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Crisis at Fukushima Continues to Spiral With Hole in Radiation Barrier September 26, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, Japan, Nuclear weapons/power.
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Roger’s note: I sit here at my desk and wonder when someone is going to do something about an impending disaster of possibly unprecedented magnitude.  Maybe a couple of hundred people will read this post, which makes me feel quite impotent.  Please pass this on to someone who has access to someone with power in government.  Anywhere!!!

 

Fence made of silt that sits in harbor has been breached, TEPCO admits, sparking further concern of ocean contamination

 

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

IAEA experts examine recovery work on top of Unit 4 of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on 17 April 2013. (Photo: Greg Webb / IAEA)

In the latest in a series of mishaps to hit the crisis-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, a radiation-stopping “fence” around the reactors has developed a hole, plant operator TEPCO admitted on Thursday.

Fences made of earth and sand sit in the harbor next to the plant and were erected to help contain radioactive material from flowing into the ocean.  They “are suspended from floats and anchored with weights on the seafloor,” the Japan Times explains.

One of the fences that sits next to still-intact reactors five and six was found to be breached, sparking further worry about the amount of radioactive contamination heading into the ocean.

TEPCO has struggled to contain the “emergency without end” at Fukushima since the disaster began to unfold in March of 2011. An unsustainable contaminated water-storage system plagued by a series of leaks, soaring radiation levels in groundwater that head into the ocean, and high levels of radiation found in fish have catalyzed widespread resistance to nuclear power and raised international alarm.

As out of control as the situation seems, one expert has warned that it may actually be “much worse” than claimed.  Also, long-time anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman warned last week that a plan to “remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air” risked putting the “hand of global nuclear disaster… painfully close to midnight.”

Nuclear’s Demise, From Fukushima to Vermont August 31, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, Japan, Nuclear weapons/power, Vermont.
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Fukushima showed us the intolerable costs of nuclear power. The citizens of Vermont show us the benefits of shutting it down

 

… And they did. (Photo: Greenpeace)Welcome to the nuclear renaissance.

Entergy Corp, one of the largest nuclear-power producers in the US, issued a surprise press release Tuesday, saying it plans “to close and decommission its Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vernon, Vermont. The station is expected to cease power production after its current fuel cycle and move to safe shutdown in the fourth quarter of 2014.” Although the press release came from the corporation, it was years of people’s protests and state legislative action that forced its closure. At the same time that activists celebrate this key defeat of nuclear power, officials in Japan admitted that radioactive leaks from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe are far worse than previously acknowledged.

“It took three years, but it was citizen pressure that got the state Senate to such a position”, nuclear-energy consultant Arnie Gundersen told me of Entergy’s announcement. He has coordinated projects at 70 nuclear plants around the country and now provides independent testimony on nuclear and radiation issues. He explained how the state of Vermont, in the first such action in the country, had banned the plant from operating beyond its original 40-year permit. Entergy was seeking a 20-year extension.

The legislature, in that 26-to-4 vote, said: ‘No, we’re not going to allow you to reapply. It’s over. You know, a deal’s a deal. We had a 40-year deal.’ Well, Entergy went to first the federal court here in Vermont and won, and then went to an appeals court in New York City and won again on the issue, as they framed it, that states have no authority to regulate safety.

Despite prevailing in the courts, Entergy bowed to public pressure.

Back in 2011, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, who called Entergy “a company that we found we can’t trust”, said on “Democracy Now!“:

We’re the only state in the country that’s taken power into our own hands and said that, without an affirmative vote from the state legislature, the public service board cannot issue a certificate of public good to legally operate a plant for another 20 years. Now, the Senate has spoken … saying no, it’s not in Vermont’s best interest to run an aging, leaking nuclear-power plant. And we expect that our decision will be respected.

The nuclear-power industry is at a critical crossroads. The much-touted nuclear renaissance is collapsing, most notably in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, compounded by the global financial crisis. In a recent paper titled “Renaissance in Reverse”, Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Vermont Law School, writes, “The problem for old nuclear reactors has become acute.” The costs to operate, and to repair, these plants have prompted operators to shutter five of the 104 operating power generating reactors in the US this year alone, leaving 99. Cooper has identified 30 more that he estimates will be shut down, because “the economics of old reactors are very dicey”.

The profound consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power accident are still unfolding, as this week the Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Agency increased its assessment of the situation there to “level three”, or serious, on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. The original accident in March 2011 was rated a “seven” on that scale, the highest, most severe, threat. The nuclear fuel rods there require constant cooling by water. The spent cooling water is highly radioactive. The Tokyo Electric Power Co, which ran Fukushima and which has been responsible for all the cleanup, has been storing the radioactive water in hastily-constructed water tanks, which are now leaking. Gundersen said:

The surveys of the area determined that the radiation coming from the ground was five times more in an hour than a normal person would get in a year. Radioactive water is leaking out of this plant as fast as it’s leaking in. So, you’ve got something on the order of 400 tons to maybe even as much as a thousand tons of water a day leaking off of the mountains around Fukushima into the basement of this plant. Well, the basement is highly radioactive because the containment has failed and radioactive material is leaking out from the nuclear core into the other buildings. That’s being exposed to this clean groundwater and making it extraordinarily radioactive. … And the problem is going to get worse.

 

The Fukushima disaster has been compared to the catastrophe in Chernobyl, where a nuclear plant exploded in 1986, making the surrounding region uninhabitable. The radiation is spilling out of Fukushima into an ever-growing radioactive plume in the Pacific Ocean.

Fukushima shows us the intolerable costs of nuclear power. The citizens of Vermont show us the benefits of just saying no.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 1,100 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

36 Percent Of Fukushima Children Have Abnormal Growths From Radiation Exposure July 17, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Japan, Nuclear weapons/power.
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Michael Kelley|Jul. 16, 2012, 1:28 PM www.opednews.com
 
japan child

Flickr/benjamin.krause

There are about 360,000 Fukushima residents who were 18 or younger in March 2011.

 

 

 

Of more than 38,000 children tested from the Fukushima Prefecture in Japan, 36 percent have abnormal growths– cysts or nodules – on their thyroids a year after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, as reported by ENENews.

 

The shocking numbers come from the thyroid examination section of the “Sixth Report of Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey,” published by Fukushima Radioactive Contamination Symptoms Research (FRCSR) and translated by the blog Fukushima Voice.

Shunichi Yamashita, M.D., president of the Japan Thyroid Association, sent a letter to members in January with guidelines for treating thyroid abnormalities. In 2001 Yamashita co-authored a study that found normal children in Nagasaki to have 0 percent nodules and 0.8 percent cysts.

The introduction of the letter, written by Fukushima Voice, states that the results in Fukushima show a “much faster progression compared to Chernobyl” as research done around Chernobyl showed the rate of thyroid nodules in children 5 to 10 years after the accident to be 1.74 percent.

In March 2011 a massive earthquake triggered a tsunami that led to series of nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, leading to the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The introduction of the letter notes that Australian pediatrician Helen Caldicott said that is”not at all normal for children to have thyroid nodules or cysts and that early appearance of thyroid abnormalities, less than one year, meant the Fukushima children received a very high dose of radiation.

ENENews also reported a specific case in which three children in a family who lived 60 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant were found to have multiple cysts on their thyroids.

