Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nuclear News Makes Me Sick

There have been a couple of nuclear newsettes the last few days. My first reaction is to blog and then I think that probably my following has heard enough and I will give it a rest for a bit. Then I get a major case of the “guilt’s” and I feel I am letting the cause down.

You see I have this skewed sense of purpose that what I do actually makes a difference. It’s this power of “one” thing. I’m not a celebrity blogger with millions of followers and Twitter doesn’t light up if I piss in mop bucket. But I do believe this; that just maybe “one” person will read what I write, take note and pass it on to another “one” person and maybe that will continue to roll forward and in the end it all will make a difference.

So there you have it, that’s why I do what I do… because I think it will make a difference.

The New York Times ran this article which reports that steam has been detected at the shut down and damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. This little excerpt has me shaking in my UGG boots:
“Fresh trouble at the No. 3 reactor is especially worrying because it contains mixed uranium-plutonium oxide fuel. The upper floors of the reactor also house its fuel pool, which stores over 500 fuel assemblies. The reactor complex’s basement is flooded with highly radioactive water. Studies show that an accident like a meltdown or containment failure in a reactor that holds such fuel would result in more cancer deaths than one in a reactor fueled only with uranium.”
Today I received an update from Beyond Nuclear that I think you should know about. What this country decides to do with the spent nuclear fuel is of major importance.  This issue has to be addressed and it has to be removed from the game of politics because it effects everyone. Not just Republicans, not just Democrats, or rich or poor, educated or uneducated, in a word its effects all of humankind.

If we set aside all this pettiness that seems to fuel Washington DC I am confident that we have the technology and the intelligence to solve this problem but the fight is going to be with the corporations that feather their bottom lines by putting off a real solution. One day they will wake up and realize that they are not immune if something goes really, really wrong with our current system of storing spent nuclear fuel.

Below is the full story by Robert Alvarez, which appears at the Beyond Nuclear website. You don't have to become an activist or chain yourself to a fence at a nuclear power facility to make a difference. As a member of the human race you should care and know about conditions that exist today that will have dire consequence on our little planet. Inform yourself, become part of a dialog at a cocktail party, write an email... don't just sit there and watch yourself glow...get informed.

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Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has recently published a draft study, which concludes that the risk of a catastrophic irradiated nuclear fuel storage pool fire is vanishingly low. This conclusion seems to starkly contradict earlier NRC findings that pool storage risks are real, and should be dealt with.
The NRC draft study focuses on the risk of a severe earthquake impacting a General Electric Mark I boiling water reactor storage pool (specificially, at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in PA). Ironically enough, NRC's draft conclusion clearly contradicts a warning issued a decade ago by its own current agency Chairwoman, Dr. Allison Macfarlane, who knows a thing or two about seismic risks: she is an internationally recognized Ph.D. geologist, who has long focused on radioactive waste risks. See below.)
NRC has granted the public a short 30 days to comment on this new 369 page draft. Deadline for public comments is currently Friday, August 2nd. Beyond Nuclear, and its environmental allies, are racing to meet this arbitrarily short deadline, to prepare comments which individuals and groups can endorse, or use to write their own. Watch for this in the near future.
However, there are strong voices who disagree with NRC's flip assurances of safety. Robert Alvarez (photo, left), a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, and a former senior advisor to the Energy Secretary during the Clinton administration, published a report in late June, commissioned by Friends of the Earth (FOE), entitled Reducing the hazards of high-level radioactive waste in Southern California: Storage of nuclear waste from spent fuel at San Onofre. The report appeared a couple weeks after Edison International announced the permanent shutdown of San Onofre Units 2 & 3, under intense pressure from FOE and a widespread grassroots environmental network, due to the $2.5 billion, defective steam generator replacement boondoggle, which had put 8 million Southern Californians within a 50-mile radius at radiological risk. Alvarez concludes that the risk of catastrophic radioactivity releases from a high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) storage pool fire at San Onofre, such as caused by a severe earthquake suddenly draining away the pool cooling water supply, are high. A large region downwind could be severely contaminated with radioactive Cesium-137 fallout, including lethal doses to thousands of people within a 10-mile radius.
Alvarez's study follows a 2003 report he and others (including the current NRC Chairwoman, Dr. Allison Macfarlane) co-authored, warning of the catastrophic risks of HLRW pool fires, and calling for the unloading of pools into not-risk-free, but safer, dry casks. Alvarez also published a report in May 2011, documenting the nationwide risk of storage pool fires, in light of the still-unfolding Fukushima catastrophe, which began a couple months earlier.
Just today, the New York Times and Agence France Press/Jiji have reported that steam at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 could either be due to a nuclear criticality in the molten core, or, as Alvarez (and Fairewinds Associates, Inc's Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen) have hypothesized, could be due to a nuclear criticality in the ruined HLRW storage pool itself.
Beyond Nuclear and a nationwide coalition of hundreds of environmental groups, representing all 50 states, have long advocated Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS). HOSS calls not only for catastrophically risky pools to be emptied, but for dry cask storage safety, security, and environmental protection to be dramatically upgraded. Dry casks are currently badly designed, poorly fabricated, and not even required to withstand terrorist attacks.
What can you do about HLRW storage pool risks? Contact President Obama and your Senators and Representative (via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121), and urge HOSS as an interim alternative to a recently introduced Senate bill which would make matters worse, by rushing "Mobile Chernobyls" onto the roads, rails, and waterways, in a race for senseless "centralized interim storage" parking lot dumps targeted at already radiologically-burdened DOE sites and nuclear power plants, or, as an act of blatant environmental injustice or radioactive racism, Native American reservations.


  1. Good post, Annie. It's amazing that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is saying that spent fuel is a minor problem, an inconvenience of sorts. Wow. That's just so wrong-headed (and evil). I still say our best tool to wake people up is the French documentary, "Waste: The Nuclear Nightmare". It scared me out of my delusions and made me see this problem clearly. Every member of congress should be forced to drink five cups of coffee and watch it.

  2. Here is a YouTube link to the film: