Exclusive Arnie Gundersen Interview: The Dangers of Fukushima Are Worse and Longer-Lived Than We Think

"I have said it's worse than Chernobyl, and I’ll stand by that. There was an enormous amount of radiation given out in the first two to three weeks of the event. And add the wind blowing inland. It could very well have brought the nation of Japan to its knees. I mean, there is so much contamination that luckily wound up in the Pacific Ocean as compared to across the nation of Japan it could have cut Japan in half. But now the winds have turned, so they are heading to the south toward Tokyo, and now my concern and my advice to friends that if there is a severe aftershock and the Unit 4 building collapses, leave. We are well beyond where any science has ever gone at that point, and nuclear fuel lying on the ground and getting hot is not a condition that anyone has ever analyzed."

So cautions Arnie Gundersen, widely regarded to be the best nuclear analyst covering Japan's Fukushima disaster. The situation on the ground at the crippled reactors remains precarious and at a minimum it will be years before it can be hoped to be truly contained. In the near term, the reactors remain particularly vulnerable to sizable aftershocks, which still have decent probability of occurring. On top of this is a growing threat of 'hot particle' contamination risk to more populated areas as weather patterns shift with the typhoon season and groundwater seepage.

In Part 1 of this interview, Chris and Arnie recap the damage wrought to Fukushima's reactors by the tsunami, the steps TEPCO is taking to address it, and the biggest operational risks that remain at this time. In Part 2, they dive into the health risks still posed by the situation there and what individuals should do (including those on the US West Coast) if it worsens.

Click the play button below to listen to Part 1 of Chris' interview with Arnie Gundersen (runtime 36m:31s):

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Chris Martenson: Welcome to another PeakProsperity.com podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson, and today I have the privilege of speaking with Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates. In my eyes, a living legend in the field of nuclear engineering. He has over thirty-nine years of nuclear industry experience and oversight and is a frequent expert witness on nuclear safety matters to the US Federal Government and private industry.

Since the initial days of the disaster at Fukushima, Arnie and his staff at Fairewinds have produced, hands down, the most thorough, measured, accurate analysis of the unfolding developments there. A feat made all the more challenging by the frequent lack of information from TEPCO and the Japanese government and media. Now today, Arnie and I will talk about the latest state of the situation at Fukushima, which remains wholly unresolved and it's quite troubling – we should keep our eyes on it. In addition, we are going to discuss what the important factors are for you to know, as well as what pragmatic preparations those of us who live in or near nuclear installations or countries that have them should really be doing. So Arnie, welcome to the show, it's a pleasure to have you.

Arnie Gundersen: Thank you very much, and I note that a lot of your readers have come to our site and I appreciate it.

Chris Martenson: We have some great readers and they are interested in knowing the truth, as best they can find it, and we have a way of being at our site, which is that we really like to keep our facts very separated from our opinions. Something that I really admire that you do, as well.

Arnie Gundersen: Well, thanks.

Chris Martenson: Let’s just briefly review – if we could just synopsize – I know you can do this better than anybody. What happened at Fukushima – what happened? I really would like to take the opportunity to talk about this specifically, like where we are with each one of the reactors. So first of all, this disaster – how did it happen? Was it just bad engineering, was it really bad luck with the tsunami? How did this even initiate – something we were told again and again – something that couldn’t happen seems to have happened?

Arnie Gundersen: Well, the little bit of physics here is that even when a reactor shuts down, it continues to churn out heat. Now, only five percent of the original amount of heat, but when you are cranking out millions of horsepower of heat, five percent is still a lot. So you have to keep a nuclear reactor cool after it shuts down. Now, what happened at Fukushima was it went into what is called a “station blackout,” and people plan for that. That means there is no power to anything except for batteries. And batteries can’t turn the massive motors that are required to cool the nuclear reactor.

So the plan is in a station blackout is that somehow or another you get power back in four or five hours. That didn’t happen at Fukushima because the tidal wave, the tsunami, was so great that it overwhelmed their diesels and it overwhelmed something called “service water 2” But in any event, they couldn’t get any power to the big pumps.

Now, was it foreseeable? They were prepared for a seven-meter tsunami, about twenty-two feet. The tsunami that hit was something in excess of ten and quite likely fifteen meters, so somewhere between thirty-five and forty-five feet. They were warned that the tsunami that they were designed against was too low. They were warned for at least ten years, and I am sure that there were people back before that. So would they have been prepared for one this big? I don’t know, but certainly, they were unprepared for even a tsunami of lesser magnitude.