SEE ALSO: The First Traces Of Japanese Nuclear Radiation Have Been Found In California Tuna >

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/a-stunning-36-percent-of-fukushima-children-have-abnormal-growths-from-radiation-exposure-2012-7#ixzz20voZYOYD

How a world-ending weapon disappeared from our lives, but not our world July 9, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Nuclear weapons/power, War.
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Roger’s note: when I was a small child I was afraid of the dark, and the only way I could peacefully fall asleep was to pull my blanket over my head.  Somehow, irrationally, it made me feel safe from whatever out there I was afraid of.  As you will read in the article posted below, “out there” are 20,000 nuclear warheads in the hands of the governments of nine nations, some less stable than others.  Enough nuclear power to blow our planet to bits a number of time.  Why am I calling this to your attention?  Actually, I am not sure.  It just seems to me that a strategy more practical than pulling a blanket of our collective heads is called for.  And good luck in getting to sleep tonight.

 By , TomDispatch 

Don't forget nuclear weaponsThe Ringhals atomic power station near Varberg, Sweden(Credit: AP/Bjorn Larsson Rosvall)

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

There was a time when nuclear weapons were a significant part of our national conversation. Addressing the issue of potential atomic annihilation was once described by nuclear theorist Herman Kahn as “thinking about the unthinkable,” but that didn’t keep us from thinking, talking, fantasizing, and worrying about it, or putting images of possible nuclear nightmares (often transmuted to invading aliens or outer space) endlessly on screen.

Now, on a planet still overstocked with city-busting, world-ending weaponry, in which almost 67 years have passed since a nuclear weapon was last used, the only nuke that Americans regularly hear about is one that doesn’t exist: Iran’s. The nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons on missiles, planes, and submarines possessed by Russia, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are barely mentioned in what passes for press coverage of the nuclear issue.

Today, nuclear destruction finds itself at the end of a long queue of anxieties about our planet and its fate. For some reason, we trust ourselves, our allies, and even our former enemies with nuclear arms — evidently so deeply that we don’t seem to think the staggering arsenals filled with weaponry that could put the devastation of Hiroshima to shame are worth covering or dealing with. Even the disaster at Fukushima last year didn’t revive an interest in the weaponry that goes with the “peaceful” atom in our world.

Attending to the Bomb in a MAD World

Our views of the nuclear issue haven’t always been so shortsighted. In the 1950s, editor and essayist Norman Cousins was typical in frequently tackling nuclear weapons issues for the widely read magazine Saturday Review. In the late 1950s and beyond, the Ban the Bomb movement forced the nuclear weapons issue onto the global agenda, gaining international attention when it was revealed that Strontium-90, a byproduct of nuclear testing, was making its way into mothers’ breast milk. In those years, the nuclear issue became personal as well as political.

In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy responded to public pressure by signing a treaty with Russia that banned atmospheric nuclear testing (and so further Strontium-90 fallout). He also gave a dramatic speech to the United Nations in which he spoke of the nuclear arms race as a “sword of Damocles” hanging over the human race, poised to destroy us at any moment.

Popular films like Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove captured both the dangers and the absurdity of the superpower arms race. And when, on the night of October 22, 1962, Kennedy took to the airwaves to warn the American people that a Cuban missile crisis was underway, that it was nuclear in nature, and that a Soviet nuclear attack and a “full retaliatory strike on the Soviet Union” were possibilities — arguably the closest we have come to a global nuclear war — it certainly got everyone’s attention.

All things nuclear receded from public consciousness as the Vietnam War escalated and became the focus of antiwar activism and debate, but the nuclear issue came back with a vengeance in the Reagan years of the early 1980s when superpower confrontations once again were in the headlines. A growing anti-nuclear movement first focused on a near-disaster at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania (the Fukushima of its moment) and then on the superpower nuclear stand-off that went by the name of “mutually assured destruction” or, appropriately enough, the acronym MAD.

The Nuclear Freeze Campaign generated scores of anti-nuclear resolutions in cities and towns around the country, and in June 1982, a record-breaking million people gathered in New York City’s Central Park to call for nuclear disarmament. If anyone managed to miss this historic outpouring of anti-nuclear sentiment, ABC news aired a prime-time, made-for-TV movie, The Day After, that offered a remarkably graphic depiction of the missiles leaving their silos and the devastating consequences of a nuclear war. It riveted a nation.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of that planetary superpower rivalry less than a decade later took nuclear weapons out of the news. After all, with the Cold War over and no other rivals to the United States, who needed such weaponry or a MAD world, either? The only problem was that the global nuclear landscape was left more or less intact, mission-less but largely untouched (with the proliferation of the weapons to other countries ongoing). Unacknowledged as it may be, in some sense MAD still exists, even if we prefer to pretend that it doesn’t.

A MAD World That No One Cares to Notice

More than 20 years later, the only nuclear issue considered worth the bother is stopping the spread of the bomb to a couple of admittedly scary and problematic regimes: Iran and North Korea. Their nuclear efforts regularly make the news and garner attention (to the point of obsession) in media and government circles. But remind me: When was the last time you read about what should be the ultimate (and obvious) goal — getting rid of nuclear weapons altogether?

This has been our reality, despite President Obama’s pledge in Prague back in 2009 to seek “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” and the passage of a modest but important New START arms-reduction treaty between the United States and Russia in 2010. It remains our reality, despite a dawning realization in budget-anxious Washington that we may no longer be able to afford to throw money (as presently planned) at nuclear projects ranging from new ballistic-missile submarines to new facilities for building nuclear warhead components — all of which are slated to keep the secret global nuclear arms race alive and well decades into the future.

If Iran is worth talking about — and it is, given the implications of an Iranian bomb for further nuclear proliferation in the Middle East — what about the arsenals of the actual nuclear states? What about Pakistan, a destabilizing country which has at least 110 nuclear warheads and counting, and which continues to view India as its primary adversary despite U.S. efforts to get it to focus on al Qaida and the Taliban? What about India’s roughly 100 nuclear warheads, meant to send a message not just to Pakistan but to neighboring China as well? And will China hold pat at 240 or so nuclear weapons in the face of U.S. nuclear modernization efforts and plans to surround it with missile defense systems that could, in theory if not practice, blunt China’s nuclear deterrent force?

Will Israel continue to get a free pass on its officially unacknowledged possession of up to 200 nuclear warheads and its refusal to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? Who are France and the United Kingdom targeting with their forces of 300 and 225 nuclear warheads, respectively? How long will it take North Korea to develop miniaturized nuclear bombs and deploy them on workable, long-range missiles? And is New START the beginning or the end of mutual U.S. and Russian arms reductions?

Many of these questions are far more important than whether Iran gets the bomb, but they get, at best, only a tiny fraction of the attention that Tehran’s nuclear program is receiving. Concern about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and a fear of loose nukes in a destabilizing country is certainly part of the subtext of U.S. policy towards Islamabad. Little effort has been made of late, however, to encourage Pakistan and India to engage in talks aimed at reconciling their differences and opening the way for discussions on reducing their nuclear arsenals.

The last serious effort – centered on the contentious issue of Kashmir — reached its high point in 2007 under the regime of Pakistani autocrat Pervez Musharraf, and it went awry in the wake of political changes within his country and Pakistani-backed terrorist attacks on India. If anything, the tensions now being generated by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands and other affronts, intended or not, to Pakistan’s sovereignty have undermined any possibility of Washington brokering a rapprochement between Pakistan and India.

In addition, starting in the Bush years, the U.S. has been selling India nuclear fuel and equipment. This has been part of a controversial agreement that violates prior U.S. commitments to forgo nuclear trade with any nation that has refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (a pact India has not signed). Although U.S. assistance is nominally directed towards India’s civilian nuclear program, it helps free up resources that India can use to expand its nuclear weapons arsenal.

The “tilt” towards India that began during the Bush administration has continued under Obama. Only recently, for instance, a State Department official bragged about U.S. progress in selling advanced weaponry to New Delhi. Meanwhile, F-16s that Washington supplied to the Pakistani military back in the heyday of the U.S.-Pakistan alliance may have already been adapted to serve as nuclear delivery vehicles in the event of a nuclear confrontation with India.

