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The radiation caused by the failure of the spent fuel pools in the event of another earthquake could reach the West Coast within days. That absolutely makes the safe containment and protection of this spent fuel a security issue for the United States.”—Senator Ron Wyden

May 17, 2012 (San Diego)—U.S. Senator Ron Wyden recently visited Japan and issued a warning that the U.S. faces a national security risk from spent fuel pools at Fukushima’s Unit 4. View an MSNBC interview with Wyden.

If another quake strikes the already exposed spent fuel--an event seismic experts say is likely to occur this year--experts including a Nobel Prize winner and a former U.N. ambassador now say that a cataclysmic disaster could occur threatening  lives across the globe.

On Friday, a coalition of groups plan to deliver a letter to Sempra chair Donald Felsinger asking him to “stop wasting ratepayer funds on unsafe San Onofre,” according to a press release issued today.  Next Wednesday, May 23, demonstrators plan to rally outside Sempra Energy’s headquarters at 101 Ash Street in San Diego as part of a statewide effort that includes similar protests in Irvine, San Francisco, Oakland and Fresno.

Local groups involved include Citizens Oversight Projects, Peace Resource Centers of San Diego, Residents Organized for a Safe Environment, San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice, San Onofre Safely, San Clemente Green and others.

Ray Lutz, chair of Citizens Oversight Projects in El Cajon, says the ongoing meltdown at Fukushima in Japan is “more important even than the recent economic meltdown.” 

Nobel Prize winner and anti-nuclear physician Dr. Helen Caldicott says that if fuel pool 4 collapses, she will evacuate her family from Boston and move them to the Southern Hemisphere.

“ This is an especially dramatic statement given that the West Coast is much more directly in the path of Fukushima radiation than the East Coast,” Lutz noted.

Senator Ron Wyden concluded  that the situation was worse than reported and urged Japan to accept international help to stabilize dangerous spent fuel pools.

An international coalition of nuclear scientists and non-profits are asking the United Nations to coordinate a multi-national effort to stabilize the fuel pools.

Experts estimate that the fuel pool cannot be stabilized for at least another 18 months. If an earthquake hits, the pool will drain and when the nuclear material is exposed to the air, it will begin to burn, and with no containment structure around it, Cesium 137 will be emitted directly into the atmosphere and could potentially cause a “mass extinction” of humans far beyond Japan. ;

Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen recently said “There’s more cesium in that [Unit 4] fuel pool than in all 800 nuclear bombs exploded above ground” but it would all be released at the same time.  

Former U.N. adviser Akio Matsumura – who has been praised by the World Business Organization and by Mikhail Gorbachev, two U.S. Ambassadors and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and Goldman Sachs co-chair John C. Whitehead – notes that a hydrogen explosion blew the roof off after the tsunami, leaving a highly radioactive fuel pool exposed to open area.  Another strong quake could cause the building to collapse – and seismologists predict a quake is likely within the year.

Matsumura has stated , “The meltdown and unprecedented release of radiation that would ensue is the worst case scenario that then-Prime Minister Kan and other former officials have discussed in the past months. He warned during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos that such an accident would force the evacuation of the 35 million people in Tokyo, close half of Japan and compromise the nation’s sovereignty. Such a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe is unimaginable.”

 Hiroshi Tasaka, a nuclear engineer and special adviser to Prime Minister Kan immediately following the crisis, said the crisis “just opened Pandora’s Box.”

The Japanese government has not officially acknowledged the threat, nor have U.S. government officials informed the public of the potential risks to U.S. residents.

Locally, concerned citizens have sent a letter to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko voicing concerns over restarting the reactors at San Onofre and seeking additional information.

Activists are calling on mayoral and other candidates to weigh in on the issue prior to the election and at the rally on May 23.  Sempra owns 20% of the San Onofre facility, which has been offline for several months due to serious safety problems.

While plant operators and the nuclear industry have contended the facility is safe, opponents note that should a massive quake, tsunami or other catastrophe trigger a meltdown similar to what Fukushima has already experienced, a 50-mile evacuation zone would include most of San Diego and extend into East County. 


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