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What really happened at Fukushima?


Translation of the introduction to a study by Angelo Baracca and Giorgio Ferrari
14 agosto 2011 - traduzione dall'italiano di Gerry Blaylock (authors: Angelo Baracca & Giorgio Ferrari)




Preliminary Evaluations of the Accidents at Fukushima


Giorgio Ferrari & Angelo Baracca &


Report updated as of 10th July 2011


Translator's note: this is a general synthesis and conclusions for those who are not experts.

The more detailed analysis has not been translated yet.



Preliminary remarks


         When the nuclear accidents took place on March 11th in the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactor, Japan, our book SCRAM [1]was undergoing the final touches before being printed. We certainly would not have wanted the systematic analysis of the whole nuclear cycle as described in our book to be confirmed dramatically by those tragic accidents. The referendum campaign in Italy regarding nuclear power which followed stopped us from devoting our attention to the accidents. This present report is our later study of what happened.

         The version of the dynamics and gravity of the accidents which was released in the first few weeks, and which has remained the official version, given the silence of the press that followed, is wanting and misleading. Tepco only published the data in its possession on May 15th, two months after the accidents! For two months the Japanese public did not know that there had been meltdowns in three reactors at the Dai-ichi Fukushima plant, and probably also in some spent fuel pools, and no information regarding the nature, gravity and extension of radioactive contamination had been given. It is quite probable that data are being minimised and kept secret, the real data might never be completely known.

         We feel it useful to begin this report with a general synthesis and conclusions in order to make it easily understandable for those who are not experts. More technical or specific details will be gone into in the sections following. This report has been updated and commented on using data that has been made public, or has filtered through in one way or another.



         We would like to thank Ms. Harumi Matsumoto for getting information from Japan and translating Japanese terms in the figures.           



1 General synthesis and conclusions


         The dramatic series of accidents involving the nuclear reactors at Fukushima power plant has shown yet again the practise on the part of the nuclear industry and the authorities of hiding the seriousness of the situation as much as possible, of concealing or minimising important data fundamental for taking the necessary measures to protect the population as much a possible. In short, of endorsing a watered-down version of the dynamics and the gravity of the accidents, which then remained the “official” version after the silence which fell on the media after a few weeks.


The official version


Let us go back over the essential points of the official version:


the earthquake was magnitude 9, one of the greatest in human memory, much greater than the reactors' design data had considered,


notwithstanding this, the three reactors that were functioning shut down normally and their cooling systems started up,


but the arrival of the tsunami's huge wave, 14 metres high, knocked out all the electrical and diesel emergency systems. It was this totally unique incident that caused accidents to the cores of the three reactors.


         It is not at all easy to gain access to reliable information, often given tout court,  but anyway it appears quite different from the official information doled out with blameworthy delays (mainly of more than two months). These data, though partial and reticent, furnish us, however, with a reconstruction of the dynamics of the accidents, and their present and future consequences, which is radically different from and much more serious than what public opinion has been told.


What really happened at the start of the incident


Let us summarise the main aspects of a more truthful reconstruction of the events, even if the interpretation of some of them remains problematic and open. Indeed, for some aspects concerning the dynamics of the accidents to the three reactors -- and, let us not forget, to some pools of spent fuel -- the insufficiency of the data is particularly serious as regards radioactive contamination, and therefore the evaluation of possible consequences for the health of the population, and also its spreading to the sea and the whole northern hemisphere.


- The earthquake was magnitude 9 at its epicentre situated in the sea at about 125kms. from the coast. Whereas at Fukushima it was (logically) considerably inferior, probably below magnitude 7 (around 900 times smaller).

- Data taken from the seismographs in the power plant indicate in the greater majority of cases tremors smaller than the design data had considered.


- Despite the above, the quake knocked out the electrical substation (standing on raised ground which the wave did not reach), thus depriving the power plant of energy from outside and provoking serious problems for at least reactor number 1, which in itself would have been a considerably grave incident.


