In a March 17th tv interview, anti-nuke activist Hirose Takashi said about the Fukushima nuclear reactors,

If I were Prime Minister Kan, I would order them to do what the Soviet Union did when the Chernobyl reactor blew up, the sarcophagus solution, bury the whole thing under cement, put every cement company in Japan to work, and dump cement over it from the sky.  Because you have to assume the worst case.  Why?  Because in Fukushima there is the Daiichi Plant with six reactors and the Daini Plant with four for a total of ten reactors.  If even one of them develops the worst case, then the workers there must either evacuate the site or stay on and collapse.  So if, for example, one of the reactors at Daiichi goes down, the other five are only a matter of time. 

(Watch the original Japanese video , or read the English translation on CounterPunch; I wrote about it on March 25).

Hirose is saying the whole thing is out of control, TEPCO is overwhelmed, the severity of the incident is way beyond what we are hearing, yet everyone on tv, the pundits, the “college professors”, and the government, are all saying, “Keep calm, nothing to worry about” and they are obviously lying. It is a disturbing interview. He is saying, spraying water on the reactors to cool them is futile and the only thing to do is to encase them all in concrete. Now.

In typical Japanese fashion, Hirose was not challenged on any point whatsoever in the interview. Invited guests on tv shows are treated as guests, and in Japan, the “guest is king”. Yet there are a number of points on which Hirose should have been challenged.

There seem to be good reasons, for example, why the sarcophagus solution cannot be implemented immediately, and why cooling the reactors is the top priority for the moment (see these posts ).

In the interview, Hirose does not mention the question of the temperature. Why not?

What are Hirose’s qualifications for speaking on this subject?

  • He has a Wikipedia entry (only in Japanese and Korean at present).
  • He graduated from Waseda University‘s Engineering Faculty‘s Applied Chemistry Dept (tho I can find no such dept on the university’s homepage).
  • His Wikipedia page has been updated since the March 11 tsunami/earthquake, and states that his March 17th Asahi NewsStar inverview has been uploaded to YouTube [the top-ranked video as of this writing has over 1 million views; in this interview Hirose is billed as a non-fiction writer] and also to UStream and has attracted a great deal of attention.
  • Wikipedia adds that his believability has been questioned and points to this blog/website in particular (Japanese only).

In his preamble to his translation of Hirose’s interview, Douglas Lummis writes the following of Hirose:

Hirose Takashi has written a whole shelf full of books, mostly on the nuclear power industry and the military-industrial complex.  Probably his best known book is  Nuclear Power Plants for Tokyo in which he took the logic of the nuke promoters to its logical conclusion: if you are so sure that they’re safe, why not build them in the center of the city, instead of hundreds of miles away where you lose half the electricity in the wires? 

Here’s what one commenter (who lives in Tokyo) had to say about the above on March 26:

Hiroshi, you don’t understand basic business, do you? Let me explain it simply for you: It costs hundreds of millions of dollars to build one of these plants. Land prices hundreds of miles from a huge city are often 1/500th the price of land in the city (or more). It is much cheaper to build a factory in the sticks than it is to build it in the city. This is why huge factories such as textiles, cars, tires, etc. etc. are in the country. It’s simple economics.

On the other hand, Hirose does make some cogent points:

  • “On television these pseudo-scholars come on and give us simple explanations, but they know nothing, those college professors.  Only the engineers know.”  Why no engineers?  Retired nuclear engineer Masashi Goto has spoken at least twice since the earthquake about the Fukushima crisis, but only to the Tokyo Foreign Correspondents Press Club, so his views have not been widely heard.
  • “For a week now they have been pouring water through there.  And it’s salt water, right?  You pour salt water on a hot kiln and what do you think happens?  You get salt. The salt will get into all these valves and cause them to freeze.  They won’t move.  This will be happening everywhere.  So I can’t believe that it’s just a simple matter of you reconnecting the electricity and the water will begin to circulate.  I think any engineer with a little imagination can understand this.  He is surely right. What is he implying? That no engineers have been consulted in this matter? That if they had, this would not have been proposed? It is pretty clear, and has been from the beginning, at least it was mentioned several times on the tv talk and news shows when the sea water plan was first announced, that this would mean the end of the plant – it could never be restored as an operating plant. 
  • You take a system as unbelievably complex as this and then actually dump water on it from a helicopter – maybe they have some idea of how this could work, but I can’t understand it.”  The tv footage of this clearly showed that much of the water missed the target. Although I did not hear anyone say so, it was also obvious that this was a desperate measure to gain time while workers struggled to come up with some way to get the cooling system running again.  (See also the March 22 Nature article: “Just metres away was a vast reservoir of sea water. It could stop the reactor’s meltdown, but operators had no way to pump it into the core. Emergency generators could not be hooked into the system, for reasons that are still unclear. At some point, somebody on the site realized that fire engines were essentially giant portable pumps with their own power supplies. “The fire trucks were brilliant,” Harding says, “I’m not sure I would have thought of that.” Engines were rushed to the plant and hooked into the lifeless emergency cooling system.”)
  • “Edano admitted for the first time that there was a danger to health, but he didn’t explain what this means.  This is true, and it took the Japanese media a few days to realize they needed to do more than just report what authorities were saying: they needed to provide a frame of reference. (I wrote about that here, here and here.) 
  • All of the information media are at fault here I think.  They are saying stupid things like, why, we are exposed to radiation all the time in our daily life, we get radiation from outer space.  But that’s one millisievert per year.  A year has 365 days, a day has 24 hours; multiply 365 by 24, you get 8760.  Multiply the 400 millisieverts by that, you get 3,500,000 the normal dose.  You call that safe?  And what media have reported this?  None.  They compare it to a CT scan, which is over in an instant; that has nothing to do with it.”

So, is Hirose right, and the situation is already beyond hope? Or is this yet another example of scare-mongering, albeit perhaps by well-meaning people?

Interested readers may wish to compare the Hirose interview with the following links (see also the RH sidebar of this blog):