THE CRISIS AT FUKUSHIMA REACTOR 4
Time for a Global Takeover
By Harvey Wasserman
We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
There is no excuse for not acting. All the resources our species can muster must be focussed on the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4.
Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric (TepCo), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.
Some 400 tons of fuel in that pool could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima.
The one thing certain about this crisis is that Tepco does not have the scientific, engineering or financial resources to handle it. Nor does the Japanese government. The situation demands a coordinated worldwide effort of the best scientists and engineers our species can muster.
Why is this so serious?
We already know that thousands of tons of heavily contaminated water are pouring through the Fukushima site, carrying a devil’s brew of long-lived poisonous isotopes into the Pacific. Tuna irradiated with fallout traceable to Fukushima have already been caught off the coast of California. We can expect far worse.
Tepco continues to pour more water onto the proximate site of three melted reactor cores it must somehow keep cool.Steam plumes indicate fission may still be going on somewhere underground. But nobody knows exactly where those cores actually are.
Much of that irradiated water now sits in roughly a thousand huge but fragile tanks that have been quickly assembled and strewn around the site. Many are already leaking. All could shatter in the next earthquake, releasing thousands of tons of permanent poisons into the Pacific. Fresh reports show that Tepco has just dumped another thousand tons of contaminated liquids into the sea ( http://www.alternet.org/environment/ ).
The water flowing through the site is also undermining the remnant structures at Fukushima, including the one supporting the fuel pool at Unit Four.
More than 6,000 fuel assemblies now sit in a common pool just 50 meters from Unit Four. Some contain plutonium. The pool has no containment over it. It’s vulnerable to loss of coolant, the collapse of a nearby building, another earthquake, another tsunami and more.
Overall, more than 11,000 fuel assemblies are scattered around the Fukushima site. According to long-time expert and former Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez, there is more than 85 times as much lethal cesium on site as was released at Chernobyl.
Radioactive hot spots continue to be found around Japan. There are indications of heightened rates of thyroid damage among local children.
The immediate bottom line is that those fuel rods must somehow come safely out of the Unit Four fuel pool as soon as possible.
Just prior to the 3/11/11 earthquake and tsunami that shattered the Fukushima site, the core of Unit Four was removed for routine maintenance and refueling. Like some two dozen reactors in the US and too many more around the world, the General Electric-designed pool into which that core now sits is 100 feet in the air.
Spent fuel must somehow be kept under water. It’s clad in zirconium alloy which will spontaneously ignite when exposed to air. Long used in flash bulbs for cameras, zirconium burns with an extremely bright hot flame.
Each uncovered rod emits enough radiation to kill someone standing nearby in a matter of minutes. A conflagration could force all personnel to flee the site and render electronic machinery unworkable.
According to Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with 40 years in an industry for which he once manufactured fuel rods, the ones in the Unit 4 core are bent, damaged and embrittled to the point of crumbling. Cameras have shown troubling quantities of debris in the fuel pool, which itself is damaged.
The engineering and scientific barriers to emptying the Unit Four fuel pool are unique and daunting, says Gundersen. But it must be done to 100% perfection.
Should the attempt fail, the rods could be exposed to air and catch fire, releasing horrific quantities of radiation into the atmosphere. The pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and possibly explode. The resulting radioactive cloud would threaten the health and safety of all us.
Chernobyl’s first 1986 fallout reached California within ten days. Fukushima’s in 2011 arrived in less than a week. A new fuel fire at Unit 4 would pour out a continuous stream of lethal radioactive poisons for centuries.
Former Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata says full-scale releases from Fukushima “would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.” Neither Tokyo Electric nor the government of Japan can go this alone. There is no excuse for deploying anything less than a coordinated team of the planet’s best scientists and engineers.
We have two months or less to act.
For now, we are petitioning the United Nations and President Obama to mobilize the global scientific and engineering community to take charge at Fukushima and the job of moving these fuel rods to safety.
You can sign the petition at: http://www.nukefree.org/crisis-fukushima-4-petition-un-us-global-response
If you have a better idea, please follow it. But do something and do it now.
The clock is ticking. The hand of global nuclear disaster is painfully close to midnight.
(Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org and is author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His SOLARTOPIA GREEN POWER & WELLNESS SHOW is at www.prn.fm.)
