While our tabloid tribal society has been fixed on the stupidity and mental illness of Anthony Weiner this week there has been some other news. Some of the most important news to our species is that the event that “couldn’t” happen at Fukishima is much worse than originally thought.
Japan’s nuclear safety agency has more than doubled its estimate of the amount of radiation released into the atmosphere from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
And plutonium believed to have come from the plant has also been found in a town near the facility – the first time plutonium has been found in soil outside the facility.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says it believes the earthquake-stricken Fukushima plant emitted nearly 800,000 terabecquerels of radioactive material into the air in the days after it was hit by a massive tsunami.
That is more than double the original estimate and is based on new information suggesting the No.1 and No.2 reactors suffered meltdowns much earlier than thought.
The revision reveals the failure to contain the disaster resulted in much more radioactive contamination of the soil, sea and air than the plant’s operators had acknowledged.
The disaster is rated a maximum seven on the international nuclear accident scale, the same level as the Chernobyl meltdown 25 years ago.
The plutonium was found in the town of Okuma, which is less than two kilometres from the plant.
Molten nuclear fuel in three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant is likely to have burned through pressure vessels, not just the cores, Japan has said in a report in which it also acknowledges it was unprepared for an accident of the severity of Fukushima.
It is the first time Japanese authorities have admitted the possibility that the fuel suffered “melt-through” – a more serious scenario than a core meltdown.
The report, which is to be submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said fuel rods in reactors No 1, 2 and 3 had probably not only melted, but also breached their inner containment vessels and accumulated in the outer steel containment vessels.
It may be the same level as Chernobyl but much worse because the Japanese have lost some some of their best agricultural land for generations and Japan had none to spare. It will be years or even decades before we know the extent of the disaster.
The tabloid news cycle is the equivalent of the Roman circus and we all know what happened to the Roman Empire.