The Secret GOOD NEWS from Fukushima
Many bad secrets have been revealed about Fukushima.
- Plant operator Tepco just admitted that it’s known for 2 years that massive amounts of radioactive water are leaking into the groundwater and Pacific Ocean
- Tepco, the Japanese government and the U.S. knew right after the 2011 accident that 3 nuclear reactors had lost containment, that the nuclear fuel had “gone missing”, and that there was in fact no real containment at all
- The Fukushima reactors were fatally damaged before the tsunami hit … the earthquake took them out even before the tidal wave hit
- Engineers warned Tepco and the Japanese government many years before the accident that the reactors were seismically unsafe … and that an earthquake could wipe them out
- Tepco – with no financial incentive to actually fix things – has only been pretending to clean it up. And see this
- Technology doesn’t currently even exist to stabilize and clean up Fukushima. Indeed, Tepco’s recent attempts to solidify the ground under the reactors using chemicals has backfired horribly. And NBC News notes: “[Tepco] is considering freezing the ground around the plant. Essentially building a mile-long ice wall underground, something that’s never been tried before to keep the water out. One scientist I spoke to dismissed this idea as grasping at straws, just more evidence that the power company failed to anticipate this problem … and now cannot solve it.”
- An accident in the U.S. could be a lot larger than in Japan … partly because our nuclear plants hold a lot more radioactive material
- An official Japanese government investigation concluded that the Fukushima accident was a “man-made” disaster, caused by “collusion” between government and Tepco and bad reactor design
- But it is the American government which is calling the shots in terms of Japanese nuclear policy … and has been for many decades
But there is some secret good news from Fukushima.
For example, Alternet reported last year:
[Robert Alvarez, a nuclear waste expert and former senior adviser to the Secretary of Energy during the Clinton administration] pointed out that the contents of the nine dry casks at the Fukushima Daiichi site were undamaged by the disaster.
“Nobody paid much attention to that fact,” Alvarez said. “I’ve never seen anybody at Tepco or anyone [at the NRC or in the nuclear industry] saying, ‘Well, thank god for the dry casks. They were untouched.’ They don’t say a word about it.”
What’s he talking about?
David Lochbaum – Director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, who worked as a nuclear engineer for nearly two decades, and has written numerous articles and reports on various aspects of nuclear safety and published two books – explained to Washington’s Blog:
[Q] I understand the U.S. reactors actually hold a lot more spent radioactive fuel in their fuel pools than the reactors at Fukushima?
[Q] And so a meltdown could be more dangerous here, hypothetically.
[A] Yes, that’s true.
[Q] Is dry cask the way to go?
[A] Yes. In fact, one of the secrets of Fukushima we’re trying to expose is that there were 408 fuel cells in dry cask storage at Fukushima. The building they were housed in was not much above the water level. The building and the dry casks were submerged when the tsunami hit. During that period, the water was providing the cooling that air normally does. Once the tsunami waters receded, the air cooling picked right back up. It’s the chimney effect. There’s no moving parts.
You don’t need pumps, you don’t need helicopters dropping water … you just need nature.
It’s not absolutely safe, but until we figure out what to do with this long-term, it’s a much better, more secure place to store it than in pools.
Indeed, a 5.8 earthquake hit the North Anna nuclear reactor in Virginia … and caused the dry cask storage units – containing radioactive waste – to move. But they protected the waste, and prevented leaks.
Likewise, when the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant was flooded in 2011, the dry casks rode out the flood without damage.
The former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in April:
Dry casks work very well as far as we know.
As we’ve previously noted:
Apologists for the nuclear power industry pretend there are no better alternatives, so we just have to suck it up and suffer through the Japanese nuclear crisis.
But this is wholly illogical. The truth is that we can store spent fuel rods in dry cask storage, which is much safer than the spent fuel rod pools used in Fukushima and many American reactors.
As the Nation pointed out:
Short of closing plants, there is a fairly reliable solution to the problem of spent fuel rods. It is called “dry cask storage.”
But there is a problem with dry cask storage: it costs money….
Get it? The Japanese and American governments are playing Russian roulette with the spent nuclear fuel at Fukushima and throughout the U.S. to save nuclear companies from having to spend a couple of million dollars to safely store spent fuel in dry casks.
Alternet pointed out last year:
Experts say the only near-term answer to better protect our nation’s existing spent nuclear fuel is dry cask storage. But there’s one catch: the nuclear industry doesn’t want to incur the expense, which is about $1 million per cask.
“So now they’re stuck,” said Alvarez, “The NRC has made this policy decision, which the industry is very violently opposed to changing because it saves them a ton of money. And if they have to go to dry hardened storage onsite, they’re going to have to fork over several hundred million dollars per reactor to do this.”
The American government has for decades wholly subsidized nuclear power.
And yet it can’t demand that nuclear power companies spend a couple of hundred millions to use dry cask storage to keep spent fuel safe … or print the money to buy them itself?
Or to otherwise protect nuclear plants from known risks? (Remember, a nuclear accident in the U.S. could cost trillions of dollars … and bankrupt our country.)
Then what is government for?
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Is Using Obviously Faulty Models to Pretend Crumbling Nuclear Reactors Are Safe
Faulty assumptions by America’s financial regulators led to the 2008 crash … and many other disastrous results.