- Apart from accidents in the three reactors, very serious damage was found in at least two of the spent fuel pools. These are placed at heights that are considerably superior to the tsunami's wave, therefore the damage was caused by the quake.


- About an hour after the earthquake the emergency diesel generators, which had duly started up, stopped operating, which deprived the power plant of any source of electrical energy.


- But the consequences of the stoppage of the emergency cooling system were drastically aggravated by damage provoked by the quake before the tsunami arrived.


The seriousness of the accidents


Various aspects emerge from this reconstruction that make the Fukushima nuclear accidents graver and more fraught with consequences (both for Japan and the nuclear industry as a whole) compared with the first official version, which has never been rectified in the media.


The earthquake created very serious damage straight away with the emergency diesel generators breaking down before and independently of the arrival of the tsunami about an hour later. Anyhow, the initial damages played an important role also in the evolution of the accidents.


Though the earthquake was of considerable intensity (but, as we have said, in line with the design figures), there is no justification for the electrical substation going completely out of order, which is in fact the event that sets off the accident.


Placing the emergency diesel generators  (2 for each reactor at Fukushima) below the level of the road was a serious design error, given that among the design criteria for all Japanese facilities the possibility of a tsunami is taken into account. When the wave arrived, it submerged them completely


It is now perfectly clear that total meltdown occurred in reactor 1, and for the first time in the history of nuclear accidents it broke the bottom of the vessel (in the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island the portion of molten core did not perforate the vessel, see Figure 1); the molten core, which is give the name corium, flowed outside the base of the reactor, something which Tepco only admitted on May 15th.

It is highly likely that meltdown and loss of the contents occurred in units 2 and 3, too.


Damage to the spent fuel pools is a kind of incident that had never been taken seriously into consideration, yet which has proved to be extremely serious. The function of the pools is a static one (they hold the spent fuel released from the core) for which no containment barriers, systems of refrigeration or emergency supply have been considered.


Let us remember that reactors 3 and 4 (shut down) were supplied with a mixture of uranium and plutonium fuel, MOX, and that is the spent fuel in unit 4's pool. Apart from probable discharges of plutonium (of which there is only occasional data), plutonium complicates the control of the chain reaction and generates a greater number of dangerous products of fission. Anyway, we have to keep in mind that plutonium is always present, as a product of the chain reaction in uranium, in the spent fuel, therefore also in the molten core of reactor 2, and in the corium which leaked from reactor 1's vessel, and that it will remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.


Apart from the enormous quantities of highly radioactive water released into the sea, there are still more than 100,000 tonnes accumulated in the facility, whose treatment is still an unresolved problem. Indeed, the Tepco decontamination system, which started operating in the middle of June, was stopped after only five hours since the water's high levels of radioactivity had saturated it, and even though it was started up again it ran into other difficulties.


  Il nocciolo del reattore

Fig. 1 The core of the TMI after the accident (source: Divisions of systems research office, NRC)

According to the NRC's reconstruction, the portion of the core which melted first is in the  middle (previously molten material), around which a harder crust formed under the cavity. The upper part of the fuel has been completely damaged, while the molten debris (lower plenum debris) did not breach the vessel.


         Many experts maintain that the accidents at Fukushima are by far the gravest in the whole history of nuclear technology, greater even than Chernobyl, even if the dynamics were completely different (the reactor exploded letting radioactivity loose directly into the environment). The reactor at Chernobyl was covered by a concrete “sarcophagus” and therefore isolated (temporarily) from the outside environment relatively quickly (this work caused the death of thousands of people, let us not forget it!)


A further consideration, which is not marginal, for a complete evaluation of the gravity of the nuclear accidents at Fukushima obliges us to take into account that three reactors were shut down, otherwise the number of accidents would inevitably have been higher.


Conditions in the reactors at the end of June 2011


A table published by JAIF on the status of the reactors as of June 26th can be seen in Appendix 1.


