Fukushima accidents keep piling up


by David Safier

It may not be a daily occurrence, but I've been reading accounts of new accidents at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant on a weekly basis. I'm tempted to put up one of those Three Stooges images of them "fixing" the plumbing, but this is too goddamned scary for flippancy.

Last week it was an overflow of one of the holding tanks for radioactive water. The water was 6,700 times higher than the legal radioactive limit, but it was a comparatively small spill compared to the regular leakage from the defective tanks.

Today comes the news that six workers were doused in radioactive water.

The workers removed the wrong pipe from equipment at the plant, sending toxic water spilling onto them and the entire floor of the facility housing a set of three units designed for primary, partial water treatment, said Yoshimi Hitosugi, the spokesman for Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

We keep getting stories of mishaps large and small at Fukushima. We never hear stories about the crippled plant being stabilized. It's still as unstable as ever. Bottom line, they have no idea how to fix the thing. Really, the best plan floated recently is to freeze the ground around the plant to stop the leaking radioactive water from reaching the ocean. It's apparently a feasible plan. It would be slow and costly to complete and its effectiveness would, ironically, depend on an uninterrupted flow of electricity to keep the ground frozen. But if the best they can hope for is to build an ice wall instead of fixing the problem at the source, that reinforces how out-of-control the situation is.

A "FORGOT ONE" UPDATE: Monday, a pump moving radioactive water from the damaged reactor cores shut down. The reason? Either a faulty electrical switchboard or worker error. Neither is comforting.