy. The more probable energy source in that rupture was a fusion reaction between tritium and deuterium. Heavy water produced in abundance inside the reactors, especially during a meltdown.
Just a few grams of tritium and deuterium can merge in a fusion reaction that releases a highly energetic neutron, which then greatly smashes into plutonium, greatly amplifying a fission explosion. The hydrogen bomb that annihilated Nagasaki in August 1945 was a plutonium-based device boosted or triggered by tritium.
The meltdown of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, which contains highly enriched plutonium, is suspected of having seared through the shroud, containment chamber and ferroconcrete foundation, thereby escaping into the soil. Steam from vents in the ground, along with tritium releases in leaked water, indicate that the meltdowns are not only continuing but also heating up dramatically.
The hundreds of tons of escaped nuclear fuel beneath the Fukushma No.1 plant exceeds the combined weight of all fissile material in nuclear-weapons testing to date. If this melting mass of uranium and plutonium were to explode, the seams in the tectonic plates could be blown apart, unloosing rivers of magma onto the Earth’s surface. A vast cloud of radioactive particles, toxic gases, sulfur and industrial waste would encircle the globe with more deadly consequences than the 1883 Krakatoa eruption.. The human species, a parasite dependant on other life-forms and vulnerable to oxygen depletion, will be among the first to go extinct.
My spirit grows weary of repeating the same formula to the pack of evil morons known as energy executives, nuclear engineers, government bureaucrats and politicians. But here we go again, preaching to the wicked.
The underground corium pockets can be detected by radiation scanners and with blast tomography, which reveals the locations of larger concentrations. Next, steam-injection pumps used at near-exhausted oil fields should be deployed to pump borax solution into those pockets. Borax unlike boric acid, crystallizes in solution, thereby partitioning the underground spaces with neutron-absorbing barriers. Subdivided into smaller cysts, the fissile materials will be deprived of critical mass.