Fukushima’s radioactive waste water: The sins of the fathers?

I just read with horror about the radioactive waste water leaking from the damaged nuclear facility in Japan. The hurricane and tsunami that hit the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011 was the second worst nuclear disaster after Chernobyl in what was then the Soviet Union.

Take a minute to imagine millions of gallons of fresh water being poured over radioactive rods to keep them cool and then having to figure out what to do with that water after it is contaminated. What do you do with hundreds of thousands gallons of toxic water? That, in itself is an incredible problem.

Now picture some of that water leaking through all the protective liners and barriers that are supposed to keep it from contaminating the soil and fresh water. The waste water storage facilities are 1/2 mile from the ocean. The engineers running the operation say there is no danger of the radioactive water reaching the ocean. I’m sorry, but I’ve heard too many “experts” make pronouncements like that which turned out not to be true. BP is telling us how pure the water in the Gulf of Mexico is now too. ExxonMobil is claiming there’s no danger to residents of the little town in Arkansas that found out the hard way that there is a tar sands oil pipeline running under their homes.

Lessons to be learned from leaks at the Fukushima plant are many. The big one being that we have to get away from using nuclear power because of the horrors associated with the waste products. In fact, we need to get off fossil fuels for many of the same reasons. Contamination of our land, water and atmosphere is killing life on the only planet we have.

I’m not an oceanographer, but I’ll speculate anyway. If the energy industry can lie with a straight face, I don’t see why I can’t do a little speculating. Recall seeing those seal pups washing up on the California coast in recent weeks? A member of the rescue team said the seals are not getting enough to eat because the small living creatures they usually feed on are diminishing. As go the plankton, so go the oceans. I don’t know why the plankton and other small fish are dying off, but it certainly isn’t because the ocean is healthy. Humans dump so much crap in it that there are now at least five huge swirling masses of garbage identified by scientists out there. The United Nations has identified one of them as a “state” to call attention to the misuse of ocean waters.

Back to Fukushima. Trash from the nuclear disaster two years ago is washing up on shore in California and Oregon. For now, those bits of flotsam and jettison are curiosities that the local municipalities have to deal with. But what else is washing up on those beaches? Do we even know? What’s killing life in the ocean? Probably lots of things. But what if one of those poisons is radioactive waste water from Japan?

With all due respect to the Americans who might have died if we had invaded Japan in 1945, I can’t help but wonder if our brilliant Manhattan project and the decision to use nuclear weapons on the enemy might not be coming back to haunt us.

The Obama administration is doing an incredible job of finding, transporting and storing safely (?) the “loose nukes” around the world. These are mostly small bits of uranium and plutonium that could be used to make a nuclear weapon. Kudos to our President are in order.

But what about the radioactive material that cannot be rounded up and transported to a safe storage facility? What about contaminated water leaking into the Pacific Ocean thousands of miles away? We Americans delivered the first nuclear devastation to Japan 70 years ago. Maybe it’s true what they say about the sins of the fathers.