Remarks on Japan Nuclear Crisis and the Need to Eliminate Nuclear Power Worldwide

Welcome to our nuclear world with the immoral, diabolical fissioning of the uranium or plutonium nucleus.

Kirstein Remarks on March 25, 2011 at “Panel on Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown and Our Community.”

An isotope of an element is one with the same chemical identity (therefore proton number is equal) but can have a varying mass. Since the proton number is equal, the difference in mass can only arise by a varying number of neutrons. Therefore Uranium-238 has 92 protons and 146 neutrons, making one atom U-235 has 92 protons and 143 neutrons, making one atom.

The first nuclear power plant was built here at the University of Chicago in 1942 at Metlab. It used natural uranium, which is 99.3% U-238 and .7% U-235 and was moderated by graphite. A pile of graphite and uranium was built in the first nuclear reactor on an underground doubles squash court under the stands of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. Any neutron, fast or slow, could fission U-235 but slow ones were not absorbed by U-238, only fast ones. By slowing neutrons down, moderating them, more would hit, therefore, U-235 causing more fission. Graphite, a crystalline form of carbon used in pencil lead, was the neutron moderator. The first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction which led to the genocidal attacks on Japan took place on December 2, 1942. A real day that will life in infamy.

The first nuclear power plants began to generate electricity in the 1950s. There was always a fear that the cooling system would fail and the fuel would melt. The United States nuclear-fission plants average thirty years old. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission keeps extending their lives instead of retiring them even though they are NOT safe but are too expensive to replace. The two oldest — Oyster Creek in New Jersey and Nine Mile Point in New York — began operating in 1969.

The United States, relies on nuclear power for 20 percent of its electricity. There are 104 reactors in the United States at 65 nuclear facilities. Some nuclear power facilities have more than one reactor: which means they are generating nuclear powered electricity in multiple facilities or reactors. In Illinois 48% of electricity is generated by nuclear power. There are six active nuclear power plants in Illinois. Braidwood, Byron, Clinton, LaSalle, Dresden, Quad Cities. But there are 11 nuclear reactors that produce electricity.  Byron, Dresden and Braidwood for example have two reactors. Braidwood is the youngest of Ill. reactors at age 22. Dresden is 40. Commonwealth Edison, which is now Exelon Corporation, derives 58% of its electricity from nuclear power, 34% from coal-fired power plants and 5% natural-gas fired power plants. It is quite likely the electricity in this room {where event was} is being generated by nuclear power using essentially the same processes as is taking place in Japan. This meaning there is fissioning or splitting of U-235 isotopes taking place in a nuclear reactor core.

I have several reasons to oppose nuclear energy. I understand there are opposite sides and that the issue is one that can be and should be debated.

First: is the obvious threat of unintended radiation. Unlike coal miners who die tragically extracting coal or the eleven oil drilling workers who perished amidst the flames of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April 2010, victims of radiation release from a nuclear reactor are not confined to power plant workers but also to innocent civilians who live downwind or even far removed from a potential release. While nuclear reactors can’t explode like an atomic bomb with equivalent blast or heat, we know now once again they can explode and release radiation with deadly effect.

Chernobyl near Kiev in Ukraine exploded in 1979. Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania (TMI) almost had a complete meltdown in 1986. 70% of the core was damaged. {Washington Post March 20, 2011) A hydrogen explosion took place inside the containment vessel, but it withstood the blast. Pregnant women and small children were ordered to evacuate. It cost 1 billion dollars to repair it and no human could enter the containment building because of high-levels of radiation. They had to use robots to clean it up that was not completed until the last of the filtered water from the flooded containment building finally evaporated in 1993. Guess who owns TMI now: It’s now run by Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear plant operator with 10 power plants and 17 reactors in three states. They own all the reactors in the Land of Lincoln: (Abe was born in Kentucky, moved to Indiana, yet Illinois arrogantly claims to be his “land.”)

A combination of equipment failure and human error led to the TMI meltdown. A valve stuck open so that water drained from the reactor core and the technicians not realising that the valve was open, turned off the emergency cooling pumps that were vital to keep water in the core: it resulted in the uranium pellets overheating and melting. While nuclear power plants cannot explode like A-bombs, they can explode and release huge amounts of energy.

