Nukes Run Wild – Momentous week in nuclear world

It has been a momentous week in the nuclear world. Last week’s announcement of the long-expected resignation of NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko seems to have set off a flurry of activity in the nuclear industry and its several lobbying and/or propaganda arms. Much of it apparently designed to distract attention from the international security threat posed by up to 15 power reactors at 5 nuclear stations damaged by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of last year off the northeastern coast of Japan, including 3 plants and 4 spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi.

Complicated by the ever-increasing costs of new nukes, the still unsolved issue of long term waste disposal, and all sorts of previously ‘secret’ documents that keep going out to individuals, investigative reporters and citizen groups in response to detailed FOIA filings and lawsuits.

Depending on where you get your news you can take an overtly biased ‘side’ in the debates based solely on what you’d most like to believe could be true. We are treated to articles from one side [UPI] about the precarious fragility of Daiichi’s spent fuel pools, while at the very same time being treated to industry lapdog IAEA’s pet public health propaganda arm WHO’s ridiculous dismissals of any possible long-term health effects – in Japan or elsewhere – no matter how much radioactive nastiness gets out. It can be downright confusing, to say the least.

Just two days after Jaczko’s announced retirement from the NRC, that agency and FEMA quietly overhauled emergency planning around this nation’s nuclear plants, cutting requirements for evacuations and emergency responder exercises. This diminished response flies in the face of the lessons that should have been learned from the disaster in Japan, even in the NRC’s own internal evaluations. The cut-backs coincided with a seriously flawed ‘new’ study released last week by a sometimes professor at the MIT nuclear department which is directly contradicted by previous MIT studies to the same subject as well as DOE’s ongoing low dose radiation research program.

Meanwhile, TEPCO itself reported last week that its latest estimates of radiation released from the Daiichi facility over the past 14 months amounts to 760,000 terabecquerels, including 400,000 Tbq of iodine-131 and 360,000 Tbq of cesium-137. 360,000 Tbq of 137 is 4 times the cesium-137 released by Chernobyl in 1986, which resulted in a 1600 square mile exclusion zone that remains unfit for human habitation today, more than 26 years later.

As costs for new nuclear plants keep rising along with the overt and hidden government subsidies without which the industry could not compete, the few plants ordered in the United States are running headlong into citizen groups and state utility commission resistance. Even without factoring future costs of decommissioning and long term waste disposal (which still doesn’t exist after half a century), nuclear weighs in at more than $10,800 per kilowatt hour and rising (as of 2009). That’s two to three times the cost of renewable alternatives, for which per-kilowatt costs are steadily falling. Forcing yet more dangerous nukes on income-strapped Americans struggling to make ends meet in the worst economy since the Great Depression makes no rational sense no matter how you parse the data.

As for those future costs the nuclear industry has studiously kept hidden for the entirety of its existence, the Government Accountability Office [GAO] found in a report released in April of this year that utility accounts toward future decommissioning costs are badly underfunded and at risk of losses. GAO made a series of recommendations to the NRC on how to strengthen the funds, but no one really expects the now consolidated Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do anything about it. Heck, nobody expected that much even during the nearly 7.5 years of Jaczko’s tenure on the commission.

This means there is not enough money in the funds to properly decommission any of the nation’s 104 commercial nuclear reactors, so we can expect when the time comes that taxpayers will once again be tapped to pay far more than we ever bargained for. Should any of our nukes suffer serious accident, taxpayers will also foot the bill for damages and clean-up. Of course, the NRC has now publicly embraced a singular biased study to assert that radiation poses no danger to the public health, thus no one need be evacuated when multi-megawatt power reactors melt down, melt through, explode and/or burn.

Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure the economic damages to local residents and businesses can be zeroed out completely with a little help from the judicial system to dismiss individual and class action lawsuits filed by people who suspect their children’s cancers and early deaths might have been caused by significant amounts of radioactive contamination in the air, water and food supply.

