Mitigating The Tragedy At Fukushima: How Simple High Intensity Water Hoses Could Have Worked!

Southern California Public Sector Workers Knew What To Do!

3/18/2011 The nuclear tragedy in Japan did not have to be so far-reachiing, and could have possibly been mitigated, with fewer reactors involved and therefore, less danger of turning into the total catastrophe we are seeing now. This is the assertion made by some public sector employees in Southern California, and if asked, they would have immediately gone to help. When the crisis first began, I had the opportunity to speak to some water and sewer workers employed by local government. They explained that trailer-mounted, high power pumps should have been on the spot, immediately after the tsunami hit. If need be, they could have been air-lifted by helicopter. Fitted with Class A protective suits, oxygen tanks, water cannons and fire hoses, these pumps, powered by gas or diesel, would have had access to unlimited amounts of ocean water. They would have started spraying the failing reactors with enough water to keep the cooling pools full, in spite of the loss of backup power. The explosions may never have happened, the additional reactors could have been cooled, the radiation levels would have never reached the critical level that they have reached now, and the Chernobyl Solution that is being proposed now, may never have been necessary to even consider. They could not and do not understand why these methods were not immediately put into operation, and they assured me that if this ever happened at the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, they would be there to help.

I may know why high-powered pumps were not used, but I am not sure. Ocean water is not recommended as a coolant for nuclear reactors, because of the corrosive nature of the salt and the contaminants in the salt water that will render the nuclear reactors unusable. Perhaps the company that operates the plant, Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), was in shock or even unwilling, at the beginning, to admit to themselves or their country that this power plant was going to be a total loss. They may have initially believed that the plant could have been saved, and therefore did not want to start the massive use of ocean water, which would have effectively ended the plant's ability to produce energy. They may have been unwilling to lose their investment. Regardless, when the plant is stabilized, there will, no doubt, be countless investigations as to the reasoning behind the delays.

TEPCO Plagued By Scandals For Years!

TEPCO has been plagued by scandals for years. They are the largest, privately owned utility company in the world and their yearly revenues are close to $100 billion dollars. In 2002, they covered up that there were cracks in some of their nuclear containment vessels. Several executives of the company resigned, including the President and Vice-President of the company. There have been numerous allegations of the use of faulty equipment in the corporation's history.

Yes, TEPCO may have been unwilling to abandon their first nuclear plant. I do not pretend to know if this was the reason that they did not employ high-powered water pumps and hoses. It is just a theory that I am pondering.

UPDATE! The link on the right was published the day after my article was written. Apparently. my theory may have some merit!

Credence Given To The Proposed Water Pump Solution!

To be quite honest, when I first heard the theory of using water pumps and hoses, I did not believe that it was workable. The men that explained it to me are just public sector employees that maintain city sewer systems and pump stations. They are mid-level water department workers and I was not quite sure that their education included nuclear power. The solution they proposed appeared to be too simple. I was wrong!

Yesterday, I heard the same solution being explained and promoted by a former NRC commissioner, Jeffrey Merrifield. He explained, on Chris Matthews' Hardball, that the tragedy could have been lessened and he went further to wonder why this procedure had not been put into effect immediately.

He said, " The key is to make sure they can get water into the spent fuel field, whether by plane or cannon, that water needs to get in there."

Matthews: " How much water are we talking about here? Like with a five-alarm fire, with the hoses pouring in, is that what you need?"

Merrifield: "...sort of, and the problem is- and we're still trying to figure out why this didn't happen--but you could have put a fire hose in there a long time ago, days ago, and they didn't, and it is rather curious--"

Merrifield goes on to state that if this had happened in the U.S., "...it doesn't take alot, really, all you need is enough water going in to make up for the water that's evaporating, and that's not that hard, if you catch it quick."

Today, Dr. Nils Diaz, a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chair, repeated the same course of action that was offered by Merrifield. Diaz said that he fails to understand why this solution was not employed and that water cannons and cooling the pools would have worked. 

Next time, I won't be so quick to dismiss what our public employees tell me. They are trained as first responders, and are taught to handle natural and manmade disasters.

Public Sector Workers Willing To Go Anywhere When Needed!

Last night, I was thinking about the tsunami, the poor people in Japan, the tragedy. The scope of this disaster is overwhelming. Then I started thinking about the city water and sewer department employees that I know, and I thought back to hearing them say that if asked, they would go to Japan to help. These men respond to all sewer spills, they work in the ugliest of conditions (being chest deep in raw sewage on a daily basis), and yet they will run towards the disasters that most of us would run from. For sure, they have never handled a nuclear disaster, but they were willing to go, if needed, to provide assistance.

In the last few years, there have been disasters on a smaller scale throughout the United States. They have been minor in comparison to what the country of Japan now faces. Many states throughout our country have had to deal with floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, power failures, and any number of other crises that have threatened public safety. In Southern California, there have been numerous sewage spills that have endangered the ocean and lagoons. Public sector employees have worked these spills 24 to 48 hours straight on some occasions; napping for an hour or two when they could. They are mandated, in their contracts, to serve in their specified capacities during any disaster. They must go, anytime, day or night! They don't make that much money- $50--maybe $60 thousand dollars a year with their overtime, and the workers that I know are having trouble keeping their pay and benefits; being blamed by city, county and state governments for any and all economic issues.

In Southern California, these everyday, middle class workers are being faced with having their livelihoods, their security taken from them. If the San Onofre Nuclear plant has problems tomorrow, if we have an earthquake and the plant is damaged, these are the people who will respond, be there to clean it up and possibly save my life. I need them. We all need them.