The four uits that were damaged following the earthquake and the tsunami on March 11th are at the moment in the following conditions:


Unit 1 

Complete meltdown. Breach of the vessel and primary container. Loss of containment functions. Damage to the fuel in the decay pool.


Unit 2

Partial meltdown. Suspected damage to the vessel. Breach of primary container. Loss of containment functions. Damage to the fuel in the decay pool.


Unit 3

Partial meltdown. Suspected damage to the vessel. Damage to and breach of primary container. Loss of containment functions. Damage to the fuel in the decay pool.


Unit 4

Suspected damage to the fuel in the decay pool.


         Even though around four months have gone by since the accident, the state of the molten core demands continuous cooling otherwise the temperature of the corium tends to rise rapidly, as happened on June 22nd when the flow of water into reactor 3 was reduced. However, because of damage to the containment structure a considerable part of the water flooding the reactors has leaked out and shows high levels of radioactivity. At present in the lower part of the turbine rooms of reactors 1, 2 and 3 around 110,000 tonnes of highly contaminated water has accumulated which, due to inevitable seepage, has contaminated the ground water and ended up partially in the sea. The decontamination plants which Tepco went to great efforts to make ready (made up of numerous elementary cells) have proved to be inadequate in that they become saturated just 4-5 hours after they start working. This means that the water's level of radioactivity is much higher than the technicians estimated. The decontamination and storage of this huge amount of water is the greatest problem to solve since, as we said above, flooding the reactors with water cannot be interrupted, but at the same time the more water you use, the more contaminated water you accumulate.

         A project has been put forward with the aim of reducing the release of radionuclides into the atmosphere which, after 9-12 months of labour, would result in the reactors being covered by temporary structures in steel and polyester, as shown in Fig. 2, which would later be substituted by structures in reinforced concrete similar to those used at Chernobyl.

Centrale di Fukushima - modello della copertura per i reattori  

Fig. 2 Model of covering for the Fukushima reactors (source: TEPCO)


General implications for the safety of nuclear reactors and for the nuclear industry


Some precise considerations need to be made regarding the safety of nuclear power plants and the evaluations of the probability of serious accidents which were made before these accidents occurred, and which we criticised anyway[2]. Even aside from the way the aforementioned evaluations were produced, a renormalisation based on the number of accidents that occurred at Fukushima leads to the conclusion that we can expect the occurrence of a serious accident with a frequency of just a few years. The French nuclear reactors come to mind: in 34 of them -- all 900 MW types that started operating between 1977 and 1987-- the EDF has recently “discovered” an “anomaly” (confirmed by the Safety Authority, ASN) due to which should a loss-of-coolant accident occur, the high-pressure injection of water into the primary circuit coming from the HPCI[3] system might not be able to cool the core and, therefore, avoid a potential meltdown.

         If we keep in mind that shortly before the accidents the Japanese government had decided to extend the working life of the reactors beyond that foreseen when they had been planned, it is clear that this choice should be rejected by all countries (in the USA the NRC approves the utilities for 40 years of operation, but this has already been prolonged by 20 years for 63 of them). Germany was the first country to review the decision it had taken along those lines last autumn and to decide to finish completely with nuclear power within ten years (even if nuclear industries are taking legal action against the government's decision), and Switzerland, Thailand and Malaysia have cancelled plans to build new power plants.

         A general aspect concerns revising ideas about the safety of power plants around the world. It must be pointed out that serious accidents have always led in the past to revising and adjusting the criteria and safety systems, which have required long periods of time and considerable costs, and they have involved considerable increases in the costs of nuclear power plants. The accidents at Fukushima should also lead us to reconsider the choice of concentrating various power stations in one site, because a serious accident can multiply the consequences. This is a choice that has been dictated by considering only savings in costs and rendering more simple the procedures for the authorisation of sites.