It seems like right at the time when we should be actively planning for the total shut-down of the nuclear industry, we’re getting hit instead with the total insanity of nuclear expansion. The definition of insanity, after all, is doing the same thing over and over again, each time expecting a different outcome.

And just to illustrate the true magnitude of our precarious situation, scientists at the Max Planck institute have this past week reported that the likelihood of serious nuclear accidents is 200 times greater than previously thought. And they didn’t even factor newly revised seismic vulnerabilities to reach that figure.

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About author
Joy Thompson is a featured author at Enformable, and has written multiple books on radiation and health with her husband Randall. Joy is a former nuclear health physicist in the nuclear industry. Her husband Randall also served in the U.S. Navy Nuclear Submarine program and went on to work in the nuclear industry, and both Joy and Randall served at Three Mile Island.
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13 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. captddd@hotmail.com'

    FINALLY some credible reporting on what has up until this point been mostly Nuclear Baloney* foisted upon both the Japanese and all those now breathing Fukushima radioactive pollution GLOBALLY…

    LEFT UNSAID, is why anyone should accept any amounts of radioactive pollution from any reactor World-Wide. If radioactive pollution from say Iran or North Korea covered the USA and Europe like Fukushima’s radioactivity is ow doing, the USA and or NATO would be considering bombing them or at lease rattling sabers; yet because it is Japan, the Nuclear Fascists** just put on a happy face and lobby for ever more nuclear reactors.

    Thanks to the web and blogs like this one, many have taken up the call to report on what is really happening not just in Japan but in every Country that is plagued by leaking and or aged reactors. No more are people willing to accept the myth of 100% safety since Fukushima proved beyond a doubt that Nature can destroy any land based nuclear reactor, any place anytime 24/7/365! That realization plus the RISK of a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster like Fukushima have made even previous supporters of nuclear energy rethink future Energy plans. With the cost of Solar (of all flavors) dropping almost monthly and the cost of nuclear spiraling ever upward, shifting to renewables has never been more practical unless you are receiving some form of Nuclear Payback***.

    * http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Nuclear+Baloney

    ** http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=nuclear+fascism

    *** http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Nuclear+payback

    Those that support nuclear power because nuclear power somehow supports them; no matter what the health implications or other “costs” are for others.

  2. wntewstom@hsmail.com'

    Bullseye again, Joieau! Thank you.

    Now…. keep a close eye on the next card up the nuclear industry’s sleeve which will be the new NRC studies to determine if there’s a correlation between cancer and people living near nuclear power plants.

    Let’s face it; if they find a correlation, the statistics will be skewed to say they didn’t.

    But if you pay attention, read articles from around the country, and listen to testimony of mothers around the country, there appears to be increases in brain tumors and leukemia in children, especially girls, living near nuclear power plants.

    Some San Onofre mothers talked about this, as just one example.

    Somewhere there needs to be a collection/database of this information kept in order to counterbalance industry-funded spin.

  3. joybusey@gmail.com'

    You are both right as rain. Unfortunately. Just when we most need to be doing something serious about these monstrosities, we’re paddling backwards down the creek and there’s this really big waterfall up ahead…

    Thanks. It’s criminal that we still have to deal with this garbage after Fukushima.

    • sandwitchforme@yahoo.com'

      Remember what happened with Chernobyl? WHO and UNSCEAR disregarded all information other than government funded. That is what we have to look forward too when this gets brought to the table.

      I’m really sick of this crud.

  4. Joybusey@gmail.com'

    Nuclear governments are never going to acknowledge nuclear reality. It’s up to the people to force change in the right direction.

    Trick is for us to bring it to the table and insist. Nothing they do to try and save themselves from their own shortsightedness and corruption should surprise us, or slow us down.

    Thanks, stopnp.

  5. jpsand@eastlink.ca'

    Thank you Joieau! Enformable is lucky to have you and so are we. NOTE: it now appears there was a calculation error in the some of the original MSM reporting about TEPCO’s new radiation estimates. Ex-Skf picked up on it and EneNews subsequently readdressed the matter as well. Please have a look at this and give us your assessment of the ‘corrections’.