This blame game is not just happening in Southern California. Public sector employees are the people we depend on to keep us out of harm's way, yet they are being condemned. Their unions throughout the country are being dismantled, one by one. Their pay is being cut, their benefits are being decreased, their right to collective bargaining is being stripped. These people are not lazy. They are not greedy. They are certainly not getting rich, and they certainly did not cause the financial upheaval that this country is experiencing. Somewhere along the way, government and many of our citizens have forgotten that it was the banks, corporations and the greed of Wall Street that caused our financial problems.

Our public sector employees had nothing to do with it. They were too busy working to play around with our country's financial security. Yet they have become our national scapegoats. Does it make sense to hold them accountable for crimes they did not commit? Not to me.

I will continue to contact my local government offices, send letters to newspapers and communicate with county and state government officials (who would probably run from these disasters). I will tell them they must stop villifying the people that we depend on to keep us safe!

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Comments 9 comments

cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US

great tie-in of these two pressing issues.


Jillian Barclay profile image

Jillian Barclay 5 years ago from California, USA Author

Dear Cathylynn,

I cannot explain how profoundly it affected me, after having a conversation with these same workers about the things that they were going to lose, just one week prior, and yet they were still willing to give their all to offer service. I've always known that firefighters and policemen are on the front lines of every disaster, but these guys are basically laborers, with a higher education than some. Then, I also thought about the food drives, the blood drives, and everything else that they sponsor and I thought, why are we so willing to believe that they are not worthy of good wages and benefits? That they are the cause of all that is wrong?

Thank you, Doc, for taking the time to read this and comment.


Fay Paxton 5 years ago

I like the way you wove these two issues together. The public sector workers keep our nation going. I want them to be well paid.

I have an idea...since Congressmen are supposed to be the truest of patriots, let's insist they volunteer their services or work for minimum wage.


arb 5 years ago

Great write jillian! The money is spent instead on expert analyst who sit in media arm chairs and tell us whats going on and what they would do! They are doing what they do, talk!


CreatePerfection profile image

CreatePerfection 5 years ago from Beautiful Colorado

Jillian, this is such a timely article. I, too, appreciate the way you covered both subjects. Our Congress has failed us miserably and have rewarded those who placed us in this position, namely as you said, the banks, corporations and Wall Street. It truly baffles me that Americans could elect such bad leadership and could be so short sighted when it comes to the actual needs of our country, like our public sector employees. Thank you for this insightful hub.

Up/Useful


Jillian Barclay profile image

Jillian Barclay 5 years ago from California, USA Author

Dear Fay,

They are on vacation for the next 2 weeks. Let's surprise them on their return. Maybe we could have a signed petition waiting for them when they return. How many signatures would it take? I am kidding! Don't think it would work!

But, I think your comment has real merit! People always apeak of how insulated a President becomes after being in the White House for awhile. I think members of Congress, what with their aides and assistants, their salaries, their lack of insurance problems, THEIR PERKS, the lobbyists courting them, etc., need to start feeling like normal people. I think minimum wage would be a great way to start that process! Both state and federal representatives should be included in that effort!

The public sector employees on a local level, the firemen, the policemen, the teachers, corrections workers, nurses, streets and maintenance workers, sewer and water department workers are really our neighbors, and they are all the first ones there when any disaster hits. The firemen that are manning the water hoses in Japan are public eemployees in their own country. They all know that they may be giving their lives.

I did not realize until recently that part of an employee contract with most city, county and state workers includes a clause that during any public emergency, they are to be available to be deployed in their capacity, go where they are told and assist in any way specified. Don't think we would see any of our elected reps signing a clause like that!


Jillian Barclay profile image

Jillian Barclay 5 years ago from California, USA Author

Dear Arb,

Can I sign up for that? They do talk too much, don't they? Where is Walter Cronkite when we need him? Thank you, Arb! Yes, everyone is an expert! Experts get paid quite well, actually. Some doctors that I used to work for spent most of their time as 'expert witnesses' and found that they could make more money in that capacity than by treating patients. The standard fee in the 80's and early '90's was $3000.00 per day. That also included when they would review records. Even if it would take them an hour, I would bill the attorneys involved the $3,000 and the check would arrive in less than a week. Now, that is a scam! Nice little gig, don't you think?

Dear CreatePerfection,

Good morning, Beautiful Empress!

We have all been ignored, I feel. Except for the special interest contributors that they want to keep happy!

I hesitated to combine the two issues. I stopped and had to ask myself why did I find the need to combine the two and decided that they are inseparable, because the public sector is the segment of society that is called upon to handle all emergencies.

Thank you for your up vote!


amillar profile image

amillar 5 years ago from Scotland, UK

The expression that springs to my mind reading this was from WWI: 'Lions lead by donkeys'. Well written - up and useful.


Jillian Barclay profile image

Jillian Barclay 5 years ago from California, USA Author

Dear Amillar,

I read a few of your articles prior to responding. I am happy to make your acquaintance! I know that Scotland is a beautiful country! It is one of the places I have always wished to visit in person, not just in books!

Your writing reminds me that we have donkeys the world over. You have yours in Scotland and the U.K., we have ours in the U.S. Most of us seek very little in life: a loving, happy family, a decent place to live with enough food on the table, safety and a job that pays us a fair and livable wage. Pretty much, the majority of us are the same. But then sadly, there are those that seek power, money and control over the rest of us. Funny, they are never the heroes! The heroes are the ones that seek no glory!

I will continue reading your hubs! I am sure I will enjoy them!

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