Not only can nuclear power plants have accidents such as the Chernobyl catastrophe in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, in 1986, or at Three Mile Island in the US in 1979 and Japan, three advanced highly developed nations, but also they pose both a long-term radiation and proliferation risk. Japan has already reported dangerous level of radioactive properties such as Iodine 131in milk and in spinach, broccoli, parsley, cabbage and green-leaf vegetables in the northern part of the devastated country as far as 150 kilometres (90 miles) from the Fukushima Daiichi reactor. In Tokyo Iodine 131 is now in tap water as well and they have banned it for infants. Now they claim the amounts are not dangerous at recorded levels but they are. Governments love to lie to preserve their power and their monstrous splitting of the atom. Iodine is a deadly byproduct of nuclear fuel that causes thyroid cancer. In California a small amount of radiation from the Fukushima plant has been detected (Chicago Tribune March 19). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported “miniscule quantities” in Sacramento of Xenon 133. So the US is already detecting radiation from this catastrophe even if at reported so-called safe levels. I do not predict the future  in terms of its impact on American citizens but one might ponder what happens if the uncontrolled release of radiation from U-235 fission continues at these reactors in Japan: or if there were a similar nuclear accident in this country. Dozens of our reactors are the same as the GE Mark 1 model that is used at Fukushima Daiichi including the Dresden Nuclear Power station some 50 miles from Chicago.

Radiation Disease: Marie Curie, the first person to work extensively with radium died of leukemia. So did her fellow Nobel laureate daughter Irene Joliot-Curie at age 59 because of her work on radioactivity. New York Times 3.30.11 “The nuclear plant itself remains a hazardous place to work. At least 25 workers and five members of the Self-Defense Force have been exposed to unsafe amounts of radiation, according to the Tokyo Electric Power Company. At least 20 workers and four self-defense soldiers have been injured, and two workers remain missing.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states:

The first symptoms of Radiation Disease or euphemistically called Acute Radiation Syndrome typically are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This might last a few minutes or possibly several days. One may then experience a return of these symptoms plus loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, and possibly even seizures and coma. CDC left out epilation, hair loss is a quite common effect of nuclear poison. This may last a few hours or months. Skin damage is quite common with ARS and can lead to itching, swelling and redness of the skin like a bad sunburn. The skin may heal shortly or after several years.

Most people who will die from ARS will do so in several months after the exposure to dangerous levels of radiation. Well, many folks near a hypocenter or near a radiation release will die soon. Usually death is caused by internal bleeding and infections caused by the loss of bone marrow. {Some cancers however develop decades later after the exposure to radiation.} Read the newspapers CDC. 6000 kids got thyroid cancer from Chernobyl and they are still dying and the incidence is still epidemic. Cows eat grass, grass is carpeted with radiaton, cow milk ends up in kids’ bodies and the little buttlershaped thyroid becomes cancerous.

Chernobyl area still a wasteland and still children/adults get cancer by the 1000s

My second reason for opposing nuclear fission for purposes of electrical power is the extreme difficulty in storing and managing spent fuel: the nuclear waste that is removed from the reactor core.  This deals with the spent nuclear fuel placed in pools. When the uranium in a reactor core such as Fukushima Daiichi ages or lose some of its fissionable power, it is removed and stored usually in pools of water. The amount of spent fuel rods will always increase; it will never decrease. It can’t be tossed into a landfill. As each nuclear reactor worldwide whether it be in France or Japan or India (20 reactors) continues to produce electricity, it will also add to the waste-disposal problem of spent nuclear fuel.

Even when a nuclear reactor is decommissioned, taken off line and is no longer safe to produce electricity, those hot, radioactive spent fuel rods keep on releasing radiation in pools of water. The Zion Plant is fifty miles from Chicago. In 1998, to quote from the  Chicago Tribune,  it had its  last red-hot fuel rod lifted from its reactor core and submerged into a pool of water, joining the rest of the plant’s 2.2 million pounds of spent fuel.” More than 80 percent of the spent nuclear fuel in Illinois remains in pools.

Nuclear materials and its deadly byproducts last forever.  The Half -life of uranium 238 is 4.5 billion years; The half-life of uranium 235 is 700 million years. That means that 50% of a given mass will decay and lose its radioactivity in 700 million years so it is billions of years before an entire mass of U-235 turns fully decays. Since fissionable uranium lasts forever what do we do with it? Maybe send it to FOX news or even the White House since they love nuclear power so much! Who won? McCain???