Similarly, America’s main nuclear regulator – the Nuclear Regulatory Commission - made numerous assumptions before Fukushima that turned out to be totally false. For example, the NRC wrongly assumed:
(2) If radioactive gasses leak, they can only leak a maximum of 1% of their radioactive fuel per day. In reality, Fukushima’s lost 300% per day. In other words, the radioactive gases were leaving the containment every 8 hours
David Lochbaum – Director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, who worked as a nuclear engineer for nearly two decades, and has written numerous articles and reports on various aspects of nuclear safety and published two books – explained to Washington’s Blog some major erroneous assumptions that the NRC is making today about American nuclear plants:
The NRC has made some flawed assumptions. If you look at the chance of failure for a car, lightbulb or power plant, it’s governed by what’s called the “bathtub curve”. Specifically, the chance of failure is high early on due to material imperfections or assembly errors or the user just doesn’t know how to use the new “widget”. So there’s a break-in phase.
On the other side of the curve, the failure rate starts increasing again due to wear-out phase, due to aging, rusting, etc.
The NRC has been using that flat middle portion to justify reducing the frequency of inspections … even knowing that all of the plants are heading towards, if not already in, the wear-out phase, where the rate of failure starts increasing again.
So if you reduce the frequency based on the flat part of the curve, you may not be testing often enough, and things may break before you inspect and replace them.
In other words, the NRC is ignoring one of the fundamental laws of engineering science … which is putting us all at risk.
Moreover, Lochbaum explained that the enormous power the government has to create incentives is leading to unsafe nuclear plants:
[Q] I understand that president Obama announced a nuclear renaissance in the U.S.
[A] This year alone we had 4 nuclear power reactors shut down due to unfavorable economics. A number of other plants that were proposed were cancelled due to costs. [Background.]
Many of the existing reactors have been operated with up to a 20% higher power level than they originally were built for or licensed for.
Many have already been that way and there’s also a few applicants that have submitted requests to the NRC to do upgrades at their plant.
In addition, more than three-quarters of existing reactors have sought and obtained 20 year extensions to the original 40-year operating lifetimes, and the others are in the process of doing so as well.
There’s now talk of going from 60 to 80 years. Nobody has done that yet, but there’s some talk of that.
The industry’s success in boosting operating output from existing plants and extending the life of the plants has been a major factor in preventing new reactors from being deployed, because you’ve pushed off the need for replacements.
[Q] Would the new reactors be safer in your view?
[A] Actually not, and it was actually the Federal government that prevented that, even though that was not their intent.
Back in 1957, the Federal government passed what is called the Price-Anderson Act, which provides federal liability insurance for plant owners and vendors.
Because of that – whether you’re the safest or the least safe reactor in the world – you pay the same insurance rate. In a more unrestricted marketplace, you have a safer car or a safer feature, your insurance premium is lower. So therefore a buyer can say
“Yeah, it costs a little more up front, but I pay for that in 5 or 10 years down the road.
If you come up with a better mousetrap that costs more, the purchaser doesn’t get anything back.
So new reactors could be safer, because we’re smarter and we’ve learned more. But [federal insurance] makes it harder to sell, because the competitor down the road may not do that.
If a plant owner is looking at whether it would cost more to upgrade a 40 year old plant or to spend a little more to build a brand new reactor, the government is providing incentive for less safe things.
The government is not really doing right by the American public.
[Q] The government is not providing the correct long-term incentives to make smart decisions?
[Q] My impression is that the old reactors in the U.S. are more or less falling apart piece-by-piece. [Background.] And that they are so far past their original projected operating life that issues like corrosion and broken parts are catching up to them. Is that true technically?
[A] It is. Some of the owners are doing the care and upkeep to protect their investment.
But some owners – just because they don’t have enough money, or they’re short-sited, and just looking at this quarter’s bottom line – aren’t making those investments.
That’s where the NRC is supposed to step in and protect the public from degradation. But they’ve not shown a particularly aggressive role in that regard.
In March 2012, a senator asked the NRC whether Fukushima could happen here. NRC responded “no”.In fact, an NRC study had shown that if a certain dam in the U.S. fails, there’s a 100% chance that 3 reactors would melt down.
I personally think that the answer that Americans want to hear is the truth. “Yes, there’s a chance it could happen here, but here’s what we’re doing to fix it.” I think the public would have been reassured by that … not by the lies [that the NRC gave].
Lochbaum also explained that In extending the lifetimes of existing plants, one of the things that the NRC doesn’t do is go back and look at the rules themselves. Specifically, the NRC has grandfathered some reactors in … saying that new safety upgrades won’t be required, because the plant is nearing the end of its operating life.
But when the NRC grants a 20-year extension to the plant, it doesn’t go back to look at what safety problems the plant may have had before getting grandfathered in. In other words, the NRC sweeps all past safety issues under the rug … and irrationally pretends that the plant was in perfect shape when it’s renewal license was issued through the grandfather process. That false assumption also violates basic engineering principles.
If we don’t force the NRC to use sound engineering analysis, we might suffer a Fukushima-size nuclear accident … or worse.
- advertisements -