Gundersen's Fukushima myth

Arnie Gundersen says Divine Intervention Kept Japan from Having 14 Meltdowns

On April 14-16, 2015, a world-wide symposium concerning Uranium mining and production was held in Quebec City, Canada. The list of speakers at the event reads like a virtual who’s who of international antinuclear activism. On April 15, American Arnie Gundersen took the dais. He opened his 15 minute presentation by alleging that Japan would have had fourteen nuclear disasters in 2011 if it were not for luck. During his speech, Gundersen defines luck as divine intervention. But this was only his first in a number of brash, rash statements. Before he finished, Gundersen said there is an international conspiracy designed to keep his self-absorbed version of Fukushima from the world.

Gundersen opened by saying that luck kept Japan’s nuclear accident scenario of March, 2011, from being much, much worse, and that this is “something the nuclear industry doesn’t want to admit”. He tried to justify his unfounded speculation by saying that the tsunami of 3/11/11 destroyed all of the seawater cooling pumps on 14 nuclear units along the northeast coast of Japan. The reason for the Fukushima accident, according to Gundersen, is the loss of seawater cooling; the loss of electricity had nothing to do with it. Only luck kept it from happening at Tokai, Fukushima Daini, and Onagawa stations. He overtly rejects the findings of Tepco, Tokyo, the IAEA, and nuclear experts around the world whom all agree the cause of the nuke accident was the prolonged electrical blackout. He said their conclusion that Fukushima’s accident was due to the emergency diesel generators being flooded was “not really what happened…the nuclear industry wants you to believe this, but it’s not true.”

Contrary to Gundersen, here’s what is true. All emergency diesels for Fukushima Daiichi units 1 through 4 were swamped by the enormous tsunami, all DC Batteries for the 4 units were inundated and inoperable, all off-site power was lost, and the seawater cooling pumps for all six units at the station were also rendered useless. However, at Fukushima Daini nearly all connections to the national grid were lost, but one 500kilovolt feeder remained intact. While most emergency cooling water pumps were lost, one remained functional, and, seawater cooling for the diesels on units 3 and 4 stayed operational. The emergency diesels for unit #1 were inoperable, but those for units 2 through 4 were functional. Regardless, the 500kv off-site power supply for F. Daini was enough to keep from having to rely on the diesels. At Tokai, one of the three main seawater cooling pumps was wiped out, but the other two were operational. While all off-site power was lost, all emergency diesels worked and supplied needed power to the station. At Onagawa, one off-site power line remained operational and none of the seawater pumps failed.

In other words, Gundersen’s assertion that all seawater cooling pumps at the 14 tsunami-impacted nuke units were “wiped out” is a clear fabrication. It was true for Fukushima Daiichi, but false for the other three nuclear generating stations. Luck had nothing to do with it.

A second instance of “luck” speculated by Gundersen was due to time of day. The tsunami hit during the daytime, so the four nuke stations had a full complement of staffing. He says that there were 1,000 workers at each plant to “bravely” combat the situation. Gundersen asserts that if it had occurred in the evening or during the night, there would have only been 100 employees at each location. He then concludes that if the tsunami would have hit during off-hours, there would have been four meltdowns at Fukushima Daini. While it is true that there may have been a thousand people at each station when the tsunami hit, most were office staff untrained in plant operations. At each station, there were between 100 and 150 people trained in operations who actually combatted the impact of the tsunami. It would have been the same number around the clock at each plant site, regardless of the time of day. Thus, Gundersen is taking a kernel of truth and stretching it so far that it leaves reality in the dust.

Gundersen’s final case of “luck” concerns the Spent Fuel Pool of unit #4 at F. Daiichi. First, he reiterates his incessant, four-years-running mantra that the pool was “rapidly boiling”. In reality, the pool got pretty hot and considerable evaporation took place, but it never got hot enough to boil. Regardless, Gundersen takes his untruth to a higher (lower?) level by saying it was lucky that the gate between the SPF and the adjacent “equipment pool” failed, allowing the water to spill into the SFP and keep the stored fuel bundles from being uncovered. He said the faulty gate “saved the day”, and said “divine intervention, if you will”. It turns out, a leaky gate was discovered earlier this year on unit #3…not unit #4. There’s no record of the unit #4 gate leaking or having been opened during the accident. Another fabrication, if your will.