INSIDE THE FIRING of popular Charles Bush as director of the Fort Bragg Senior Center. A tight quartet of women who are close friends on and off the Board were angry because Bush fired one of their friends who worked at the thrift store. Chuck is not known to be an impulsive or vindictive person so the firing was undoubtedly warranted. For some odd reason, Chuck’s four enemies didn’t like him chatting up the Seniors themselves, as if there’s something wrong with a welcoming kind of place. When Liz Irwin was director she spent a lot of time cheering up the old folks. Like all non-profits these days, the FB Center was struggling financially. Chuck reduced the deficit and kept the doors open. His dismissal indicates a dysfunctional board majority. Fort Bragg seniors are not happy with all of this. They’d already overwhelmingly demonstrated support for Bush via a petition before he was fired this week. The Center’s meeting on the 27th is likely to be a hot one.
* * *
JUST FOUR PEOPLE…
Dear Editor, Wednesday, 18 Sept., four members of the Redwood Senior Center board of directors voted to fire the Executive Director Charles Bush immediately. The meeting on Wednesday was not properly convened — the public was not given notice 72 hours in advance posted in a public place with an agenda telling what the meeting was about. Board members were notified by email but no subject for the meeting was stated. A secret vote was taken and in a 4 yes; 2 no; 2 abstention move, the vote was to fire Charles. A member of the board informed Charles that the vote had been taken. Charles Bush has been doing a great job pulling the Coast Senior Center back into the Sunlight after a very sad time in its existence. As a community senior, I sat with staff and volunteers at lunch Thursday and asked them how they felt about Charles’ leadership and actions, if they were happy. They responded that they were more than happy with Charles. I am personally appalled and I hope that steps can be taken to make it so Charles can return to being the Senior Center Executive Director because he was doing a wonderful job. This action by four people is creating great upheaval at the Senior Center and threatening yet another iconic community resource.
Thank you, Jessie Lee VanSant, Fort Bragg
DEAR BOARD MEMBERS OF THE SENIOR CENTER,
I was shocked and saddened to hear that the Board called a sudden meeting, without notice to the public, during which Charles Bush was fired. Since Charles Bush has taken over as Director of the Senior Center, the food has improved, the amount of time he puts into directing programs and overseeing lunches is remarkable, and the fact that he has brought in donations and given back over half of his salary due to sequester cutbacks make him the best Director possible. Charles is friendly and welcoming, forming good personal relationships with the staff and the public. He has interviewed many seniors and has a huge library of tapes called ‘Senior Perspectives’ that people can rent or watch in the computer room. His interviews are interesting and he has a compassionate manner when he draws each senior’s story into the interviews. I have learned a lot about folks from these insightful interactions, and feel like they help us know one another better. There was a $50,000 donation to paint the building which will now be rescinded, since Charles was fired. He also brought in thousands of dollars at the recent art silent auction, wine and food tasting, and rock concert at the Caspar Community Center which featured famous musicians such as Christy Wells and Fritz, David Hayes, Gene Parsons, Stephen Bates and our own blind senior accordionist, Jan. It was a wonderful event and was played to a packed house — and they would be willing to do another such event for Charles if you had not summarily fired him suddenly. Charles may have some criticism from office workers who want his job, but who are not nearly as good with personal relationships or as caring about the clients served in the dining room, thrift store, computer room, and at fundraising events. He has come to the Center on weekends to check on meeting groups using the facility and has been very helpful and encouraging to all he encounters. About two weeks ago Charles had an endorsement from the public by letters and petitions to the Board when rumors of firing circulated. We were assured then by some Board members that there was no threat of firing; they just asked him to do more paperwork. When is the next Board Meeting taking place? Many of Charles’ supporters are concerned about the reasons for his dismissal and wish to address the Board regarding this. We know of no violations in the bylaws committed by Charles to precipitate this action, and would like some explanations. It feels like the Senior Center will be devastated by his loss! We would like to see the Center continue to thrive, but what plan is in place to improve things? I will eagerly await your response.
Thank you, Ann Rennacker, Fort Bragg
CHA VANG, 45, of Sacramento was found dead Thursday at the foot of a deep ravine near old Bartlett Springs Resort in the Mendocino National Forest. Vang had been hunting squirrels. Family members went looking for him when he failed to meet them at their rendezvous point only to find him dead, apparently of a fall estimated at some one hundred feet. CalFire out of nearby Leesville recovered Vang’s remains.