China has long adhered to a de facto policy of minimum deterrence — keeping just enough nuclear weapons to dissuade another nation from attacking it with nuclear arms. But this posture has not prevented Beijing from seeking to improve the quality of its long-range ballistic missiles. And if China feels threatened by continued targeting by the United States or by sea-based American interceptors deployed to the region, it could easily increase its arsenal to ensure the “safety” of its deterrent. Beijing will also be keeping a watchful eye on India as its nuclear stockpile continues to grow.

Ever since Ronald Reagan — egged on by mad scientists like Edward Teller and right-wing zealots like Lt. Gen. Daniel O. Graham – pledged to build a perfect anti-nuclear shield that would render nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete,” missile defense has had a powerful domestic constituency in the United States. This has been the case despite the huge cost and high-profile failures of various iterations of the missile defense concept.

The only concrete achievement of three decades of missile defense research and development so far has been to make Russia suspicious of U.S. intentions. Even now, rightly or not, Russia is extremely concerned about the planned installation of U.S. missile defenses in Europe that Washington insists will be focused on future Iranian nuclear weapons. Moscow feels that they could just as easily be turned on Russia. If President Obama wins a second term, he will undoubtedly hope to finesse this issue and open the door to further joint reductions in nuclear forces, or possibly even consider reducing this country’s nuclear arsenal significantly, whether or not Russia initially goes along.

Recent bellicose rhetoric from Moscow underscores its sensitivity to the missile defense issue, which may yet scuttle any plans for serious nuclear negotiations. Given that the U.S. and Russia together possess more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, an impasse between the two nuclear superpowers (even if they are not “super” in other respects) will undercut any leverage they might have to encourage other nations to embark on a path leading to global nuclear reductions.

In his 1960s ode to nuclear proliferation, “Who’s Next?” Tom Lehrer included the line “Israel’s getting tense, wants one in self-defense.” In fact, Israel was the first — and for now the only — Middle Eastern nation to get the bomb, with reports that it can deliver a nuclear warhead not only from land-based missiles but also via cruise missiles launched from nuclear submarines. Whatever it may say about Israel’s technical capabilities in the military field, Israel’s nuclear arsenal may also be undermining its defense, particularly if it helps spur Iran to build its own nukes. And irresponsible talk by some Israeli officials about attacking Iran only increases the chance that Tehran will decide to go nuclear.

It is hard to handicap the grim, “unthinkable,” but hardly inconceivable prospect that August 9, 1945, will not prove to be the last time that nuclear weapons are used on this planet. Perhaps some of the loose nuclear materials or inadequately guarded nuclear weapons littering the globe — particularly, but not solely, in the states of the former Soviet Union — might fall into the hands of a terrorist group. Perhaps an Islamic fundamentalist government will seize power in Pakistan and go a step too far in nuclear brinkmanship with India over Kashmir. Maybe the Israeli leadership will strike out at Iran with nuclear weapons in an effort to keep Tehran from going nuclear. Maybe there will be a miscommunication or false alarm that will result in the United States or Russia launching one of their nuclear weapons that are still in Cold War-style, hair-trigger mode.

Although none of these scenarios, including a terrorist nuclear attack, may be as likely as nuclear alarmists sometimes suggest, as long as the world remains massively stocked with nuclear weapons, one of them — or some other scenario yet to be imagined — is always possible. The notion that Iran can’t be trusted with such a weapon obscures a larger point: Given their power to destroy life on a monumental scale, no individual and no government can ultimately be trusted with the bomb.

The only way to be safe from nuclear weapons is to get rid of them — not just the Iranian one that doesn’t yet exist, but all of them. It’s a daunting task. It’s also a subject that’s out of the news and off anyone’s agenda at the moment, but if it is ever to be achieved, we at least need to start talking about it. Soon.

William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, a TomDispatch regular, and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Hartung discusses the upside-down world of global nuclear politics, click here or download it to your iPod here.)

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Inside Fukushima August 20, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Nuclear weapons/power.
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Kazuma Obara, a native of Japan’s tsunami-hit Iwate prefecture, is the first photo-journalist to get unauthorized access to the Fukushima plant and photograph conditions for cleanup workers. Yes, they’re still there.

2 Comments so far

Posted by acemoab
Aug 20 2011 – 12:04am

Frightening photos, especially in the black and white versions here. They gave me a very sad deja-vu about pictures of Hiroshima bomb sufferers I saw as a child. There really is not a very thick veneer between “civilized” life and the chaos of horrors like this. Just a thickness of metal in a containment vessel. No more.

Posted by Aaronica
Aug 20 2011 – 10:16am

I am again reminded of my training from the military.   NBCD, Nuclear, biological chemical defence.  Of course of the three biggie WMDs the training for the nuclear part was the quickest.  I quote “if the idiots ever do launch those fucking things, you will bend over, apply your lips to your arse, kiss it goodbye.”

How the “Peaceful Atom” Became a Serial Killer March 26, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, Nuclear weapons/power.
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Thursday 24 March 2011

by: Chip Ward  |  TomDispatch | News Analysis

When nuclear reactors blow, the first thing that melts down is the truth. Just as in the Chernobyl catastrophe almost 25 years ago when Soviet authorities denied the extent of radiation and downplayed the dire situation that was spiraling out of control, Japanese authorities spent the first week of the Fukushima crisis issuing conflicting and confusing reports. We were told that radiation levels were up, then down, then up, but nobody aside from those Japanese bureaucrats could verify the levels and few trusted their accuracy. The situation is under control, they told us, but workers are being evacuated. There is no danger of contamination, but stay inside and seal your doors.

The First Atomic Snow Job

The bureaucratization of horror into bland and reassuring pronouncements was to be expected, especially from an industry where misinformation is the rule. Although you might suppose that the nuclear industry’s outstanding characteristic would be its expertise, since it’s loaded with junior Einsteins who grasp the math and physics required to master the most awesomely sophisticated technology humans have ever created, think again. Based on the record, it’s most outstanding characteristic is a fundamental dishonesty. I learned that the hard way as a grassroots activist organizing opposition to a scheme hatched by a consortium of nuclear utilities to park thousands of tons of highly radioactive fuel rods, like the ones now burning at Fukushima, in my Utah backyard.

Here’s what I took away from that experience: the nuclear industry is a snake-oil culture of habitual misrepresentation, pervasive wishful thinking, deep denial, and occasional outright deception. For more than 50 years, it has habitually lied about risks and costs while covering up every violation and failure it could. Whether or not its proponents and spokespeople are dishonest or merely deluded can be debated, but the outcome — dangerous misinformation and the meltdown of honest civic discourse — remains the same, as we once again see at Fukushima.

Established at the dawn of the nuclear age, the pattern of dissemblance had become a well-worn rut long before the Japanese reactors spun out of control. In the early 1950s, the disciples of nuclear power, or the “peaceful atom” as it was then called, insisted that nuclear power would soon become so cheap and efficient that it would be offered to consumers for free. Visionaries that they were, they suggested that cities would be constructed with building materials impregnated with uranium so that snow removal would be unnecessary. Atomic bombs, they urged, should be used to carve out new coastal harbors for ships. In low doses, they swore, radiation was actually beneficial to one’s health.

Such notions and outright fantasies, as well as propaganda for a new industry and a new way of war — even if laughable today — had tragic results back then. Thousands of American GIs, for instance, were marched into ground zero just after above-ground nuclear tests had been set off to observe their responses to what military planners assumed would be the atomic battlefield of the future. Ignorance, it turns out, is not bliss, and thousands of those soldiers later became ill. Many died young.