Chris Martenson: So the tsunami came along and just swamped the systems, and I heard that there were some other design elements there too, such as potentially the generators were in an unsafe spot or that some of their electrical substations all happened to be in the basement, so they got taken out all at once. Now, here’s what I heard – the initial reports when they came out said, “Oh, nothing to fear, we all went into SCRAM,” which is some emergency shutdown and they said everything is SCRAMed and I knew that we were in trouble in less than twenty-four hours, they talked about how they were pumping seawater in. Which I assume, by the time you are pumping seawater you have a pretty clear indication from the outside that there is something really quite wrong with this story, is that true?

Arnie Gundersen: Yes. Seawater, and as anybody who has ever had a boat on the ocean would know, saltwater and stainless steel do not get along very well. Saltwater and stainless steel at five hundred degrees don’t get along very well at all. You are right, they had some single points of vulnerability – the hole in the armor and the diesels were one of them. But even if the diesels were up high, they would have been in trouble because of those service water pumps I talked about. And they got wiped out and those pumps are the pumps that cool the diesels. So even if the diesels were runnable, cooling water that runs through the diesels would have been taken out by the tsunami anyway. So it's a false argument to blame the diesels.

Chris Martenson: Okay, so take us through. Reactor number one, it was revealed I think about a week ago now that they finally came to the revelation that I think some of us had come to independently, that there had been something more than a partial meltdown, maybe even a complete meltdown. What is your assessment of reactor one and where is it right now?

Arnie Gundersen: When you see hydrogen explosions, that means that the outside of the fuel has exceeded 2,200 degrees and the inside is well over 3,500 degrees. The fuel gets brittle, it burns, and then it plops to the bottom of the nuclear reactor in a molten blob like lava. It was pretty clear to a lot of people, including apparently to the NRC, but they weren’t telling people back in March, that that had occurred in reactor one. There was essentially a blob of lava on the bottom of the nuclear reactor. So I have to separate this – a nuclear reactor - and that is inside of a containment. So there is still one more barrier here. But the problem is that the reactor had boiled dry and they were using fire pumps connected to the ocean to pump saltwater into the reactor. Now, if this thing were individual tubes, the water could get around the uranium and completely cool it. But when it's a blob at the bottom of the reactor, it can only get to the top surface and that would cause it to begin to meltdown. Now, on these boiling water reactors, there are about seventy holes in the bottom of the reactor where the control rods come in and I suspect that those holes were essentially the weak link that caused this molten mass. Now it's 5,000 degrees at the center, even though the outside may be touching water, the inside of this molten mass is 5,000 degrees. It melts through and lies on the bottom of the containment.

That’s where we are today. We have no reactor essentially, just a big pressure cooker. The molten uranium is on the bottom of the containment. It spreads out at that point, because the floor is flat. And I don’t think it's going to melt its way through the concrete floor. It may gradually over time; but the damage is already done because the containment has cracks in it and it's pretty clear that it is leaking. So you put water in the top. And the plan had never been to put water in the top and let it run out the bottom. That is not the preferred way of cooling a nuclear reactor in an accident. But you are putting water in the top and it's running out the bottom and it's going out through cracks in the containment, after touching directly uranium and plutonium and cesium and strontium and is carrying all those radioactive isotopes out as liquids and gases into the environment.

Chris Martenson: So this melting that happened, is this just a function of the decay heat at this point in time? We’re not speculating that there has been any sort of re-criticality or any other what we might call a nuclear reaction – this is just decay heat from the isotopes that are in there from prior nuclear activity – those are just decaying and giving off that heat. That’s sufficient to get to 5,000 degrees?

Arnie Gundersen: Yes, once the uranium melts into a blob at these low enrichments, four and five percent, it can’t make a new criticality. If criticality is occurring on the site - and there might be, because there is still iodine 131, which is a good indication - it is not coming from the Unit 1 core and it's not coming from the Unit 2 core, because those are both blobs at the bottom of the containment.

Chris Martenson: All right, so we have these blobs, they’ve somehow escaped the primary reactor pressure vessel, which is that big steel thing and now they are on the relatively flat floor of the containment – they concrete piece – and you say Unit 2 is roughly the same story as Unit 1 – where’s Unit 3 in this story?