ANOTHER REASON to stay out of the woods this time of year — deer season starts Saturday at first light. Deer season commences just as pot season also reaches its most explosive time of year with bud ripe on the stem, mom and pop taking turns shotgun-guarding the crop against the annual invasion of home invaders.
RANDOM THOUGHTS of a failing mind: On the week we had another massacre committed by a young man who’d slowly been getting crazier for years until he went big time crazy all at once. I can’t even remember most of the names of the preceding massacre maestros because these slaughters occur so often. All the arguments about gun control seem almost as nuts as these terrible events because the discussion really ought to be about what’s gone so wrong with the way we live that causes so much murderous unhappiness. I concluded years ago that the system itself was the cause, hardly a conclusion that’s unshared, but setting things right? Short of massive re-build after an economic collapse there’s not even a glimmer of hope that the fundamental crazy-makers will change.
COLLAPSE is probably on the way. The other day I was listening to NPR’s chirping and totally misleading explanations of “quantitative easing.” The chirpers all agreed that the Federal Reserve’s decision to keep on printing $85 billion dollars a week to give to our failed private financial institutions was necessary to keep the economy from “recession.” A side benefit of maintaining “quantitative easing,” the chirpers asserted, was “keeping inflation in check,” which anybody who goes grocery shopping knows it does not do because prices of everything just keep on going up because, among the main reasons, the oil that literally fuels our economy is increasingly expensive and will become even more expensive because there’s less of it in places where it can be inexpensively extracted. If a government has to print money to prop up bad paper, collapse has already happened, and when the “quantitative easing” stops the crash will be a lot bigger than the one of 2008. So, class, we’re at a point where the capitalists who fund capitalism (a) don’t believe in capitalism, and (b) need government to print money for them to stay in business. This is the way it looks from Boonville, anyway.
WHILE OUR GOVERNMENT shovels $85 bil a week to financial institutions run by high end swindlers, the swindler’s Republican gofers want to shave $39 billion from food stamp appropriations, a move that would cut 3.8 million people from the program. The Republicans have even come up with a new, non-racist riff on Reagan’s mythical black welfare queen tooling up to the Chicago welfare office in her Cadillac. The neo-deadbeat is a 29-year-old surfer dude featured on Fox New (and probably hired by them for the portrayal) who buys lobster and sushi with the $200 he gets in monthly food assistance.
ARE THERE DEADBEATS on food stamps? Of course. Are there much bigger deadbeats, global deadbeats, on government welfare? Yes, we just talked about them being quantitavely eased to the tune of $85 billion a week.
BUT THE BUMS getting food stamps are a very small percentage of people on food stamps, as anybody, even a Republican, can see for his overfed self if he’ll only waddle down to his nearest welfare office or food bank to scope out who’s drawing food. The overwhelming number of recipients, right here in Mendocino County and everywhere else here in Market Miracle Land, are employed people who don’t make enough money to get by. And single mothers with children to feed.
POSTMASTER GENERAL DONAHUE told a Senate committee Thursday that he’s presiding over a “financial disaster.” Donahue said he needs big money in a hurry to get the Anderson Valley Advertiser from Boonville to San Francisco in at least seven working days. Donahue said the PO is so broke it will lose $6 billion this year. Last year it lost both the mail edition of the Anderson Valley Advertiser and $16 billion.
EXCLUSIVE OPERATING AREA FOR AMBULANCE SERVICES: Board of Supervisors Workshop — September 24, 2013 Dear EMS Stakeholders and Community Members: The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors will hold a workshop on the feasibility of an Exclusive Operating Area (EOA) for ambulance services on September 24, 2013, at 2:30 p.m. The Agenda for the meeting is as follows:
All information for the Board Workshop is now available at the following website, under “Upcoming Events”:
If you have any questions, please call the Executive Office at 463-4441. Thank you,
— Mendocino County Executive Office
LOST COAST FEES GOING UP?
