As Japan announced a breakthrough in stemming one of the leaks at the troubled Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, tons of contaminated water continued to flow into the ocean surrounding the nuclear facility.
Engineers at the plant still face a huge problem of how to store 60,000 tons of contaminated seawater used to cool fuel rods. Without a viable alternative they have been forced to pump 11,500 tons of lower-level radioactive water back into the ocean.
In the midst of this complex and dangerous crisis, at least seven members of Fukushima Daiichi Seisho Baptist Church have been working as part of the emergency team at the nuclear plant. “One of the seven workers had actually run away from the plant out of fear,” according to Scott Eaton, I.T. director for CRASH Japan.
“After becoming Christian, he returned to work with a smile and Bible in hand convicted to share the Gospel with his co-workers,” Eaton notes. The seven workers and their families are aware of the possible consequences of working in close proximity to high and potentially lethal doses of radiation.
In an unusual twist, Eaton once attended and taught the scriptures at the same church in Fukushima where he has returned as leader of a disaster assessment team for CRASH. He choked up as he remembered many in the church as his dear “family.”
The CRASH Japan team was able to locate Eaton’s former church members who managed to gather and evacuate together. A church in Yonezawa opened its doors to the church, allowing them to remain together.
“The people of Fukushima are thinking about the korekara – from now on Fukushima can never be the same,” Eaton laments. “My prayer for Fukushima is that they would not give in to fear. That they will find their source of strength in the only strength powerful enough for a time like this; strength in Christ.”
Physicist Michio Kaku sees the accident in Fukushima progressing in three acts. “The first act was the earthquake and tsunami, which immediately wiped out all emergency cooling systems simultaneously at all three reactors and all hell has broken loose,” he notes in a recent blog posting.
“Act II was the enormous damage done to the cores of these three reactors. With the loss of cooling water, temperatures began to rise rapidly, causing the hydrogen gas explosions and fuel melting. We know that about 70% of Unit 1’s core was damaged, and that 33% of Unit 2’s core was also damaged.”
Computer simulations done by outside laboratories reveal the same thing: Fukushima came perilously close to a full-scale meltdown at all three reactors, including a spent fuel pond accident in Unit 4, according to Dr. Kaku.
Against the wishes of the utility, the Japanese government ordered flushing the reactors with seawater, which temporarily halted the accident from progressing to a full-blown tragedy, but reduced the reactors to “pieces of junk,” notes Dr. Kaku.
“Now we are entering Act III,” he states. “With the cores covered with seawater and fresh water, the workers are desperately trying to hit rock bottom, so they can begin recovery operations.”
The primary suspect for the source of the leak is direct contact between melted uranium (called “corium”) and the cooling water, probably caused by a pipe break or, more ominously, a pressure vessel that has completely melted through, according to Dr. Kaku.
“Until they find the primary source of this leak, there will be damaging reports of radiation being found in more and more places. Time is not on their side. The longer they take to hit rock bottom, the more the danger of evacuations of workers and damage to the economy of the area.”
Dr. Kaku describes their predicament as a Catch 22 situation. “They need to flood the cores with water, but this water becomes contaminated and flows out to the environment. So they are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.”