As soon as he drops the “luck” angle, Gundersen makes one of the most extreme fabrications I’ve ever heard come from his mouth. He said the three melted cores at Fukushima Daiichi have “hit the groundwater”, clearly evoking the not-unpopular myth that the cores burned their way through the base-mats below the Primary Containments and are now in the ground water flowing beneath the plant. However, the base-mats under all three damaged reactor buildings are firmly sitting on impervious bedrock. No groundwater can flow through that stuff. It should be mentioned that it looks like unit #1 core fully melted (recent muon tomography imaging) and may be pooled in the reactor pressure vessel’s bottom head. A few Japanese experts (and yours truly) doubt if the molten fuel made it out of the reactor vessel. But, even if some did, there’s no way the melted material got any further than the top of the ~10 ft. thick, steel-reinforced-concrete base-mat; and there’s no way it is in contact with the groundwater creeping by the building’s basements.

Making a final effort to “prove” his groundwater assumption, Gundersen refers to Three Mile Island. He says that “we had nuclear core picture less than two years after the accident”, but at F. Daiichi “we can’t even get close to the nuclear cores.” He makes a clear appeal to two of his most effective propagandistic appeals – uncertainty and doubt. We can’t actually see the core materials at F. Daiichi, so we can doubt everyone else’s conclusion that the re-solidified cores remain inside the reactor buildings. Her3e’s what really happened at TMI… the first camera image from inside the reactor occurred in July, 1982, which was more than 3 years after the accident itself. It showed that the top half of the core had collapsed but was covered with water to dark to see any further. What lay below it remained a mystery until April of 1984, a full five years after the incident occurred. Less than two years…yeah…right! Yet another fabrication.

Next, Gundersen pointed out that Fukushima contamination had recently been discovered on the British Columbia shoreline. He said the measurement was seven Becquerels per cubic meter (it was actually 5.8 Bq/m3). He called this “measurable and significant”, and is just the “beginning of the onslaught”. Gundersen conveniently fails to tell his audience that the total amount of contamination Fukushima put in the sea is more than 100,000 times less than what was already there from naturally-occurring processes. Gundersen then adds that scientists have no idea on “what’s transporting through the ocean.” In other words, the scientific community of Canada and Woods Hole Oceanographic in the USA are at a complete loss. They know nothing…but Gundersen gives the distinct impression that he-alone has the true picture. Actually, the Canadian and American scientists have diligently followed the migration of Fukushima contamination across the Pacific for more than three years. (see “Is There Fukushima Radiation on North America’s West Coast”;

Finally, Gundersen makes his most egregious statement when he attacks Tepco, Tokyo, the IAEA, and the international nuclear community. He says that all public exposure assessments made by the above-mentioned are “grossly underestimated”. Why? Because of a solitary doctoral dissertation first submitted in 2012 by a Professional Environmental Engineer at Worchester Polytechnic Institute…Marco Kaltofen…entitled “Assessing Human Exposure to Contaminants in House Dust”. Kaltofen analyzed a tiny dust clump from a Nagoya vacuum cleaner bag that registered 300 Becquerels of activity. Kaltofen then extrapolates - if there were a full kilogram of the dust glob, it would register 40 million-trillion Becquerels. But it was only one small lump, and nothing more. However, Kaltofen and Gundersen are well-aware that enormous numbers scare people, especially when radiation is involved. It doesn’t matter if the number was literally conjured out of thin air.

Further, the dust clump’s activity was due to radioactive Cesium-134, Cs-137, and Radium-226. Yes…the Cesium came from Fukushima, but not the Radium. Radium is not a product of nuclear fission. It is actually a decay daughter of naturally-occurring Uranium! In addition, Kaltofen says the risk is due to Alpha radiation. Ra-226 is a naturally-occurring Alpha emitter. But, Cs-134 and Cs-137 do not release Alphas! They emit Beta particles and gammas! (For details, see “Arnie Gundersen’s Fukushima hot particle myth”;

Gundersen follows this by proclaiming that 73% of all homes in Japan are contaminated with 1000-10,000 Bq/gram of the very same radioactive dust. He then twists this to a veiled death threat concerning the children of Japan. Gundersen says the radioactive dust gets on the kid’s shoes when they walk around in the house. The children will tie the shoes or touch them in some other way, then stick their hands in their mouths causing significant ingestion and “incredible” internal exposures. Gundersen then disrespects the IAEA when he says, “But, the IAEA walks around with their radiation detectors and says ‘Don’t worry…be happy’”. Gundersen then reiterates his long-standing prediction that a million Japanese will get cancer from Fukushima contamination, which he says is now confirmed by Kaltofen’s dust glob paper.

Gundersen closes his inglorious invective alleging that his “truths” are being ignored because, “The IAEA is in league with the Japanese government so they can start the nukes up.” His wild speculations are actually being ignored because they are as empty as space itself. The truth is that Arnie Gundersen is little more than a street corner prophet of doom, crying out to all who will listen that divine intervention saved Japan from a nuclear energy apocalypse.