The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a new overnight use fee for the King Range National Conservation Area (NCA) backcountry and wilderness, and a fee increase for developed campgrounds. The proposed backcountry and wilderness fee is $5 per person, per day. Fees at the Mattole, Honeydew Creek, Horse Mountain, Tolkan, Nadelos, and Wailaki campgrounds would be increased from $8 to $15 per night. You can read the background and rationale for these proposals in the King Range NCA 2012 Business Plan, available here or at the BLM offices in Arcata and Whitethorn. Comments will be accepted until October 18, 2013. Email: Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please write “King Range Business Plan” in the subject line. By mail or in person: King Range Project Office, 768 Shelter Cove Road or PO Box 189, Whitethorn, CA 95589 Arcata Field Office, 1695 Heindon Road, Arcata, CA 95521 For more information, please contact: Justin Robbins, 707-986-5400
PRISONER PHOTO REQUESTS
One guy asked for an image of the ten most dangerous land animals
IN A DEMOCRACY, voting is a right and a privilege as well as a responsibility. Our responsibility is to not only vote, but to be informed voters.
Local elections can have a greater impact on our daily lives than many state and national elections. We see the results of decisions made by our county and city elected officials every day. Their policy, planning, and funding decisions are apparent in our roads, schools, infrastructure, zoning, and economic development. At a more local level, special districts such as community services, fire protection, school, and water districts serve and affect our smaller communities.
On Wednesday, October 9th at 6 pm at the C V Starr Center, 300 S. Lincoln St., Fort Bragg, the League of Women Voters of Mendocino County is sponsoring and moderating a Candidate Forum for the Mendocino Coast Recreation and Park District election. Four candidates are running for 3 four year terms on the Board of Directors of MCRPD.
MCRPD runs from Westport to Gualala and inland to Comptche. The MCRPD operating revenue 2013 – 2014 is $749,944. It operates the Fort Bragg Kudos for Kids and ASSETS after school programs, as well as district wide enrichment classes, adult and youth sports programs, camps, and swim lessons, some in partnership with other organizations. MCRPD is the title owner of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, obtained through a grant from the CA Coastal Conservancy, which they lease for $1 per year to the Botanical Gardens Corporation. The C V Starr Center is owned by the City of Fort Bragg which is responsible for ensuring that the Center operates in a fiscally sustainable manner by adopting the annual operating budget and setting the fee schedule. The MCRPD is responsible for the day to day administration of the Center and for key policy decisions.
Decisions that the MCRPD Board of Directors will be making in the next 4 years include: setting fees for programs, budget priorities, renewal of the MCBG lease, Highway 20 property and bankruptcy negotiations, developing programs in underserved areas of the District, and the development of new programs.
Come to the Candidate Forum to learn about MCRPD issues and hear the differences in the candidates’ views.
Because fewer people vote in local elections, your vote will have more influence. Vote for candidates who are reflective of your community. Local offices are frequently a first stop on the way to higher office. Get to know the candidates and plan to vote this election!
— Carol Czadek, Voter Service Representative LWVMC
HOW JUNK FEES WILL DRIVE YOUR CUSTOMERS AWAY
by Christopher Elliott
At the intersection of Highway 20 and Highway 101 in Willits, Calif., you’ll find three service stations. But look closely before you pump gas, otherwise you could pay a lot more than you expect.
What follows is a cautionary tale about junk fees, from an industry that journalists like me tend to ignore, unless it’s spilling hundreds of millions of gallons of unprocessed petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico.
But the cost of a product, both perceived and real, are very much in the news today, with a key part of the Affordable Care Act scheduled to kick in Oct. 1. Fees are a hot topic in my neck of the woods, with some industry apologists spinning the absurd argument that junk fees such as the ones I ran into are good for consumers, because it gives them choices.
Here’s what happened to me. On a recent morning, as we drove from Mendocino, Calif., to Neskowin, Ore., I congratulated myself for steering clear of the Chevron station, where gas was a few pennies more than the Arco across the street. But when I slid my card into the Arco “PayQuick” terminal, it demanded a 35¢ transaction fee before I could refuel. Arco explains the fee on its site. “Forget it,” I muttered, looking across the 101 to the Safeway service station, where gas cost the same — minus the deceptive transaction fee.
Or at least that’s what I thought it claimed.
Safeway “reduces” the price of your groceries and gas when you show your membership card, and although I’m skeptical of clubs where members are offered preferential treatment, I carry a Safeway card. I was given the impression that I’d pay $3.77 per gallon after my Safeway discount, and would save the 35¢ transaction fee.