Unwary civilians who lived downwind of America’s western testing grounds were also exposed to nuclear fallout and they, too, suffered horribly from a variety of cancers and other illnesses. Uranium miners exposed to radiation in the tunnels where they wrestled from the earth the raw materials for the nuclear age also became ill and died too soon, as did workers processing that uranium into weapons and fuel. Many of those miners were poor Navajos from my backyard in Utah where a new uranium boom, part of the so-called nuclear renaissance, was — before Fukushima — set to take shape.

How Unlikely Risks Become Inevitable

In the future, today’s low-risk claims from industry advocates will undoubtedly seem as tragically naïve as yesterday’s false claims. Yes, the likelihood that any specific nuclear power plant reactor will melt down may be slim indeed — which hardly means inconceivable — but to act as though nuclear risks are limited to the operation of power plants is misleading in the extreme. “Spent fuel” from reactors (the kind burning in Japan as I write) is produced as a plant operates, and that fuel remains super hot and dangerous for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. As we are learning to our sorrow at the Fukushima complex, such used fuel is hardly “spent.” In fact, it can be even more radioactive and dangerous than reactor cores.

Spent fuel continues to pile up in a nuclear waste stream that will have to be closely managed and monitored for eons, so long that those designing nuclear-waste repositories struggle with the problem of signage that might be intelligible in a future so distant today’s languages may not be understood. You might think that a danger virulent enough to outlast human languages would be a danger to avoid, but the hubris of the nuclear establishment is equal to its willingness to deceive.

A natural disaster, accident, or terrorist attack that might be statistically unlikely in any year or decade becomes ever more likely at the half-century, century, or half-millennium mark. Given enough time, in fact, the unlikely becomes almost inevitable. Even if you and I are not the victims of some future apocalyptic disturbance of that lethal residue, to consign our children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren to such peril is plainly and profoundly immoral.

Nuclear proponents have long wanted to limit the discussion of risk to plant operation alone, not to the storage of dangerous wastes, and they remain eager to ignore altogether the risks inherent in transporting nuclear waste (often called “mobile Chernobyl” by nuclear critics). Moving those spent fuel rods to future repositories represents a rarely acknowledged category of potential catastrophe. Just imagine a trainload of hot nuclear waste derailing catastrophically along a major urban corridor with the ensuing evacuations of nearby inhabitants. It means, in essence, that one of those Fukushima “pools” of out-of-control waste could “go nuclear” anywhere in our landscape.

Risk is about more than likelihood; it’s also about impact. If I tell you that your chances of being bitten by a mosquito as you cross my yard are one in a hundred, you’ll think of that risk differently than if I give you the same odds on a deadly pit viper. As events unfold in Japan, it’s ever clearer that we’re talking pit viper, not mosquito. You wouldn’t know it though if you were to debate nuclear industry representatives, who consistently downplay both odds and impact, and dismiss those who claim otherwise as hysterical doomsayers. Fukushima will assumedly make their task somewhat more difficult.

Hidden Costs and Wasted Subsidies

The true costs of nuclear power are another subject carefully fudged and obscured by nuclear power advocates. From its inception in federally funded labs, nuclear power has been highly subsidized. A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that “more than 30 subsidies have supported every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle from uranium mining to long-term waste storage. Added together, these subsidies have often exceeded the average market price for the power produced.” When it comes to producing electricity, these subsidies are so extensive, the report concludes, that “in some cases it would have cost taxpayers less to simply buy the kilowatts on the open market and give them away.”

If the nuclear club in Congress, led by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, gets its way, billions more in subsidies will be forthcoming, including massive federal loan guarantees to build the next generation of nuclear plants. These are particularly important to the industry, since bankers won’t otherwise touch projects that are notorious for mammoth cost overruns, lengthy delays, and abrupt cancellations.

The Obama administration has already proposed an additional $36 billion in such guarantees to underwrite new plant construction. That includes $4 billion for the construction of two new nuclear reactors on the Gulf Coast that are to be operated in partnership with Tokyo Electric Power Company — that’s right, the very outfit that runs the Fukushima complex. Yet when I debate nuclear advocates, they always claim that, in cost terms, nuclear power outcompetes alternative sources of energy like wind and solar.

That government gravy train doesn’t just stop at new power plants either. The feds have long assumed the epic costs of waste management and storage. If another multi-billion dollar project like the now-abandoned Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada is built, it will be with dollars from taxpayers and captive ratepayers (the free market be damned). Industry spokesmen insist that subsidizing such projects will be well worth it, since they will create thousands of new jobs. Unfortunately for them, a definitive 2009 University of Massachusetts study that analyzed various infrastructure investments including wind, solar, and retrofitting buildings to conserve energy placed nuclear dead last in job creation.

Finally, the recently renewed Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act limits the liability of nuclear utilities should a catastrophe like the one in Japan happen here in the United States. The costs of recovery from the Fukushima catastrophe will be astronomical. In the U.S., nuclear utilities would be off the hook for any of those costs and you, the citizen, would foot the bill. Despite their assurances that nothing can go wrong here, nuclear industry officials have made sure that in their business risk and reward are carefully separated. It’s a scenario we should all know well: private corporations take away profits when things go well, and taxpayers assume responsibility when shit happens.

Finally, nuclear power boosters like to proclaim themselves “green” and to claim that their industry is the ideal antidote to global warming since it produces no greenhouse gas emissions. In doing so, they hide the real environmental footprint of nuclear energy.

It’s quite true that no carbon dioxide comes out of power-plant smokestacks. However, maintaining any future infrastructure to handle the industry’s toxic waste is guaranteed to produce lots of carbon dioxide. So does mining uranium and processing it into fuel rods, building massive reactors from concrete and steel, and then behemoth repositories capable of holding waste for 1,000 years. Radiation from the Fukushima meltdown is now entering the Japanese food chain. How green is that?

The Watchdogs Play Dead

Over the course of nuclear power’s history, there have been scores of mishaps, accidents, violations, and problems that, chances are, you’ve never heard about. Beyond the unavoidable bad PR over the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979, the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986, and now the Japanese catastrophe, the industry has an excellent record — of covering up its failures.

The co-dependent relationship between the nuclear corporations and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the federal agency charged with licensing and monitoring them, resembles the cozy relationship between the Securities Exchange Commission and Wall Street before the global economic meltdown of 2008. The NRC relies heavily on the industry’s own reports since only a small fraction of its activities can be inspected yearly.

A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, “The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010,” which highlights the NRC’s haphazard record of inspection and enforcement, makes clear just why the honor system that assumes utilities will honestly report problems has never worked. It describes 14 recent serious “near miss” violations that initially went unreported. At the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, only 38 miles north of the New York metropolitan area, for instance, NRC inspectors ignored a leaking water containment system for 15 years.

After a leaking roof forced the shutdown of two reactors at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear facility in Maryland, plant managers admitted that it had been leaking for eight years. When Honeywell hired temporary workers to replace striking union members at its uranium refinery in Illinois, they were slipped the correct answers to a test required for those allowed to work at nuclear plants, because otherwise they had neither the knowledge nor experience to pass.

The regulation of Japan’s nuclear industry mirrors the American model. Japan’s legacy of regulatory scandals, falsified safety records, underestimated risks, and cover-ups includes an incident in 1999 when workers mixed uranium in open buckets and exposed hundreds of coworkers to radiation. Two later died. Other scandals involved hiding cracks in steam pipes from regulators in 1989, lying about a fire and explosion at a plant near Tokyo in 1997, and covering up damage to a plant from an earthquake in 2007.