Japan, like the United States, has kept ever larger numbers of spent fuel rods in temporary storage pools at the power plants. The Tokyo Electric Power that runs the six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi plant reported a total of 11,195 spent fuel rod assemblies were stored at the site. The spent-fuel pools contain far more uranium than the reactor cores themselves. Guess where most spent-fuel rods are stored in the United States? In pools at atomic power stations: exactly the situation at the Fukushima power plant in Japan. Only 5% of the spent nuclear fuel is stored in dry casks in Japan; the rest is in hot, boiling water on site. Japan has experienced for some reason even an incapacity to keep those pools of water filled with water to avoid melting due to exposure. Some fuel rods are in dry casks (steel cylinders filled with inert gas, sitting in small concrete silos) in the US but most are simply stored on site such as at the 6 nuclear power stations in Illinois. Where they are going to be for the next billions of years??? Even if possible, spent nuclear fuel can’t be removed from water to dry storage for at least five years because they are so hot and radioactive, they would just burn through any container. So they sit in boiling, repulsive nuclear pools in 442 reactors in 30 countries throughout nuclear Earth.

In 1987, Congress amended the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and directed the U.S. Department of Energy to study only Yucca Mountain for nuclear waste deep geologic disposal. US has spent around 10 billion dollars in preparing Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the national garbage dump for spent fuel. The Obama administration shamelessly caving in to the political desires of recently reelected Nevada Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid scuttled the Yucca Mountain repository that would receive nuclear fuel rods piling up at 105 nuclear sites. On March 5, 2010 the pronuclear, prowar, Department of Energy (DoE) filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to withdraw the application to build and operate a storage facility at the site.

A third reason to ban and eliminate nuclear reactors is the possibility of terrorism: whether it be domestic, the most likely in this country, or from an external non-state actor. Many nations do not secure their reactors as well as is claimed in the US. This is, therefore, a worldwide potential threat. These pools of spent fuel are sitting on top of reactors in many countries such as Japan and the US or stored at ground level on site. They might be a treasured target for bad people to get hold of and use as a political weapon of intimidation or actual deployment. Not to mention blowing up or compromising the physical integrity of a nuclear-reactor core. It’s not just worker error and natural calamities such as tsunamis and earthquakes that can break a nuclear reactor: intentional human agency from a plane or explosive devices inside a nuclear plant could create significant radiation release. As stated, spent fuel can’t even be entombed in dry casks for at least five years because they are too hot to handle. This is a problem that cannot be wished away. All this nuclear waste in spent fuel from removed fuel rods is getting larger and larger and taking up more space each day.

My fourth reason for opposing nuclear power is the possibility of contributing to nuclear proliferation in the world. I would however not ban nuclear reactors in any country suspected of having nuclear ambitions. Such a ban would have to be worldwide, resulting from an international agreement: not imposed selectively on non-NPT states or any nation considered to have a secret nuclear weapons programme. There are 23,000 nuclear weapons in the world today. The US alone has 5,113 that was first disclosed last May 2010 in the Obama administrations Nuclear Posture Review. The U.S. developed the first atomic bombs; it is the only country that has used them in war when they attacked the civilian populations of  Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in August 1945 at the end of WWII. Nuclear reactors can produce electricity but they can also be used to develop nuclear weapons. In 1968 the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed and it entered into force in 1970. It created among other things a process where non-nuclear nations were required to accept safeguards in which the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] would inspect and monitor all declared and even undeclared nuclear reactor sites to make sure they were not a front for making weapons-grade uranium through enrichment or plutonium through reprocessing. Nuclear-power reactors function with about 4-6% U-235 which has been enriched or increased from the natural occurring amount of .7%. Well a nuclear bomb requires about 90%  of the uranium isotopes in its fissile material be U-235 in order to catch enough neutrons that split the atom that release heat, blast and create nuclear devastation.

The IAEA uses a variety of techniques to monitor these reactors. They use tamper proof seals and cameras, fuel counting equipment and collecting environmental samples off site. However, a nation might cheat and have hidden nuclear reactors to avoid safeguards and enrich Uranium beyond the 4-6% with gas centrifuges that spin at high speed to separate U-235 from the abundant U-238. (The fuel is uranium hexafluoride (UF6) that is created from uranium yellow cake, a coarse oxidized powder. Centrifugal force moves the heavier 238 UF6 molecules closer to the wall of a cylindrical rotor than the lighter 235 UF6 molecules, thus separating U-238 from U-235 to get a purer, enriched product. A country such as Israel is one of three nations in the world or four if you add the DPRK that does not permit any inspections of its facilities and has refused to ratify the NPT. In the US we enrich uranium but not through gas centrifuge but through gas diffusion.

