Plutonium is forever … Why Japanese “face-saving” is dangerous

TEPCO just this morning announced that four of the six Daiichi reactors can never be repaired. I wrote that right here less than 24 hours after the earthquake and tsunami before the emergency batteries had even run out. It was instantly obvious to even a moderately informed observer like me, yet why did TEPCO take two weeks to come to the same conclusion? Internal politics, which can only increase public danger.

But wait, there’s more! Now we have reports of water contaminated with plutonium at the plant and possible plutonium ground water contamination. Radioactive cesium and iodine are bad enough, though that water can be stored in pools for a few months while the radiation decays then carefully diluted for disposal. But plutonium contamination is forever — at least 10,000 years.

There are right now two plutonium remediation technologies on offer to the Japanese government and TEPCO that I know about — one from Russia and one from the USA. One approach uses nanotech and the other uses biotech but both are novel and unique. Both have been offered to the Japanese through government channels and in both cases the Japanese government or TEPCO have yet to respond.

I know about these technologies because the Russian one is represented by a friend of mine and the American one comes from a Startup America company so I took it straight to the White House myself.

I think it would be smart for TEPCO to adopt both technologies in case one works better than the other. But my sense is that if an answer ever comes from Japan it will be months from now and will probably be “no thanks.”

Think about this as you read about that plutonium-contaminated water, because it is going to be in the news for years to come. If only there had been a technology available to clean up that stuff early in the crisis, the pundits will say, lives could have been saved. There was such a technology available — two of them in fact.

via I, Cringely » Blog Archive » Plutonium is forever – Cringely on technology.

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