In the wake of the Fukushima catastrophe, we will no doubt discover how there, too, so-called watchdogs rolled over and played dead. In recent years, in fact, the Fukushima complex had the highest accident rate of any of the big Japanese nuclear plants. We’ve already learned that an engineer who helped design and supervise the construction of the steel pressure vessel that holds the melting fuel rods in Reactor No. 4 warned that it was damaged during production. He had himself initially orchestrated a cover-up of this fact, but revealed it a decade later — only to be ignored. During the complex’s construction by General Electric some 35 years ago, Dale Bridenbaugh, a GE employee, resigned after becoming convinced that the reactors being built were seriously flawed. He, too, was ignored. The Vermont Yankee reactor in Vermont and 23 others around the U.S. replicate that design.

Stay tuned, since more examples of reckless management will surely come to light…

Risk Is Not a Math Problem

That culture of secrecy is a logical fit for an industry that is authoritarian by nature. Unlike solar or wind power, nuclear power requires massive investments of capital, highly specialized expertise, robust security, and centralized control. Any local citizen facing the impact of a uranium mine, a power plant, or a proposed waste depository will attest that the owners, operators, and regulators of the industry are remote, unresponsive, and inaccessible. They misinform because they have the power to get away with it. The absence of meaningful checks and balances enables them.

Risk, antinuclear advocates quickly learn, is not simply some complicated math problem to be resolved by experts. Risk is, above all, a question of who is put at risk for whose benefit, of how the rewards, costs, and liabilities of an activity are distributed and whether that distribution is fair. Those are political questions that citizens directly affected should be answering for themselves. When it comes to nuclear power, that doesn’t happen because the industry is undemocratic to its core. Corporate officers treat downwind stakeholders with the same contempt they reserve for honest accountings of the industry’s costs and dangers.

It may be difficult for the average citizen to unpack the technicalities of nuclear power, or understand the complex physics and engineering involved in splitting atoms to make steam to produce electricity. But most of us are good at detecting bullshit. We know when something like the nuclear industry doesn’t pass the smell test.

There is a growing realization that our carbon-based energy system is warming and endangering this planet, but replacing coal and oil with nuclear power is like trading heroin for crack — different addictions, but no less unhealthy or risky. The “nuclear renaissance,” like the “peaceful atom” before it, is the energy equivalent of a three-card monte game, involving the same capitalist crooks who gave us oil spills, bank bailouts, and so many of the other rip-offs and scams that have plagued our lives in this new century.

They are serial killers. Stop them before they kill again. Credibility counts and you don’t need a PhD or a Geiger counter to detect it.

Chip Ward was a founder of HEAL Utah, a grassroots group that has led the opposition to the disposal of nuclear waste in Utah and the construction of a new reactor next to Green River. A TomDispatch regular, he is the author of Canaries on the Rim: Living Downwind in the West and Hope’s Horizon: Three Visions for Healing the American Land. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Ward discusses the endless legacy of nuclear power, click here, or download it to your iPod here.

Copyright 2011 Chip Ward 

Tokyo Electric to Build US Nuclear Plants: The No BS Info on Japan’s Disastrous Nuclear Operators March 14, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Japan, Nuclear weapons/power, Texas.
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Monday 14 March 2011

by: Greg Palast, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

Tokyo Electric to Build US Nuclear Plants: The No BS Info on Japan's Disastrous Nuclear Operators
Texas nuclear plants planned by Tokyo Electric. (Image: NINA)

I need to speak to you, not as a reporter, but in my former capacity as lead investigator in several government nuclear plant fraud and racketeering investigations.

I don’t know the law in Japan, so I can’t tell you if Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) can plead insanity to the homicides about to happen.

But what will Obama plead? The administration, just months ago, asked Congress to provide a $4 billion loan guarantee for two new nuclear reactors to be built and operated on the Gulf Coast of Texas – by TEPCO and local partners. As if the Gulf hasn’t suffered enough. Here are the facts about TEPCO and the industry you haven’t heard on CNN:

The failure of emergency systems at Japan’s nuclear plants comes as no surprise to those of us who have worked in the field.

Nuclear plants the world over must be certified for what is called “SQ” or “Seismic Qualification.” That is, the owners swear that all components are designed for the maximum conceivable shaking event, be it from an earthquake or an exploding Christmas card from al-Qaeda.

The most inexpensive way to meet your SQ is to lie. The industry does it all the time. The government team I worked with caught them once, in 1988, at the Shoreham plant in New York. Correcting the SQ problem at Shoreham would have cost a cool billion, so engineers were told to change the tests from “failed” to “passed.”

The company that put in the false safety report? Stone & Webster, now the nuclear unit of Shaw Construction, which will work with TEPCO to build the Texas plant. Lord help us.

There’s more.

Last night, I heard CNN reporters repeat the official line that the tsunami disabled the pumps needed to cool the reactors, implying that water unexpectedly got into the diesel generators that run the pumps.

These safety backup systems are the “EDGs” in nuke-speak: Emergency Diesel Generators. That they didn’t work in an emergency is like a fire department telling us they couldn’t save a building because “it was on fire.”

What dim bulbs designed this system? One of the reactors dancing with death at Fukushima Station 1 was built by Toshiba. Toshiba was also an architect of the emergency diesel system.

Now be afraid. Obama’s $4 billion bailout in the making is called the South Texas Project. It’s been sold as a red-white-and-blue way to make power domestically with a reactor from Westinghouse, a great American brand. However, the reactor will be made substantially in Japan by the company that bought the US brand name, Westinghouse – Toshiba.

I once had a Toshiba computer. I only had to send it in once for warranty work. However, it’s kind of hard to mail back a reactor with the warranty slip inside the box if the fuel rods are melted and sinking halfway to the earth’s core.

TEPCO and Toshiba don’t know what my son learned in eighth grade science class: tsunamis follow Pacific Rim earthquakes. So, these companies are real stupid, eh? Maybe. More likely is that the diesels and related systems wouldn’t have worked on a fine, dry afternoon.

Back in the day, when we checked the emergency backup diesels in America, a mind-blowing number flunked. At the New York nuclear plant, for example, the builders swore under oath that their three diesel engines were ready for an emergency. They’d been tested. The tests were faked; the diesels run for just a short time at low speed. When the diesels were put through a real test under emergency-like conditions, the crankshaft on the first one snapped in about an hour, then the second and third. We nicknamed the diesels, “Snap, Crackle and Pop.”

(Note: Moments after I wrote that sentence, word came that two of three diesels failed at the Tokai Station as well.)

In the US, we supposedly fixed our diesels after much complaining by the industry. But in Japan, no one tells TEPCO to do anything the Emperor of Electricity doesn’t want to do.

I get lots of confidential notes from nuclear industry insiders. One engineer, a big name in the field, is especially concerned that Obama waved the come-hither check to Toshiba and TEPCO to lure them to America. The US has a long history of whistleblowers willing to put themselves on the line to save the public. In our racketeering case in New York, the government only found out about the seismic test fraud because two courageous engineers, Gordon Dick and John Daly, gave our team the documentary evidence.

In Japan, it’s simply not done. The culture does not allow the salary men, who work all their lives for one company, to drop the dime.

Not that US law is a wondrous shield: both engineers in the New York case were fired and blacklisted by the industry. Nevertheless, the government (local, state, federal) brought civil racketeering charges against the builders. The jury didn’t buy the corporation’s excuses and, in the end, the plant was, thankfully, dismantled.

Am I on some kind of xenophobic anti-Nippon crusade? No. In fact, I’m far more frightened by the American operators in the South Texas nuclear project, especially Shaw. Stone & Webster, now the Shaw nuclear division, was also the firm that conspired to fake the EDG tests in New York . (The company’s other exploits have been exposed by their former consultant, John Perkins, in his book, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.”) If the planet wants to shiver, consider this: Toshiba and Shaw have recently signed a deal to become worldwide partners in the construction of nuclear stations.

The other characters involved at the South Texas Plant that Obama is backing should also give you the willies. But as I’m in the middle of investigating the American partners, I’ll save that for another day.