         Today the nuclear industry finds itself in critical conditions (in France, in particular, but not only), because the re-launching of nuclear projects it was counting on, and in which it had invested large sums of money, does not seem to be paying off[4]. It is no coincidence that the French President, Sarkozy, is rushing round the world to advertise the EPR reactor, which France has trouble selling (now there is no longer the mirage that Italy would but 4 units).

            The Guardian[5] caused a stir with its revelation after seeing e-mails sent by British government officials in the business and energy departments to nuclear companies (EDF, Areva and Westinghouse) only two days after the disaster suggesting a common strategy to minimise the gravity of the accidents in the eyes of the people, not to undermine support for nuclear programmes and not to stop plans for building new power stations in Britain. A spokeswoman for Greenpeace rightly called it “a scandalous collusion”. An official at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, whose name had been redacted wrote: “This has the potential to set the nuclear industry back globally. We need to ensure the anti-nuclear chaps and chapesses do not gain ground on this. We need to occupy the territory and hold it. We really need to show the safety of nuclear.” From information contained in the e-mails it emerged that Westinghouse's new reactor, the AP100 "was not designed for earthquakes [of] the magnitude of the earthquake in Japan", and would need to be modified for seismic areas such as Japan and California. On 7th April, the office for nuclear development invited companies to a meeting in London to “discuss a joint communications and engagement strategy aimed at ensuring we maintain confidence among the British public on the safety of nuclear power stations and nuclear new-build policy in light of recent events at the Fukushima nuclear power plant”. Towards the end of June the British government confirmed plans for eight new nuclear stations in England and Wales.

         The French compay Areva has been accused of smear attacks by its lobbyists in order to promote their nuclear technology[6]: less than a month after the accidents in Japan (which just about coincided with Sarkozy's visit to Japan on 31st March) they distributed illustrated brochures to members of the U.S. Congress and officials in Washington giving fuller treatment of the process leading up to the hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and the fuel melting in the pools. They criticised the General Electric Mark-1 containment system and Tepco for not having released the information it had, saying that such accidents would never happen in their plants.

         In general, as regards testing the safety of existing power stations the prevalent attitude seems to consider it a more or less routine procedure, obviously to reduce extra costs that would take nuclear energy, which if it were not heavily subsidised would be well over market limits, to inaccessible heights. It would be a travesty to reduce the testing to so-called stress tests, which are merely computer simulations. What will they decide to do, for instance, about the safety of the spent fuel pools, which in all reactors, even in the current “advanced” ones, are not equipped with stress-proof containment? What sort of costs will have to be faced if it is decided, and it seems inescapable, to equip them with it? A true re-design for new reactors.

         Many worried voices are being raised in the United States about the status of American reactors, about the inadequacy of the NRC's[7] (National Regulatory Commission) safety regulations, and even about some progressive slackening of the rules in the years to come in order to meet the needs of the nuclear industry. In the U.S.A. There are 31 BWR reactors, most of them Mark-1, like the first 5 units at Fukushima Dai-ichi. Some reactors in the U.S. were built in proximity to fault lines and are subject to the risk of very strong earthquakes. “A few decades ago the likelihood that an earthquake or tsunami might hit the north-west coast of the United States was considered remote. […] In the end the geologists established that [in 1700] an earthquake of magnitude 9 hit an area that goes from Vancouver Island to Northern California. This discovery changed forever the basis for the design of buildings constructed in that area, where there are two nuclear plants now shut down. Earthquakes are rare on the east coast [where a large percentage of reactors are concentrated], [but] in 2008 a study concluded that several small faults, thought to be inactive, could in reality contribute to an earthquake of large dimensions”[8].