Arnie Gundersen: Unit 3 may not have melted through and that means that some of the fuel certainly is lying on the bottom, but it may not have melted through and some of the fuel may still look like fuel, although it is certainly brittle. And it's possible that when the fuel is in that configuration that you can get a re-criticality. It's also possible in any of the fuel pools, one, two, three, and four pools, that you could get a criticality, as well. So there’s been frequent enough high iodine indications to lead me to believe that either one of the four fuel pools or the Unit 3 reactor is in fact, every once in a while starting itself up and then it gets to a point where it gets so hot that it shuts itself down and it cycles. It breathes, if you will.

To read the rest of the transcript to Part 1, click here.


Click here to access Part 2 of this interview.


Arnie Gundersen is an energy advisor with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience. A former nuclear industry senior vice president, he earned his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in nuclear engineering, holds a nuclear safety patent, and was a licensed reactor operator. During his nuclear industry career, Arnie managed and coordinated projects at 70-nuclear power plants around the country. He currently speaks on television, radio, and at public meetings on the need for a new paradigm in energy production. An independent nuclear engineering and safety expert, Arnie provides testimony on nuclear operations, reliability, safety, and radiation issues to the NRC, Congressional and State Legislatures, and Government Agencies and Officials throughout the US, Canada, and internationally. 


Our series of podcast interviews with notable minds includes:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://peakprosperity.com/exclusive-arnie-gundersen-interview-the-dangers-of-fukushima-are-worse-and-longer-lived-than-we-think-2/

I have a very negative view that Part 2 (Protecting Yourself if the situation worsens) is only available to Premium Members.
While I think there is a consensus here that people who play in the stock market can easily afford to spend $30/month for investment advice and thus have no problem with Chris charging $30 for investment advice in a Premium section, I wonder how many other people here support Chris charging for life and death health information.

Like a lot of people, I have benefited enormously from Chris’ largesse. His Crash Course was an important part of my early education and I have also benefited from subsequent writings of Chris’. However, as a resident of Tokyo and a keen follower of things related to Fukushima, I have to say that on this particular occasion, I believe the second part of the interview should be in the public domain as it is directly related to people’s health in Japan and the west coast of America.
I understand that Chris needs to make a living and having been a paying member of the site at one time, I have contributed to that living, but part two of this interview should be available to the people it directly affects, such as people like myself who may suffer real consequences as a result of the Fukushima disaster.

PastTenseTo a certain extent, I can sympathize with your view. But at the same time, just because I’m one of the people who contributes to this site as well as takes from it, I can’t say I “deserve” free stuff. We already get a lot of free stuff on this site and Dr. Martenson deserves to make some money to support the workers that make their living and feed their families from the income generated. It may also be that Dr. Martenson had to compensate Arnie Gunderson. We just don’t know.
Still, yeah I guess there’s a discomfort factor whenever we’re reminded that we are traveling steerage and sometimes the gates are locked not just to prevent you from dining at the captain’s table (which, while delicious, isn’t necessary), but also to prevent you from reaching sick bay (assuming Part II is that critical). Though the previous release of enrolled member information on Fukushima (Alert: Nuclear (and Economic) Meltdown In Progress) led me to think at least the lifeboats would be accessible - but I may be wrong.
On the other hand, let’s consider what we can do. The Executive Summary of Part II states:
Identifying the health dangers from radiation & contamination
Steps those living in Japan and the US West Coast should be taking today
Precautions to take with food
The implications of radioactive seawater
Urgent steps to take in a worst-case scenario if reactor 4 collapses
While we don’t know exactly describe what Part II is about, one thing mentioned by Gunderson early in Part 1 is, “But now the winds have turned, so they are heading to the south toward Tokyo and now my concern and my advice to friends that if there is a severe aftershock and the Unit 4 building collapses, leave.” I think that gives you a clue.
But personally, if I were in Japan, I’d be moving to the southernmost island already - and that’s if I couldn’t leave for another country much farther away. As for what to do if you’re much farther away already (United States, Europe), I’d say, thank your lucky stars. And remember that there’s a ton of research you can do for free on Google and in watching updates from Gunderson on other sites. It’s possible he’s just rehashing what’s already known or said, and adding his own opinion.
Maybe we can do our own educated guessing in the comments here. And perhaps someone who is an enrolled member can at least reveal if we are on the wrong track and should quickly take money out of our families’ grocery budget for a one-time membership uptake?