So, if we turned to America’s own nuclear contractors, would we be safe? Well, two of the melting Japanese reactors, including the one whose building blew sky high, were built by General Electric of the Good Old US of A.

After Texas, you’re next. The Obama administration is planning a total of $56 billion in loans for nuclear reactors all over America.

And now, the homicides:

CNN is only interested in body counts, how many workers burnt by radiation, swept away or lost in the explosion. These plants are now releasing radioactive steam into the atmosphere. Be skeptical about the statements that the “levels are not dangerous.” These are the same people who said these meltdowns could never happen. Over years, not days, there may be a thousand people, two thousand, ten thousand who will suffer from cancers induced by this radiation.

In my New York investigation, I had the unhappy job of totaling up post-meltdown “morbidity” rates for the county government. It would be irresponsible for me to estimate the number of cancer deaths that will occur from these releases without further information; but it is just plain criminal for the TEPCO shoguns to say that these releases are not dangerous.

Indeed, the fact that residents near the Japanese nuclear plants were not issued iodine pills to keep at the ready shows TEPCO doesn’t care who lives and who dies, whether in Japan or the USA. The carcinogenic isotopes that are released at Fukushima are already floating to Seattle with effects we simply cannot measure.

Heaven help us. Because Obama won’t.

Obama’s Nuclear Credibility Gap March 7, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Nuclear weapons/power, Peace, War.
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(Roger’s note: a careful reading of this article reveals that it is solely the United States of America that holds the key to nuclear proliferation and nuclear disarmament.  Its failure to honor its treaty commitments has put the entire world in danger.  It’s not a question of Iran or North Korea developing nuclear weapons, it’s a question of whether the world’s only mega-power will use its strength for peace or for war.  Note that the rogue states that developed nuclear weapons in defiance of the Non-proliferation Treaty are three US allies: Israel, India and Pakistan.  It is Israel’s nuclear capacity that motivates Iran to go nuclear, nothing more.  Unfortunately Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize is turning out to be a useless piece of paper, as he continually caves in to the fanatic right, the military, and the war profiteers.  As the article suggests, only a massive movement from below can force the world’s number one bully to use its overwhelming power for peaceful purposes.)

Published on Sunday, March 7, 2010 by CommonDreams.orgby Joseph Gerson

A month ago, writing in the New York Times about the economy and the escalating war in Afghanistan, Bob Herbert warned President Obama that he was developing a “credibility gap.”  Now, the advance advertising designed to help launch the president’s Nuclear Posture Review and the stalled negotiations with Russia on the START 1 Follow On Treaty are leading people around the world to ask their version of “Where’s the beef?”  The administration’s policies and actions are severely undermining its commitment to non-proliferation and its promise of working to create a “nuclear weapons free world.”

First some background: Forty years ago today the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty went into force. It rests on three pillars: With the exceptions of Israel, India and Pakistan, the (then) non-nuclear powers foreswore ever joining the nuclear club. In exchange, in Article IV, they were guaranteed the right to necessary technologies for nuclear power generation for peaceful purposes (a serious flaw in the Treaty) and in Article VI that the nuclear powers would engage in “good faith” negotiations to completely eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

Unfortunately, the nuclear powers, led by the United States have not kept their part of the bargain. As former Deputy Secretary of Defense and CIA Director John Deutch once put it, “The United States never intended, nor does it intend now, to implement Article VI. That’s just something you have to say to get what you want out of a conference.” This approach, plus that fact that U.S. presidents have prepared and threatened to initiate nuclear war at least 40 times during international crises and wars (most recently in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the “all options on the table” threats against Iran, has been the driving force of nuclear weapons proliferation.

Among the disasters visited upon the United States and the world by the Bush-Cheney government was its sabotage of the 2005 NPT Review conference. The Review, conducted every five years at the United Nations, provides an opportunity for the world’s nations the ability to press for more intrusive inspections, and thus control over, the world’s nuclear power plants to prevent non-nuclear nations from becoming nuclear powers. It also affords the vast majority of the world’s nations to press for implementation of Article VI. During its eight years in office, the Bush-Cheney Administration failed to implement any of the 13 disarmament steps agreed to during the 2000 Review Conference, and delirious with its “romance of ruthlessness” — in this case believing that the U.S. could militarily enforce non-proliferation – it refused to agree to an agenda for the 2005 Review Conference until it was half completed and then prevented the Conference from reaching any agreements.

The failure of the 2005 NPT Review Conference placed the NPT, and thus the non-proliferation order, in jeopardy, thus increasing the nuclear dangers faced by the United States and other nations. Elite figures, from George Shultz and Henry Kissinger to presidential candidates Barack Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson responded by attempting to regain U.S. legitimacy and leverage in this coming May’s NPT Review Conference by calling for significant reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal and a reaffirmation of the United States’ commitment to fulfill its Article VI obligations.

Since his election, especially with his speeches in Prague and last September at the United Nations, President Obama raised the world’s hopes that under his leadership we could finally free ourselves from the nuclear sword of Damocles. Now he appears to be having second thoughts, and as the president’s nuclear security conference” with its focus on non-proliferation, not disarmament or abolition scheduled for this April, analysts, officials and activists across the United States and around the world are wondering if Obama is cleaving to the hypocritical double-standard of the last four decades.

In his National Defense University speech Vice President Biden anticipated that many committed to disarmament and the elimination of the world’s nuclear arsenals would be critical of the administration’s nuclear policies, and he was right. As on too many other issues, President Obama hasn’t walked his talk.

President Obama’s budget calls for a 10% increase in spending to ensure the “reliability” of the nuclear weapons stockpile and an additional $2 billion dollars to modernize and expand the of country’s nuclear weapons infrastructure, including more money for the weapons laboratories, to reinforce the country’s ability to design, develop and maintain nuclear weapons for decades to come.

Elsewhere the START 1 Follow On negotiatons have stalled, because in violation of President George H.W. Bush’s pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev not to move NATO a centimeter closer to Moscow, the U.S. is moving ahead with so-called “missile defense” deployments in the Czech Republic, Poland and Rumania. Russia sees these as shields to reinforce Washington’s first strike nuclear swords.

Worse, as advertised, the Nuclear Posture Review will reiterate the United States’ nuclear first strike policy, leading other nations to either maintain or develop their nuclear arsenals to deter a possible U.S. attack. And diplomatically this is hardly offset by the Posture Review’s commitment to dismantle a portion of the non-deployed nuclear stockpile and not to build a new generation of nuclear weapons mis-named “Reliable Replacement Warheads.”

Just as Wall Street’s speculators pursued their narrow self-interests at great cost to the people of our nation and others, vested interests who accumulated power and privilege during the Cold War are jeopardizing our and the world’s security as they continue to call the nuclear shots in Washington, D.C.

What is to be done? As in the civil rights, women’s rights, 1980s nuclear weapons freeze and other movements for justice, peace and security, it will take people’s power to prevail. And the movement to do it is being built.

In the broadest popular mobilization for nuclear weapons abolition in well over a decade, more than 250 U.S. and international organizations are preparing to send a clear message to this May’s NPT  Review Conference: President Obama, fulfill the U.S. commitment to Article VI. We want abolition in our lifetimes. Carrying millions of petition signatures,  thousands of people from across the country and around the world — led by the largest delegation of atom bomb survivors ever to visit the U.S. and 2,000 activists traveling from Japan — will descend on New York for the May 2 International Day Action for a Nuclear Free Future. In the weeks that follow, we will be pressing the Review conference and making plans for the longer struggle to eliminate this omnicidal threat to life itself.

