It isn’t anywhere near over. That’s how it looks to me.
Much has been written about how the situation at Fukushima’s nuclear power plants is beyond anything that was designed for. What is sobering is that it is not hype; it is just plain true. The damage is severe. The situation is very serious. The future is . . . who knows what words to put here?
The Guardian is maintaining a page where the basic facts about what is known about the Fukushima reactors are collected in a spreadsheet and updated daily. Here is the URL for that: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/mar/18/japan-nuclear-power-plant-updates It is just beyond belief: damaged fuel, possibly damaged containment, loss of basic services, neither the core cooling that is dependent on AC nor the core cooling that is not are functional, radiation so high that crews have repeatedly had to halt work. News of seawater bathing the fuel is the good news: that says it all. And tells us very little. We are on the other side of what used to be the horizon.
The IAEA’s post on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/iaeaorg ) is not very reassuring: they report that they have been told that Japan is going to collect and analyze samples of the marine environment from eight locations for two days (22nd and 23rd). My reaction is: only now? and only for two days? and no independent check or oversight?
Elsewhere, the IAEA points out how limited its role with respect to nuclear safety is:
‘”We are not a ‘nuclear safety watchdog’ and responsibility for nuclear safety lies with our member states,” [Yukiya Amano] said, in comments from the closed meeting provided to media. “In contrast to the agency’s role in nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear safety measures are applied voluntarily by each individual country and our role is supportive.’ From Associated Press: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/cae69a7523db45408eeb2b3a98c0c9c5/Article_2011-03-21-UN-Japan-Earthquake-Nuclear/id-ca5c8420c6754828b268dac004bb9f86
What does this mean, I wonder? Closed meetings, statements about the limited role of the UN? Maybe it forces us to ask ourselves a non-technological question about nuclear technology, i.e., do we have the social structure a society needs for this to be an appropriate technology?