    Here’s the LINK: http://enenews.com/update-fukushima-is-not-4%C2%BD-chernobyls-of-cs-137-but-it-is-worse-doubly-ironic-that-it-is-all-thanks-to-yomiuri-shinbun-pro-nuke-establishment-newspaper

    I hope you’ll weigh in on this, and update if need be. All the best. Look forward to seeing MUCH MORE of your writing here.

  6. richardperrycolumbia@shaw.ca'

    Did you count the Plutonium radiation.

  7. joybusey@gmail.com'

    Hmm… That’s very interesting, JP. And I encourage everyone to check out the link below to see what passes as the explanation for this confusion –

    http://allegedlyapparent.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/fukushimas-cs-137-is-not-four-chernobyls-russia-today-spreading-misinformation/

    I have read it several times and it remains just as obscure, but perhaps it will sink in at some point. This is something apparently cooked up between TEPCO and IAEA which multiplies all March 11-31, 2011 releases of iodine, cesium-134 and 137 by 40 to report as if it were all iodine (?).

    Why anyone would want to do that is not explained. I’m attempting to fathom a reason that makes some kind of sense, as iodine is in no way equivalent to cesium in its specific dangers to living organisms. Thus it can’t possibly have to do with bio-limitations of the isotopes involved even though these volatiles are of the most concern for biohazard in any meltdown-related releases.

    The gamma signature of cesium, however, is close enough for iodine to “mask” the cesium signature(s) over the course of a couple of half-lives during very serious releases – such as those from Fukushima’s 3 100% meltdowns and melt-throughs plus explosions and fires. Given the short duration of these release estimates – 20 days or 2.5 half-lives of i131 – I surmise that they are using this method to extrapolate a guess as to how much cesium was released during this 20-day time period. Because they have no actual data on cesium for this time period, because the iodine was masking it.

    That is the only thing I can think of that would lend any kind of credence to such an extrapolation. As to how accurate it may or may not be, I have no clue. TEPCO has vacillated for nearly 15 months about how much of what has gone out, and there is no firm indication that physical measurements were even possible from the massive explosions. And the guesstimates would be radically different based on whether or not the 100% core inventories of the 3 reactors were included, or if they merely assumed these releases were exclusive to the fuel pools.

    At any rate, thank you for pointing out this adjustment to what was reported.

  8. joybusey@gmail.com'

    Hi, Richard. No, from what I can gather these guesstimates are exclusive to iodine-131, cesium-134 and cesium 137, plus the xenon. Which, since these are all fission products and not likely to be found in a spent fuel pool unless it’s fissioning, must be assumed to have been released to the Rx building atmospheres during the non-venting venting. I say non-venting because the containment vents needed electricity to operate and would have released to the vent stacks NOT the Rx building atmospheres. Had those been operational the buildings would not have blown up.

    Also remember this covers the first 20 days only, not any releases to air or water over the past ~14.5 months. And no, release estimates for all other fuel and fission products – the full retinue, including the plutonium isotopes – are not included in this breakdown or extrapolation.

  9. joybusey@gmail.com'

    Thus for this extrapolation of cesiums from releases so high in iodine that it masked them, the presumed source must be the reactors, not the fuel pools. If the fuel pools contributed significantly to the releases over this 20-day period, cesium would be a much greater proportion than is assumed in the listed extrapolation.

    Which lends another level of raised eyebrow to the whole scenario. We can expect further future adjustments to reported releases as the principals keep on attempting to convince the public that 3 100% meltdown/blow-outs and 4 densely packed and ‘critically stressed’ fuel pools have somehow released less radioactive contamination than a single half-melted Russian reactor (no fuel pool involvement) back in 1986.

    Hmmm…

  10. succes7@hsmail.com'

    Joieau and ALL,

    Have you taken a look at the wealth of information at http://www.nuclearcrimes.org ?

    It’s not my site….it’s just that it’s so full of interesting tidbits that I think it’s worth bringing attention to.

  11. joybusey@gmail.com'

    Interesting site, AD. Thanks for the tip!

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