         There are also obviously worries about the spent fuel pools[9]. The 31 BWR reactors have the pools several storeys high, while in the 69 PWR reactors, the pools are at lower levels, but in both cases they are external to the primary container. Over the last 33 years there have been at least 66 accidents in U.S. reactors with significant losses of spent fuel pool water; ten of them have happened since 9/11. Over the last few decades, apart from corrosion to the steel lining and the racks that hold the fuel rods, the use of  tightly-packed storage (i.e. the increase in the amount of spent fuel kept in each pool), the increase in the level of uranium-235 in the fuel (greater enrichment) and the increase in the power supplied by each rod have raised the risks of serious accidents to the pools without the safety authorities taking it into due account.

In May 2011 The New York Times published an article[10] alarmed at the danger of  devastating hydrogen explosions like the ones that occurred at Fukushima because it has been demonstrated that the emergency vents may fail to function, and the same could happen in American plants.

         An interesting observation came from an authorative source: The Wall Street Journal reported[11] that the U.S. Marines are reaping rewards for the help given to Japan to gain strategic experience of operating in a situation comparable with one brought about by an attack with a “dirty bomb”.

         At the end of this report we shall take up again a detailed analysis of the critical points for nuclear safety highlighted by the accidents at Fukushima.


The seriousness of the radioactive contamination


         There are still large question marks and reservations since the accidents at Fukushima Dai-ichi about the release of radioactivity into the environment, its nature and how far it has spread, and possible damage to the health of the people and the environment, because of the partiality of the data and the delay in its release, suspicion about reticence and minimising, if not concealing, relevant data. It is clear that in Japan there are battles in the Diet about future choices that regard nuclear energy, and heavy clashes of interests among those involved – Tepco, for a start. What has been lacking, and still lacks, is the participation of an international authority that would be super partes. Shortcomings in the information about leakages and the initial spread of radioisotopes can seriously compromise the possibility of having reliable evaluation of future damage to health that the accidents on 11th March may entail. The team of technicians sent by Greenpeace was not given permission by the government to take readings inside their territorial waters; there are shortcomings in particular regarding the detection of specific radioisotopes (e.g. Iodine-131, Cesium-137, Strontium-90, Plutonium etc.) which settle in water, collect in  vegetation and enter the food chain. Without a doubt these shortcomings make both the adoption of protective measures for the population and a reliable evaluation of the consequences for health in the future problematic.

         There is no doubt that, as in the case of Chernobyl, reassuring evaluations from  many different sources are lacking any foundation.

         However, as the Japanese government's report presented in Vienna admitted, already in the early hours of the morning on 12th March the level of radioactivity measured was enough to believe that the containment function of the reactors had been compromised. According to this report the following quantities of radioactivity in the environment as of 5th June were estimated as:


Iodine-131 = 1.6 x 1017 Bq                 Cesium-137 = 1.5 x 1016 Bq


As regards radioactivity dumped into the sea the figure given is: 4.7 x 1015 Bq


         Further analyses have shown contamination in the Prefectures of Miyagi and Ibaraki (respectively north and south of the Prefecture of Fukushima) where up to 110Bq/kg in substances examined have been found. The University of Tokyo's Institute of Marine Science found consistent contamination of marine sediments 30kms. from the city of Sendai (the prefectural capital of Miyagi, 95 kms. from Fukushima Dai-ichi), which underlines that the contamination of plankton is one of the determining factors for an evaluation of the radiobiological implications on marine flora and fauna.

         Equally significant is data regarding contamination measured in all Japanese plants, which shows how in some cases (Fukushima apart) contamination has remained consistently higher than standard values.

         The decision taken by the government to raise the limits of a radioactive dose from 1mSv to 25mSv, children included, has stirred up a controversy and led to authoritative appeals against it. There are also doubts and disputes about extending the evacuation zone: the difficulties faced in evacuating large numbers of people in an area that has been seriously damaged by the tsunami are clear.

         Hot spots of radioactive contamination higher than 20mSv/per annum in several zones have been signalled[12]. Worrying levels of radioactive contamination, higher than other areas of the Prefecture of Fukushima, were measured already at the end of March in the village of Iitate, 25-45kms. north-west of the Dai-ichi plant[13]. There was a report of radioactive Cesium being found in Tokyo with an activity of 8,000Bq in smoke from an urban refuse incinerator[14].