Joseph Gerson is Disarmament Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, Co-Convener of the 2010 NPT Review Conference International Planning Committee and author of Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World. For more information about the 2010 NPT Review Conference International Planning Committee’s activities see www.peaceandjusticenow.org

Obama’s Nuclear Option February 18, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Energy, Environment, Nuclear weapons/power.
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Published on Thursday, February 18, 2010 by TruthDig.comby Amy Goodman

President Barack Obama is going nuclear. He announced the initial $8 billion in loan guarantees for construction of the first new nuclear power plants in the United States in close to three decades. Obama is making good on a campaign pledge, like his promises to escalate the war in Afghanistan and to unilaterally attack in Pakistan. And like his “Af-Pak” war strategy, Obama’s publicly financed resuscitation of the nuclear power industry in the U.S. is bound to fail, another taxpayer bailout waiting to happen.

Opponents of the plan, which includes a tripling of existing nuclear plant construction-loan guarantees to $54.5 billion, span the ideological spectrum. On its most basic level, the economics of nuclear power generation simply doesn’t make sense. The cost to construct these behemoths is so huge, and the risks are so great, that no sensible investor, no banks, no hedge funds will invest in their construction.

No one will loan a power company the money to build a power plant, and the power companies refuse to spend their own money. Obama himself professes a passion for the free market, telling Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “We are fierce advocates for a thriving, dynamic free market.” Well, the free market long ago abandoned nuclear power. The right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation remarked, “Expansive loan guarantee programs … are wrought with problems. At a minimum, they create taxpayer liabilities, give recipients preferential treatment, and distort capital markets.”

Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a longtime critic of the nuclear power industry, told me, “If you buy more nuclear plants, you’re going to get about two to 10 times less climate solution per dollar, and you’ll get it about 20 to 40 times slower, than if you buy instead the cheaper, faster stuff that is walloping nuclear and coal and gas.”

In his 2008 report “The Nuclear Illusion,” Lovins writes, “Nuclear power is continuing its decades-long collapse in the global marketplace because it’s grossly uncompetitive, unneeded, and obsolete—so hopelessly uneconomic that one needn’t debate whether it’s clean and safe; it weakens electric reliability and national security; and it worsens climate change compared with devoting the same money and time to more effective options.”

The White House Office of Management and Budget, in the same statement announcing the $54.5 billion for nuclear power, also listed a “credit subsidy funding of $500 million to support $3 [billion] to $5 billion of loan guarantees for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.” Thus, just one-tenth the amount for nuclear is being dedicated to energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. At the same time, the Obama administration plans to cancel funding for the hugely unpopular Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility. Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists told The Christian Science Monitor the Obama administration “doesn’t have a plan for [storing] radioactive waste from a new generation of nuclear power plants. That is irresponsible.”

The waste from nuclear power plants is not only an ecological nightmare, but also increases the threats of nuclear proliferation. Obama said in his recent State of the Union address, “We’re also confronting perhaps the greatest danger to the American people—the threat of nuclear weapons.” Despite this, plans that accompany what Obama has proposed, his “new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants,” include increased commercial “nuclear fuel reprocessing,” which the Union of Concerned Scientists calls “dangerous, dirty and expensive,” and which it says would increase the global risks of both nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.

Both Lovins and the Union of Concerned Scientists debunk the myth that nuclear energy is essential to combat global warming. Lovins writes, “Every dollar invested in nuclear expansion will worsen climate change by buying less solution per dollar.” Obama said that this first tranche of public funding, which will benefit the energy giant Southern Co., “will create thousands of construction jobs in the next few years, and some 800 permanent jobs.” Yet investment in solar, wind and cogeneration technologies could do the same thing, quickly creating industries here in the U.S. that are thriving in Europe. What’s more, the risks of failure of a windmill or a solar panel are minute when compared with nuclear power plant disasters like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

From economics, to the environment, to the prevention of nuclear threats, Obama’s nuclear loan guarantees fail on all counts.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2010 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 800 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

Helen Caldicott Slams Environmental Groups on Climate Bill, Nuclear Concessions December 22, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment.
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Tuesday 22 December 2009

by: Art Levine, t r u t h o u t | Report

Dr. Helen Caldicott, the pioneering Australian antinuclear activist and pediatrician who spearheaded the global nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s and co-founded Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), has joined with left-leaning environmental groups here in an uphill fight to halt nuclear power as a “solution” to the global warming crisis. “Global warming is the greatest gift the nuclear industry has ever received,” Dr. Caldicott told Truthout.

The growing rush to nuclear power was only enhanced, experts say, by the weak climate deal at the Copenhagen 15 climate conference. The prospects for passage of a climate bill in Congress – virtually all versions are pro-nuclear – were enhanced, most analysts say, because it offered the promise that China might voluntarily agree to verify its carbon reductions and it could reassure senators worried about American manufacturers being undermined by polluters overseas. But at the two-week international confab that didn’t produce any binding agreements to do anything, Caldicott and environmental activist groups were marginalized or, in the case of the delegates from Friends of the Earth, evicted from the main hall.
The upshot of the latest trends boosting nuclear power – although no nuclear reactor has been built in America since the 1970s – are indeed grim, she said. “Nothing’s going to work to stop them but a meltdown,” she said, fearing the prospects of such a calamity. “I don’t know how else the world is going to wake up.”
Her fears may sound apocalyptic, but as Truthout will explore in more depth in part II of this article, the dangers of a meltdown, terrorist attack and radiation damage are far greater than commonly known. That’s because of what federal and Congressional investigators, advocacy groups and medical researchers say is a culture of sloppy security, health and safety oversight by a cozily pro-industry Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (An NRC spokesman denied those allegations in a written statement to Truthout.) The quasi-independent agency is funded primarily by fees from nuclear power plants. On top of all that, the Obama administration is planning to offer about $20 billion in loan guarantees to fund two new uncertified and risky reactors designs that have faced safety and cost overrun problems overseas.
Despite nuclear energy’s apparent dangers, Dr. Caldicott was a Cassandra crying out at the Copenhagen conference with little or no attention from the major government and media players there. Caldicott, who was featured on major American TV news shows and magazines during the 80s, who met one on one with President Reagan and addressed about a million people opposing nuclear weapons in New York City in June, 1982, found herself speaking to groups as small as 50 people in Copenhagen. Although still an active lecturer, author and radio broadcaster, she was essentially ignored by the media, even with the six minutes or so she was given to speak to an outdoor rally of 100,000 protesting the global leaders’ inaction inside the main hall. “It was a shemozzle,” she said of her time in Copenhagen.

In her brief speech outdoors in bitterly cold weather, you can see her speaking more slowly than in her usual lecture, so that not one word or grisly fact is missed by her international audience. But you can almost sense her frustration at boiling down into just over six minutes all that she knows about the dangers of atomic weapons and nuclear plants. While inside the Bella Center, no official who really counted was bothering listening to her – or the protesters:

She told the crowd:

The Earth is in the intensive care unit, it is acutely sick. We are all now physicians to a dying planet …
The nuclear power industry has used global warming to say “we’re the answer.” All the money to go into nuclear power, 15 billion dollars per power plant, is being stolen from the solutions to fix the earth – solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, conservation.
The nuclear power industry is wicked. The nuclear power industry was formed by the bomb makers – it’s the same thing. Nuclear power plants are bomb factories – they make plutonium. Two hundred and fifty kilos a year of plutonium that lasts for 250,000 years. You need five kilos to make a nuclear bomb. Any country that has a nuclear power plant has a bomb factory.
If the Second World War were fought today in Europe, none of you would be here; Europe would be a radioactive wasteland because all the nuclear power plants would melt down like Chernobyl. So, war is now impossible in Europe. Do the politicians understand that?
Nuclear power produces massive quantities, hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive waste, which will get into the water, concentrate into the fish, the milk, the food, human breast milk, fetuses, babies, children. Radioactive iodine causes thyroid cancer. Twelve thousand people in Belarus had thyroid cancer. Radioactive Strontium 90 causes bone cancer and leukemia, [it] lasts for 600 years. Cesium 137 – all over Europe now – in the reindeer, in the lands, in the food, lasts for six hundred years, causes brain cancer. Plutonium, the most dangerous substance on Earth, 1 millionth of a gram cause cancer, lasts for 250,000 years. Causes lung cancer, liver cancer, testicular cancer, damages fetuses so they are born deformed.
Nuclear power, therefore, nuclear waste for all future generations will cause cancer in young children because they are very sensitive, [will cause] genetic disease, congenital deformities. Nuclear power is about disease, and it’s about death. It will produce the greatest public health hazard the world has ever seen for the rest of time. We must close down every single nuclear reactor in Europe and throughout the world…
That’s hardly the spirit of acceptance granted the nuclear industry as part of a hoped-for climate deal by world governments and environmental groups.
She was there for the first week as a guest of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and a science adviser to the Spanish government. But for a woman whose organization, PSR, won the Nobel Peace Prize and who has been cited by the Smithsonian as one of the most influential women of the 20th century, she was still unable to wangle even a three-minute opportunity to address the delegates. After she returned home to Australia, she saw the dreary news about the chaotic final days of the conference and the loophole-laden climate “accord.”
“I was deeply depressed,” she said. “I hadn’t done anything, and the world hadn’t done anything in the face of an impending catastrophe.”
It also reinforced her anger at those environmental groups that haven’t strongly opposed nuclear power while they’re supporting legislation that sees nuclear energy as a vital element in reducing carbon emissions. “They’ve sold their souls,” she said bluntly, while attacking the ties of some key groups to the energy industry, especially in such alliances as the US Climate Action Partnership that includes such outfits as Duke Power and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The well-funded coalition is widely credited as having set the template for both the main House and Senate climate bills that have passed the full House and the Senate Environment Committee – all containing provisions for nuclear energy.
Al Gore’s advocacy group, RePower America, also includes environmental and industry groups; a spokesperson said it hasn’t issued any statements on nuclear power and declined to answer charges that by failing to actively oppose nuclear power, it was allowing the spread of nuclear plants to undermine renewable solutions to global warming. (In his writings and some interviews, Al Gore has offered some criticisms of nuclear power, but the Nobel Prize winner hasn’t used his international platform to attack its role in pending legislation or potential treaties.)
In her interview with Truthout, she ripped into those environmental groups that didn’t take strong, public stands against climate bills that included nuclear power, even while she, in turn, has been derided as a Luddite or politically naive. “Some of the people within these organizations are not well educated about the biological effects of radiation and mutation, and what actually happens in the human body and the food chain,” she said. “So, they’ve gone soft on opposing nuclear power, and because they’re all very worried about global warming, they’re about to leap from the global warming frying pan to the nuclear fire.”
She continued, “You don’t replace one evil with another. Anyone who promotes an industry that will induce a global nuclear war that will mean the end of most life on earth, the final epidemic of the human race; or anyone who promotes an industry that down the time track will induce hundreds of thousands of cases of childhood cancers and leukemia, and babies being born grossly deformed; or anyone who would promote an industry that actively promotes disease when we’re so worried about cancer and spend all this money trying to cure it – well, they have sold their souls as far as I’m concerned.”
I noted, “They say they’re not promoting it,” they’re just not actively opposing it.
“If you don’t actively oppose it, it will get through. They know that,” she responded – “especially with all the advertising being spent on by the nuclear industry which is a bunch of lies.” She added, “If you talk to the average person, they believe all this stuff. The power of propaganda is enormous.”
But environmental groups contacted by Truthout deny her claim that they’ve “sold their souls” or failed to vigorously criticize the nuclear industry, pointing to letters and testimony to Congressional committees. Tom Cochran, the senior scientist at NRDC’s nuclear program and perhaps the leading progressive expert on nuclear reactors in the country, pointed out, “Our position is that we’re opposed to additional federal subsidies for the construction of new nuclear plants, but NRDC is in favor of getting climate legislation through the House and Senate. In terms of process, we’re happy to move the process along.” He noted, for instance, “We don’t support all the principles of Kerry-Graham-Lieberman,” the most pro-industry proposal so far. “Our position is clear: we do not support additional subsidies.”
When I asked at what funding amount of subsidies the NRDC might be willing to draw a “line in the sand” and oppose the legislation, he replied, “I’m not going to negotiate through your publication.”
Caldicott and other experts say that even the claims that nuclear power is “clean air energy” fall apart when examined carefully. They have pointed out how over the full fuel lifecycle of a plant – from mining uranium to shipping it to “decommissioning” a plant – the nuclear process emits far more carbon and other greenhouse gases than the industry and its cheerleaders (and environmentalist enablers) admit. Indeed, according to one major study she cited, because of the need to find more uranium as higher-grade uranium disappears, using the poorer quality ores would “produce more C02 emissions than burning fossil fuels directly.”
Even so, “there’s a push for nuclear power,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth US. He noted that there were no limits on nuclear power in this latest nonbinding climate agreement – unlike the earlier Kyoto treaty, which the US didn’t sign, that restricted subsidies for nuclear power. And grassroots groups largely aren’t fighting back in a high-profile way against the industry’s drive for a $100 billion bailout in federal subsidies. “Right now, the environmental community wants a climate bill,” said Pica, whose group, along with Greenpeace and a few others, hasn’t supported the legislation moving through Congress, asserting it’s too industry-friendly.
In continuing her decades-long crusade against the health, financial and environmental dangers posed by nuclear energy, Caldicott and her outgunned allies are opposing an array of powerful institutional forces.
They include the Obama administration and its top scientists; an industry that has successfully sold itself as “clean air energy;” the tacit acceptance or muted opposition of such major environmental groups as the Sierra Club and the relative silence on the issue by most influential environmental journalists. All of them are joined in what critics view as a near-“conspiracy of silence” about nuclear power in order to advance the goal of supporting a purportedly carbon-reducing climate bill that can pass Congress.
Indeed, neither most grassroots environmentalists nor members of the broader progressive movement have been engaged to fight a nuclear bailout of $100 billion, if not trillions, in loan guarantees for nuclear plants that would, critics say, dry up funds for renewable industries that could be up and running quickly. In contrast, it takes as long as 10 years to build nuclear plants while the perils of global warming – from rising ocean levels to drought – have already begun.
The largely indifferent response to nuclear power has been in part because activists have taken their cues from leading national environmental organizations and progressive media outlets. And with a few exceptions, such as Mother Jones or Greenpeace, they have not aggressively opposed the advancement of nuclear energy in their eagerness for a climate bill. That stands in sharp contrast to the grassroots environmentalist opposition that coalesced against including a $50 billion bailout in 2007 energy legislation, including a superstar rock video. Despite new petitions today, the organizing against nukes is woefully outdone by supporters of the current climate legislation.
Yet, Helen Caldicott’s passion for stopping nuclear power hasn’t eased, and although she’s older now, she still brings the same fervor and implacable determination to explain the dangers of nuclear energy that she did as a glamorous activist in her 40s speaking to a larger global audience. It was well captured in an Oscar-winning documentary short,If You Love This Planet,”now the title of her syndicated radio show and updated book:

Art Levine, a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly, has written for Mother Jones, The American Prospect, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate.com, Salon.com and numerous other publications. He wrote the October 2007 In These Times cover story, “Unionbusting Confidential.” Levine is also the co-host of the “D’Antoni and Levine” show on BlogTalk Radio, every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. EST. He also blogs regularly on labor and other reform issues for In These Times and The Huffington Post.

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