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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 4, 2012
3:24 PM

CONTACT: Beyond Nuclear

Linda Gunter, media director, Beyond Nuclear: 301.455.5655 or Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist, 240.462.3216

If Fukushima Unit 4 Falls, Hazardous Radioactive Cesium-137 Release Could be Eight Times Worse Than Chernobyl

Reactor’s ability to withstand another earthquake rated as “zero”

TAKOMA PARK, MD - May 4 - Beyond Nuclear today joined with concerned Japanese citizen groups and US Senator, Ron Wyden (D-OR), urging that swift international action be taken to prevent a catastrophic high-level radioactive waste fire at the precarious Unit 4 reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan.

Unit 4 is leaning and could topple if hit with another earthquake or tsunami, resulting in a deadly high-level radioactive waste fire. The ability for the unit to withstand another seismic event is rated at zero.

Today, a coalition of concerned Japanese citizens is urging United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, to properly inform the Japanese people of the perilous situation at Fukushima Daiichi, and to work together to prevent what would be an irreversible disaster that would release huge amounts of lethal radiation, dwarfing the scale of the original disaster.

Since the nuclear catastrophe began in March 2011, Beyond Nuclear has called attention to the ongoing risks of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi high-level radioactive waste storage pools. A similar danger persists at the 23 identical GE Mark I boiling water reactors still operating in the US.

“If the cooling water supply is lost to the high-level radioactive waste storage pool in Unit 4, it could be just a matter of hours before the irradiated nuclear fuel is on fire,” warned Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear. “A fire in the Unit 4 high-level radioactive waste storage pool could release up to eight times more hazardous cesium-137 than the Chernobyl reactor explosion. That in turn would mean the site would have to be evacuated, risking the potential for all seven high-level radioactive waste storage pools at the site to ignite. If that happened, Fukushima Daiichi would release 85 times the levels of cesium released by Chernobyl, potentially forcing an evacuation, and permanent condemnation, of hundreds to thousands of square miles,” Kamps added.

Cesium-137 fallout from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe has already been measured by the US Geological Survey across the US, although the agency has downplayed the risks, despite the position long held by the National Academy of Sciences that there is no safe dose of radiation.

US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) visited the stricken Fukushima site several weeks ago and was particularly alarmed by the slow response of Fukushima Daiichi utility owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which has a several year-long plan to secure Unit 4 and its fuel pool, and urged swifter action.

"Loss of containment in any of these pools, especially the pool at Unit 4, which has the highest inventory of hottest fuel, could result in an even greater release of radiation than the initial incident," Wyden said.

The letter to UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, initiated by Japanese environmental groups Green Action Japan and Shut Tomari, demands that Japan ask for international support to avert disaster. The groups are urging organizations around the world to sign on.

“Given the fact that collapse of this pool could potentially lead to catastrophic consequences with worldwide implications, what the Japanese government should be doing as a responsible member of the international community is to avoid any further disaster by mobilizing all the wisdom and the means available in order to stabilize this pool,” the letter states.

“It is clearly evident that the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool is no longer a Japanese issue but an international issue with potentially serious consequences,” the letter continues. “Therefore, it is imperative for the Japanese government and the international community to work together on this crisis before it becomes too late. We are appealing to the United Nations to help Japan and the planet in order to prevent the irreversible consequences of a catastrophe that could affect generations to come. Specifically, the Japanese people are asking that the UN organize a Nuclear Security Summit to take up the crucial problem of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool. In addition, the UN should establish an independent assessment team on Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 and coordinate international assistance in order to stabilize the unit’s spent nuclear fuel pool and prevent radiological consequences with potentially catastrophic consequences.”

Organizations around the world are urged to sign on to the letter by emailing their support to info@greenaction-japan.org. The full text of the letter plus endorsements can be read at: http://wp.me/p1FMPy-B6

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Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic.


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