         In the city of Fukushima, beyond the 30 km. evacuation area, analyses carried out by a French organisation, Acro, on behalf of local activists found traces of 3mSv of Cesium-134 (half-life 2 years) and Cesium-137 (half-life 30 years) in the urine of 10 children between 6-16 years of age[15]. The results are not considered conclusive, given the limited number of samples, but the local activists declared they wanted the tests to be carried out because the government had not carried out systematic analyses  on the people that live outside the evacuation zone[16]. Dr. Ernesto Burgio commented: “What happens in the case of an accident, in general  in the vicinity of power stations and all the more so in case of accidents, is that normally the so-called external exposition to external radiation is checked, and it is absolutely of little significance. The really worrying data, which is becoming apparent in this case, as many of us have feared over the last four months, concerns the news according to which a lot of people, even outside the no-entry zone have been contaminated both by breathing in contaminated air, and above all through eating contaminated foodstuffs, because the real problem after accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima is that most contamination comes from foodstuffs. These people, like thousands of others probably, or more like millions of others, must have eaten vegetables, dairy products, and drunk milk, so they will have absorbed considerable quantities. The most important and significant data is that Cesium-137 was found. As we know, it is the greatest danger because it settles in the muscles and central nervous system and this is the key indicator of contamination through the food chain. Another significant fact is that it was also pointed out that initial data had shown the presece of radioactive iodine in some people, but it disappeared later. Why is this significant? Because it means that a radionuclide like radioactive iodine, which has a half-life of ten days, disappeared after a month. Cesium, unfortunately, has a half-life of thirty years and so there is the risk that it can remain in the food chain for sixty. Unfortunately, it is present in these people in doses that need to be evaluated very carefully because they are higher than those normally considered admissable  over a period of a year. … This sample group is not quantitatively relevant because it counts 15 people. However, seeing they were chosen at random and over large distances, it shows that the population, millions of people probably, has been exposed to a greater extent than what has been said up to now because unfortunately official figures are very few and far between ... what is really important is this exposition to small daily doses of radionuclides which settle in the tissues, which are passed through the food chain and even, and this is the most important thing, get into the placenta and reach the embryo and the foetus”[17].

         On the same subject, the presence of Cesium-137 has been found in samples of beef, which is extremely worrying because it shows that contamination has already arrived at the second stage in the food chain.

         A request made by the Educational Committee of Koryama city, in the Prefecture of Fukushima, for permission to evacuate children that live in areas contaminated by a dose of 1 micro Sv an hour at a height of one metre from the ground is backed up by authoritative British and American specialists[18]. Sternglass, for instance, declares: “... many studies during the last 40 years have shown that prolonged exposure to radiation even at relatively low doses is far more damaging to human health than when the same dose is delivered in a short burst, as from a medical X-ray, or the burst of gamma rays from a nuclear bomb explosion. Moreover, it has been found that the developing infant in a mother's womb and the years of childhood is many times as likely as an adult to develop cancer and other life-threatening diseases....”

         As far as the workers employed in the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant are concerned,  the Japanese dailies Mainichi Daily News and Yomiuri Shimbun published a controversial article[19] according to which the director of the Agency for Nuclear and Industrial Safety, Terasaka  Nobuaki, referred that 4956 workers (4766 of whom at no. 1 unit) received internal contamination above the legal dose, which for workers at the Dai-ichi plant was raised from 100 to 250mSv, and that only 10% had been tested.

Tepco declared there were only 3 modules for checking the entire body, but they could not be used because of the high radiation levels.

         It is opportune here to make an observation: complete data on releases of radiation and its extension probably exists, but is not available to the public. However, there is an international organisation responsible for verifying that the Comprehensive-Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT) is respected. This organisation has created a global monitoring network (CTBTO) which has surely gathered very accurate, thorough data, though in the context of an international treaty it is available to single states but not to the public. What is serious is that states have not even informed their people of possible dangers or taken measures for their safety.

