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Thursday
Sep212017

Hurricane Maria Knocks Out Power & Causes Catastrophic Flooding in Puerto Rico

As reported by Democracy Now! in its morning news headlines:

Millions of people are without power in Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 storm. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit the island in nearly a century. Maria brought record rainfall and catastrophic flooding to Puerto Rico. The National Weather Service warned early this morning of flash flooding risks across the entire island. Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Roselló says at least one person has died on Puerto Rico and that the death toll may rise when communication with the southeastern part of the island is re-established. Meanwhile, the death toll on the island nation of Dominica has risen to 14 people. Maria caused widespread devastation there when it made landfall as a Category 5 storm. The storm also destroyed parts of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and killed two people on the French island of Guadeloupe. Early this morning, Maria passed just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, lashing the island with winds up to 115 miles an hour. It’s now gathering strength as it barrels toward Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas.

DN! also mentioned at the very top of the hour that the U.S. military's live fire testing range of Vieques, Puerto Rico had suffered a direct hit from the hurricane, begging the question about environmental contamination, as from large quantities of depleted uranium (DU) test fired there over many years.

In addition, a research reactor is located in extreme western Puerto Rico, in Rincon, on a small peninsula of land jutting out into the ocean. It is called BONUS, short for Boiling Nuclear Superheater Reactor Facility. See the Wikipedia entry for BONUS, here.

If communications with parts of the island have not yet been re-established, it raises the concern about the status of that research reactor. Was there radioactive contamination on that site, that has now been washed "away" into the environment, to harm people downstream and downwind? Is there any high-level radioactive waste stored on-site, still in need of constant cooling, lest it heat up to dangerous temperatures, risking an out of control situation with severe radiological risks? Given the nuclear industry's norm for lack of transparency, these questions remain, and are important to ask and seek answers to.

DN! and other news outlets have pointed out that this hurricane is the worst to hit Puerto Rico in many decades, or even a century. That was before hazards like atomic reactors, and DU, even existed. Anti-nuke icon Helen Caldicott, Beyond Nuclear's founding president, has similarly pointed out that had atomic reactors dotted the map of Europe like they do now, at the time of World War II, the continent would now be uninhabitable. Much of Europe was rubblized in WWII.

Whether due to acts of war, natural disasters, or any other cause, a wrecked atomic reactor, or its on-site high-level radioactive waste storage facilities, would spell ecological catastrophe, due to large amounts of hazardous ionizing radioactivity escaping into the living environment.