Just one more sight where you can’t trust the motives of the owner… What a great disappointment.

Odd that the Fukushima disaster has all but disappeared from the mainstream media for weeks on end despite occasional tidbits that it’s ongoing and worse than Chernobyl.  Odd that there’s no public discussion on major news channels.  It just disappeared under the radar.  Not to worry.  The produce from US western states is evidently unaffected.  California continues to be safe in its role as salad basket to the nation.  The residents of Tokyo have nothing to worry about either.   Nor do the fishermen.  Not now.  Not in the future.  It’s such a given that there’s nothing to worry about, that we won’t even discuss it in MSM.  Too much New News to fill the electronic airways with, so – as some of the blogger commentators say as they push the sarcasm button – let’s just move on folks, there’s nothing here to see.
But maybe there is something more to see.  If there’s information that possibly impacts people’s health, and if that information might be useful in protecting their health, it would seem ethical to divulge it so that individuals could evaluate it and decide for themselves what to do.  In the case of Part 2 of the interview with Gundersen, I wonder if it contains information that’s potentionally pertinent to public health.  If it does, I’d like to see it.  Please Chris, release it to us.

BTW, I live in an area not far from Three Mile Island.  Our neighborhood has been riddled in the past 10 years with cases of cancer and the neighbors talk about “the accident” and wonder if it has anything to do with all the cases of cancer. Nobody knows.  But we wonder.





Wow. We have received a lot of heated feedback today regarding Part 2 to this interview being accessible only to our enrolled members.
Given that the topic has to do with safeguarding health, the emotion is understandable.

If the podcast contained critical breaking news about imminent threat to life, it would have been publicly available from the start. 

In his comment above, Poet gave an accurate reminder that our enrollment model is what enables this site to bring so much valuable free content to all. In order to do that, other content must be reserved for paying subscribers.

But given the extreme concerns about the perceived urgency of the information here, we’ve made Part 2 publicly available. (And we’ll credit those accounts that enrolled in the past few hours since this post went live)

We make decisions every week about what content to reserve for our enrolled members. It’s important to us that our readers trust our judgment in doing this - in this case, that we aren’t holding back critical public health information that can’t be found elsewhere in the public domain. In order to strengthen that trust, we’re making Part 2 available so everyone can see that’s not the case. 

What a ridiculous comment. No one owes you anything - get over it.

I guess I’ll be the odd-(wo)man out here and disagree.I understand your frustration.  However, Chris has given away volumes of free content.  Important content.  And as I understand, he did then and continues to do because he feels it’s the right thing to do. 
Knowing that, I assume that for Chris, pt 2 of this interview doesn’t fall into that category.  It is titled “Protecting Yourself, if the Situation Worsens.”
I trust Chris and Adam to know right from wrong.  So I’m pretty sure they are doing the right thing here.  
So rather than jumping to conclusions, I vote for having faith in Chris and giving him the benefit of the doubt. 
Just my 2 cents.  

I am amazed about the entitlement mentality expressed by some that certain content because it is characterized as “life or death” material should be provided for “free.”  This is just one small example of why America is in such dire straits.  The folks who urge that healthcare or education or some other service ought to be provided for “free” are in affect leading us down the path to tyranny.  Someone has to pay for these things.  And on top of that we should remember that – I am guessing here – most of the content on this site is provided at no charge.  In my view Chris has been quite generous in providing & maintaining this excellent site.  When he started this site Chris no doubt invested a substantial effort into making a go of the site financially.  Chris took a calculated risk in starting this site which has turned out to be quite successful.  It is just & proper that Chris and his team be rewarded for their efforts.    

Thanks to Chris and Adam for making this information available to everyone.
This really isn’t an issue of “entitlement.” First off, I feel that anyone who comments here regularly contributes and isn’t being “entitled” by asking for important, life-saving content to be made available. Non-enrolled members contribute pageviews and content that gets picked up by search engines, which brings more traffic and more dollars to the website. People who aren’t enrolled members may also be clicking on ads. Or donating once in a while. Or maybe they’ve shared the Crash Course with 10 friends. Or bought the DVD. All of that is valuable.

So we need to remember that the site, while driven primarily by enrollments, is also driven by word of mouth, DVD sales, ad revenue and more.

Thus, making content like this available for free is good business. It generates good will and positive PR.

I have no problem with there being enrolled/paid content on the site. But for something like this, offering it for free is not only generous, it’s smart. It creates good will, which is a currency that is highly valuable on the web right now.

Thanks again for listening to your readers!


It amazes the lack of dignity and self-respect some people have and the sense of entitlement.  To ask, demand, plead, or beg for something I didn’t earn or pay for is something I just couldn’t and wouldn’t do.  And then to make excuses about it, to me, compounds the offense.  It’s small wonder that we have the problems we have.  The saying “the way to make someone good for nothing is to give them something for nothing” has never been more true than in the present.  We’re gradually evolving into a nation of moral weaklings with the character of cowbirds and the fortitude of wet tissue paper as the going gets tougher.       

Amen, ao!  You expressed the sentiment much better than I could.  Honestly people need to grow up.  No doubt difficult times are coming.  I remain thankful for the effort that Chris & his team have put into this valuable site.  

I’ll assume that Arnie Gundersen gave Chris the interview without charge…I’m sure it was given from a spirit of good will, and done in an effort to help to inform all those who are so deeply concerned. As someone who has purchased Chris’ DVDs and subscribed multiple times to his premium service, I’m glad that he saw fit to do likewise in this case, and I’m also very grateful for all the other instances of his tireless generosity. Those comments about lack of dignity and self respect are what I’m finding to be the most ugly and distasteful in this thread.

Second that.  Anybody who has spent any significant time here, and doubts that Dr. Chris has the well-being of all of us in mind, just hasn’t been paying attention.
Viva – Sager

[quote=hucklejohn]Amen, ao!  You expressed the sentiment much better than I could.  Honestly people need to grow up.  No doubt difficult times are coming.  I remain thankful for the effort that Chris & his team have put into this valuable site.  
Precisely. Difficult times are coming, which is why those who are fortunate enough to be able to afford a $30/month enrolled membership, which is not chump change (it adds up!), should be a bit more forgiving of site members who may be going through tougher times and simply cannot afford an enrolled membership at this time.
Those “whiners” may in fact have been previous paid members who helped get this site off the ground. They may in fact become paid members in the future.
In the meantime, asking for the sharing of life-saving information does not make them bad people.
There are many ways that the site can “profit” off of this information, whether through advertising or using it as a marketing vehicle. There is plenty of enrolled member content already - so not everything posted on the site needs to be behind a paywall. Part of getting people to pay is having quality FREE content to generate customer loyalty first.
Is the intention to chase off the site “free loaders” with these harsh comments? Will that help the site in the long run?
Just my two cents.

I feel we don’t need to beat a dead horse over paid/free content anymore (though I suppose people could debate it in the forums). So to quote Kermit and Fozzie…MOVING RIGHT ALONG…

I just wanted to say that I am a huge fan of Arnie Gunderson and feel he has done a wonderful service keeping people informed about Fukushima in a calm, rational manner. I am not done listening to audio 1 yet but I think Chris is doing a great job with the interview. It is very informative.

I am concerned that Arnie says there is a slight chance of another steam explosion. He pegged it at about 1 in 100 chance…that still seems low to me. Listening on for more info on how that might affect us as well as Japan.



I am in total agreement with you.


~ VF ~

Chris Martenson is extremely generous in the quantity and quality of the information he gives away absolutely free.  That is a fact.  It is my opinion that he does this because he wants to warn the broadest number of people he can.  My experience tells me that with his credentials and track record he could make a lot more money by charging big bucks to a select market. 
I find it amazing, and dismaying, that some people have the gall to demand he give away everything for free, or at least the parts they want to read, and make disparaging remarks about him as well.  How do you expect him to make a living and be able to continue his work, which includes all that vital information you already get for free?  How would you get your chance to make your “contributions” if Chris didn’t make this site available?

I spent many of my young adult years on an income that was very low and sporadic.  If you have a job you can find a way to come up with a dollar a day if something is important to you.  It is simply a matter of priorities.  Enrolled membership is only $30 for a month, and you don’t have to commit to a longer term.  Buy a month when you find a particular report you really want to read.  If I couldn’t afford to do that I sure wouldn’t have the gall to demand it for free.

If you really think it is a matter of “life and death” you will find the money.  How are you going to deal with real hard times if you can’t make a hard choice now?