         To make a comparison with Chernobyl is problematic: there the reactor exploded and radioactive substances were released directly into the environment. An official, though generic, evaluation is that the radioactive substances released into the atmosphere at Fukushima are around a tenth of those released at Chernobyl. There is no data, there are no criteria to confirm this evaluation, at any rate it must be taken into account that the region contaminated in Japan has a population density much higher than Chernobyl, and that the accidents are still taking place and the developments are difficult to control and foresee.


The economic recession, the damages: “Who will pay?”   “Pantaloon!”


         One aspect which is anything but marginal is the amount of the damages and who will pay for them. The recession that has hit Japan is due more to the nuclear option than the damages wrought by the tsunami. Of the 54 nuclear plants that provided the country with 30% of its electrical energy, 35 have halted production following the quake on 11th March. The 6 reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi and the 5 at Hamaoka, a brand-new plant south of Tokyo shut down at the request of the Prime Minister seeing that another quake is likely, will not start up again anymore, while all the others that have suffered minor damages will be unproductive for some months while inspections and/or repairs are carried out. The situation has been made dramatic by the fact that Japan, considered a model of technological efficiency, is split into 2 totally separate electrical areas: one in the south-west with a frequency of 50 Hertz, and the other in the north-east (hit more by the earthquake) with a frequency of 60 Hertz (Fig. 3). This drastically limits any possibility of transferring energy from one to the other (this division also regards the reactors: BWR in the north and PWR in the south, making it more difficult for the former to get specialised workers). As a result electrical energy is rationed and even those factories (car, electronic components etc.) that were not hit by the tsunami are working shorter hours.

  Centrali nucleari in Giappone

Fig. 3       operating reactors      planned reactors


         The most recent evaluations of the damages go to well over a hundred billion dollars. It is clear that it won't be Tepco that covers the costs, as happens for the whole of the nuclear industry, which benefits from enormous “externalisation” of costs[20]. On 14th June the Japanese government approved a bill which sets up a fund for compensation for the victims of the nuclear disaster and the seriously-damaged plant: which is in fact a plan to save Tepco by using public monies, i.e. the taxpayers' cash.

         In the meantime, Tepco's shares, for years the pride of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, crashed ruining millions of small savers (even if its managers  continue to bet on the development of nuclear energy. The ritual shareholders' meeting at the end of June saw thousands of citizens crowding around outside, many of them managed to get inside using proxy votes and vented their fury)[21].

         Public opinion in Japan about nuclear energy is changing. In the government and in Parliament there was a manoeuvre to bring pressure to bear on Prime Minister Kan so as to re-open the way for further developments in nuclear energy. A decision taken by the Mayor of Genkai (Saga Prefecture) to approve the first re-opening of nuclear plants after the accidents[22] caused a stir, but the decision has been deferred. The plant, run by the Kyushu Electric Power Co. has four reactors, two of which had been shut down for maintenance. Naturally, the general decision will be taken by the government, but the Mayor's decision provoked a protest by some citizens. In the citizens' movement there are some groups that intend working out a proposal for a referendum.


Preliminary conclusions


         In winding up these brief, preliminary remarks we cannot avoid mentioning that the recent summit on nuclear safety called by the IAEA in Vienna did not go further than general calls to increase safety measures, hoping for greater international cooperation in sharing information and managing emergencies.

         It is our opinion, however, that extraordinary measures are needed if for no other reason than that two events of enormous gravity occurred at Fukushima: the accidents to the fuel pools and the breaching of a vessel by a molten core. Not to take these into account, or to underestimate the implications for the whole international community, would be definite confirmation that nuclear technology is technically incontrollable and politically subject to interests that have nothing to do with the wellbeing and safety of populations.


[1]          Angelo Baracca e Giorgio Ferrari Ruffino, SCRAM ovvero La Fine del Nucleare, Milano, Jaca Book, 2011

[2]   Angelo Baracca e Giorgio Ferrari Ruffino, Scram, op cit., Cap. 8

[3]   HPCI (high-pressure cooling injection) is an emergency system that comes into play if a loss-of-coolant accident takes place. It injects water at high pressure into the primary circuit so as to cool the reactor's core.


[4]   Ibid., and also for example: Michael Dittmar (physicist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich), “The reality of nuclear energy is inconsistent with dreams of a renaissance”, The Guardian, August 16th 2010; “Nuclear: New dawn now seems limited to the east”, Financial Times, 13th September 2010; James Kanter, “New Warnings About Costs of Nuclear Power”, The New York Times: Green, a blog about energy and environment, August 31st 2010.


[5]   Rob Edwards, “Revealed: British government's plan to play down Fukushima”, The Guardian, June 30th 2011.

[6]     “French nuclear power lobbyists used Fukushima smear campaign to promote own businesses”, The Mainichi Daily News, July 4th 2011,

[7]   There is a very interesting video interview with two nuclear engineers, Arnie Gundersen and David Lockbaum: “Why Fukushima Can Happen Here What the NRC and Nuclear Industry Don't Want You To Know”,

[8]   Adam Piore, “La sicurezza dei nuovi reattori”, Le Scienze, giugno 2011, p. 57.

[9]   Robert Alavarez “Spent Nuclear Fuel Pools in the U.S.: Reducing the Deadly Risks of Storage”, Institute for Policy Studies, May, 2011.


[10] Hiroko Tabuchi, Keith Bradsher and Matthew L. Wald, “In jaoa Reactor Failure, Danger Signs for the U.S.”, The New York Times, 17th May 2011.

[11] Nathan Hodge, “U.S. Military Finds Lessons in Japan's Crisis”, The Wall Street Journal, 21st June 2011.

[12] “Regarding Response to the Specific Spots Estimated to Exceed an Integral Dose of  20mSv Over a One Year Period After the Occurrence of the Accident (“Specific Spots Recommended for Evacuation”)”, NISA, Press Release, 16th June 2011.


[13] Iitate Village Area Radioactive Contamination Investigation Team (Imanaka Tetsuji, Endo Satoru, Shizuma Kiyoshi, Sugai Masuro, Ozawa Shoji). “Interim Report on Radiation Survey in Iitate village area conducted o March 28th and 29th, 4th April 2011”.

[15] Anna Novick, “More Fukushima worries: internal contamination”, 1st July2011.

[16] On this Daniel Krieger is very interesting and and clear, “Who's still tracking radiation from Fukushima? And who should we trust?”, 16th June 2011.

[17] Ernesto Burgia, “Il martirio di Fukushima”, interview, 30th June 2011.

[18] Chris Busby, “Statement of Chris Busby in relation to provisional injunction against Education Committee of Koryama City, Fukushima to evacuate the children for the radioactively contaminated area being filed on 24th June 2011”,; Leuren Moret, “Statement of Leuren Moret in relation to provisional injunction against Education Committee of Koryama City, Fukushima to evacuate the children for the radioactively contaminated area being filed on 24th June 2011”; Ernest Sternglass, “Statement of Ernest Sternglass in relation to provisional injunction against Education Committee of Koryama City, Fukushima to evacuate the children for the radioactively contaminated area being filed on 24th June 2011”,

[20] See the wide-ranging treatment of the question in the collection of studies edited by Henry Sokolski:

[21] Pio d’Emilia, “La furia dei peones della Tepco”, il manifesto, 29 giugno 2011


  • SINDROME GIAPPONESE (6566 Kb - Formato pdf)
    Giorgio Ferrari e Angelo Baracca - Fonte: autori
    Analisi e prime valutazioni dell’incidente di Fukushima

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