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Safety

Nuclear safety is, of course, an oxymoron. Nuclear reactors are inherently dangerous, vulnerable to accident with the potential for catastrophic consequences to health and the environment if enough radioactivity escapes. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Congressionally-mandated to protect public safety, is a blatant lapdog bowing to the financial priorities of the nuclear industry.

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Thursday
Jun302011

Palisades flunks yet another safety test

Dave Lochbaum, Nuclear Safety Project Director at Union of Concerned Scientists, has documented that the Palisades nuclear power plant on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, Michigan, has failed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's test when it comes to "Severe Accident Management Guidelines" [SAMGs]. Lochbaum reports: "...two U.S. plants – Comanche Peak (TX) and Palisades (MI) – had negative [incorrect or inadequate] answers to seven of the eleven questions. It’s not likely that these plants are really ready to cope with a Fukushima-like challenge. Perhaps they would get by with luck, but not using their SAMGs, assuming they could find them." Lochbaum's report, appeared on June 27th at the UCS "All Things Nuclear" blog. 

Wednesday
Jun012011

Orwell's turning so fast in his grave...

...he should be connected to the electric grid!

At a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) subcommittee meeting on May 26, 2011 about the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, ACRS Member Dana A. Powers bragged about how little radioactivity had escaped during the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.

Powers said: "But, the whole thing is quite remarkable, I mean, that you have damage to three units, maybe a couple of spent fuel pools, we've got a megacurie or so of cesium outside the plant...I mean, that just shows you how much defense-in-depth you have, even when things get very, very heavily compromised here. I mean, there is a tremendous -- had you asked me a priori, before the event, you had this sort of event occur, what kind of source term would you expect, I would have written out a much more severe set of numbers for you." 

See page 130 of the transcript.

In a sense he's right -- perhaps 99% of the radioactivity hasn't disgorged into the environment -- yet. But that 1% packs quite a punch -- a million curies of radioactive cesium represents a catastrophic release. And we aren't out of the woods yet on the other 99%, especially since a lot of it is contained in the countless tens of thousands of tons of radioactively contaminated cooling water, which Tokyo Electric Power Company ran out of room to store many weeks ago. Of course, they continually "feed and bleed" the melted down Units 1, 2, and 3 each day, generating even more radioactively contaminated water with nowhere to go. Unknown amounts have already been released into the ocean, either accidentally through leaks, or else on purpose to make room in storage areas for even more highly contaminated water. 

An NRC media release from 1998, announcing his re-appointment to the ACRS at the time, gives this biography on Dr. Powers: "...born in Ironton, Missouri, received his B.S. degree in Chemistry and his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Economics from the California Institute of Technology. He began his career in 1974 at Sandia National Laboratory, where he currently serves as a senior scientist at the Nuclear Technology Center. Dr. Powers is responsible for the development of safety research programs for Department of Energy nuclear facilities. He has served on the Advisory Committee on Nuclear Facility Safety for DOE and for DOE's Chemical Reactions Tank Advisory Panel."

 

Tuesday
May242011

What lessons will the U.S. learn from Fukushima Daiichi's radioactive “tsunami that never seems to roll back”? 

An op-ed in the International Herald Tribune entitled "Fukushima in America" by Nassrine Azimi asks if the U.S. will take heed of the lessons from Japan's historic nuclear weapons and nuclear power catastrophes.

Thursday
May052011

Nature reports that 90 million people live within 30 km danger zone of atomic reactors

The journal Nature reports toat over 90 million people around the world live within 30 km (19 miles) of an atomic reactor. 30 km represents the current radius of the "Dead Zone" drawn around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Of these 90 million people, 16 million are in the U.S.; over nine million each reside in China, Germany and Pakistan; more than five million reside in France, India, and Taiwan. If the radius is expanded to 75 kilometres (47 miles), the number of residents in such nuclear emergency zones increases to almost 500 million. 50 miles is the distance that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Greg Jazcko told Congress in mid March that Americans should stay away from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, just days into the nuclear catastrophe.

Tuesday
Jan252011

Steam leak at Susquehanna shuts nuclear plant

A steam leak at the Susquehanna nuclear power plant near Berwick, PA on January 25. When operators realized the steam leak could not be isolated, they opted to "scram" - or shut down the reactor. The leak occurred in the feedwater heater bay of Unit 1.