Yes, I crossed the road to save 35 cents. It was the principle.
The Other Side
I presented the Safeway terminal with my card and my credit card and started to pump gas. And that’s when I noticed it was charging me 10¢ a gallon more than the Arco station.
I asked the woman at the counter if the $3.87 price was a pre-discount rate that Safeway was showing me so that I could fully appreciate the savings I was getting as a Safeway “member.” She laughed at me. And it wasn’t the kind of laugh from telling a funny joke, either. Perhaps “mocked” would be a better word.
She told me, as a teacher explains to a new student, how earlier this year “the credit card companies” had raised their fees, and that Safeway had to pass the costs along to customers.
The 10¢ “discount” was available only if I paid by cash. I could wave my Safeway card around all I wanted, it would not affect the price. Worse, I couldn’t cancel my transaction and change my payment method.
I was confused.
I checked to see if others had been snookered by Safeway’s policy and found a story about “accidental” overcharges at another California gas station. Its website, which tries to explain the apparent bait-and-switch discount, makes me want to cut up my “rewards” card in disgust. Does Safeway think it’s an airline?
Junk Fees And Price Deceptions
As we drove north with a full tank of overpriced gas, we did the math. Even after paying the 35¢ “fee,” Arco had the cheapest gas. Safeway’s fuel was the costliest if you paid by credit card, which we did.
The most honest price? The Chevron station.
Looking back, I wish we’d refueled at Chevron. Like many customers, I’m willing to pay more to be treated as an adult, instead of receiving an unwanted lecture about the cost of accepting credit cards, which is absolutely no concern of mine.
But it’s also a warning about fees, which can pop up anytime without notice. We don’t have a lot of Arco stations back East, and I normally buy my gas at the local Hess station, which offers a fair, gimmick-free price for fuel. I can’t be the only person who feels these pricing tricks are wrong and shouldn’t be allowed.
Now, I’m sure some of you reading this rant are saying to yourself, “Come on Chris, people are sophisticated. In a free market, shouldn’t a business be able to pass its costs along to a consumer, as long as it’s disclosed at some point?” I get it. If I were an advocate for the oil companies — not that they need another advocate — I would twist the facts around to justify the fees and their problematic disclosure. But the last time I checked, I still had the title “Consumer Advocate” on my business card.
Aren’t we entitled to an unambiguous price for fuel? Don’t we have the right to be unhappy when we don’t get it?
(Christopher Elliott is the reader advocate for National Geographic Traveler magazine and a travel columnist for the Washington Post and USA Today.)
HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE PRESS RELEASE:
On 09-19-2013, approximately 9:00 a.m. the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office assisted by Cal Fire, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Humboldt County Drug Task Force (H.C.D.T.F) served a Humboldt County Superior Court Search Warrant on an approximate 40 acre parcel of property off Dyerville Loop Road. The property is located approximately two miles east of South Fork High School.
When the officers arrived on scene they located several unpermitted structures, a residence and greenhouses. Two of the unpermitted structures were large indoor marijuana grows that had been recently harvested but were now dormant. The indoor grows still contained lights and ballasts. No one was home at the time of the officer’s arrival. A search of the property revealed marijuana plants ranging in size from 1’ to 5’ in height being grown inside and outside the greenhouses. A total of 2231 growing marijuana plants were seized. Officers saw unpermitted roads across water courses and portions of the water courses filled in with dirt, timber land converted to home sites without permits, illegal grading, illegal trash burning, and two large 1000 gallon diesel tanks. Neither of the diesel tanks had the required containment fields for spill protection as required by law. Both of the diesel tanks were directly over a stream which feeds into Elk Creek which is a Coho Salmon spawning habitat. California Fish and Wildlife Officers saw and documented violations of water pollution due to sediment and dirt being in the creeks.
The evidence of illegal burning is being forwarded to North Coast Unified Air Quality Management by Cal Fire for additional charges due to evidence of plastic and other trash being burned in the burn pile.
The investigation is ongoing.
The Cal Fire Public Information officer is Jim Robbins who can be reached at Ph. 1-707-726-1251.
The California Fish and Wildlife Public Information Officer is Jordan Traverso who can be reached at Ph. 1-916-654-9937
Anyone with information for the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.