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has six, count ‘em three reactors. 140 miles from Tokyo. The reactors, Nos. 5 and 6, had already been shut down before last week’s historic earthquake and tsunami, posing less of a risk than the other reactors at the plant. But their cooling systems were knocked out, and the fuel rods left inside the reactor started to heat up, together with spent fuel rods stored in a separate storage pool.  I don’t think nuclear power plants should have more than 1: spread the risk at least in this manner.

My fifth concern about nuclear energy is its cost. {Washington Post article by Michael Levy, of Council on Foreign Relations March 16, 2011.} “The last nuclear power plant to come online started delivering power in 1996 — but its construction began in 1972. Today, nuclear power remains considerably more expensive than coal- or gas-fired electricity, mainly because nuclear plants are so expensive to build. Estimates are slippery, but a plant can cost well north of $5 billion. A 2009 MIT study estimated that the cost of producing nuclear energy (including construction, maintenance and fuel) was about 30 percent higher than that of coal or gas.” Nuclear energy was once sold as being so cheap you would not need electric meters: it would be virtually free. More nuclear power means less coal, less natural gas, less hydroelectric power and less wind energy. But unless we start putting nuclear power plants in our cars and semis, more nuclear won’t mean less oil and so called energy independence.

{Washington Post, March 16,} Barack Obama’s, Secretary of Energy, Stephen Chu said in 2009 he would rather live near a nuclear power plant that a coal or oil fired. The Obama administration is very pro-nuclear energy. I however would rather live in a world without fission, without nuclear reactors, without anything associated with splitting the atom for purpose of bombs or energy.

The following is additional illustrative material:

Half-life of Strontium 90 28 y

Half-life of Cesium 137 is 30 years. Its radiation can alter cellular function, leading to an increased risk of cancer.

Half-life of Pu 239 24,000 years

Half-life of Iodine 131 8.1 days. 1 rem to the body or 5 rem to the thyroid gland.. The thyroid is a small gland, shaped like a butterfly, located in the lower part of your neck. The function of a gland is to secrete hormones. The main hormones released by the thyroid are triiodothyronine, abbreviated as T3, and thyroxine, abbreviated as T4. These thyroid hormones deliver energy to cells of the body. Source:

Fukushima Daiichi Plant is at Code Level 5. See the scale below for contextualisation. The same level as TMI; Chernobyl made it to 7; thousands of innocents did not make it.

  1. International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale

 Major Accident

Level 7

• Major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.

Serious Accident

Level 6

• Significant release of radioactive material likely to require implementation of planned countermeasures.

Accident with Wider Consequences

Level 5

• Limited release of radioactive material likely to require implementation of some planned countermeasures.

• Several deaths from radiation.

• Severe damage to reactor core.

• Release of large quantities of

radioactive material within an installation with a high probability of significant public exposure. This could arise from a major criticality accident or fire.

Accident with

Local Consequences

Level 4

• Minor release of radioactive material unlikely to result in implementation of planned countermeasures other than local food controls.

• At least one death from radiation.

• Fuel melt or damage to fuel resulting in more than 0.1% release of core inventory.

• Release of significant quantities of radioactive material within an installation with a high probability of significant public exposure.

Serious Incident

Level 3

• Exposure in excess of ten times the statutory annual limit for workers.

• Non-lethal deterministic health effect

(e.g., burns) from radiation.

• Exposure rates of more than 1 Sv/h in an operating area.

• Severe contamination in an area not expected by design, with a low probability of significant public exposure.

• Near accident at a nuclear power plant with no safety provisions remaining.

• Lost or stolen highly radioactive sealed source.

• Misdelivered highly radioactive sealed source without adequate procedures in place to handle it.


Level 2

• Exposure of a member of the public

in excess of 10 mSv.

• Exposure of a worker in excess of the statutory annual limits.

• Radiation levels in an operating area of more than 50 mSv/h.

• Significant contamination within the facility into an area not expected by design.

• Significant failures in safety provisions but with no actual consequences.

• Found highly radioactive sealed orphan source, device or transport package with safety provisions intact.

• Inadequate packaging of a highly radioactive sealed source.


Level 1

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