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UPDATE:  4/9/22

The IAEA:  “You had one job, only one job.  And…”

CNN has made it to Chernobyl before the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA. The IAEA has expressed only an intense sense of urgency regarding getting into the Chernobyl site and the exclusion zone and yet they are not there but CNN is. The IAEA lost all ability to track the nuclear fuel on the site to prevent nuclear proliferation at Chernobyl when Russia seized the site. They have not been there to check the radiation levels at the facility or within the Red Forest where the Russian soldiers dug trenches and likely contaminated themselves. The IAEA has not been able to ensure the safety and security of the nuclear site or provide the safeguards needed to protect nuclear materials. The IAEA has not been able to confirm the radiation exposure to Russian soldiers or to what level of exposure they received. These are all duties of the IAEA. How can nuclear power operate safely in a world that goes to war when IAEA members go rogue and do not follow the guideline or treaties regarding nuclear power facilities as Russia has done in Ukraine?
The European Union should be helping Ukraine move to a 100% renewable energy supply so they can shutdown their nuclear power plants.  Certainly the Ukrainian people do not want another Chernobyl on their land, impacting the Ukrainian people, Europe or the world.

https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/08/europe/chernobyl-russian-withdrawal-intl-cmd/index.html

 

UPDATE:  4/8/22

From Moscow to Kansas

This certainly makes you wonder what cyberattacks are being tried now and how many years from now we will hear about them.

https://www.flatlandkc.org/news-issues/inside-story-kansas-cyber-spies-nuclear-power-and-the-ukraine-war/?utm_medium=email&fbclid=IwAR3y1A3hi1WttZchie2f_cP-5JBN_7v6sPMX_AZwnnmUAqQyQmeEP6hphFY

 

UPDATE:  4/4/22

Russian troop’s exposure to radiation.

It has been reported that Russian troops have been exposed to radiation in the Chernobyl zone. We have been searching for more detailed information as to the level of illness the Russian troops have. How sick they are would give some indication as to the level of exposure they received. Could the troops have received an ‘acute’ dose from digging in the Red Forest area which has the highest levels of radiation in the exclusion zone or did they have exposure to some other radioactive materials at the actual Chernobyl facility? We hope answers will be forthcoming from Russia and Belarus, who reports say are treating the soldiers. Both Russia and Belarus are members of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, and if they decide not to cooperate with the IAEA on conveying accurate information it will just be yet another example of how the IAEA has no real power or authority over IAEA members when they go rogue and put everyone at risk of another nuclear disaster.

The global nuclear industry has been telling the world that nuclear reactors could be operated safely, that nuclear proliferation could be prevented and that humans could be stewards over nuclear waste for generations into the future. What we have found now, in just 36 years since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, is that a country that had agreed to operate within the global nuclear industry rules can on any given day decide to disregard safety and security of nuclear reactors and their stored waste. They can send soldiers into nuclear contamination zones who are ignorant to the special nuclear agreements their country entered into previously and who are uninformed to the harm they put themselves and others in through their actions. We are not capable of being good stewards of the aftermath of nuclear disasters or nuclear waste now and we cannot expect generations 200 years from now to remember what hazards Chernobyl or Fukushima are. The nuclear industry and the IAEA have cloaked themselves in a veneer of safety & security and non-proliferation safeguards that have been exposed as ineffective and easily transgressed.

https://thebulletin.org/2022/04/russian-forces-leave-chernobyl-un-watchdog-offers-ukraine-more-help/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=MondayNewsletter04042022&utm_content=NuclearRisk_RussianForcesLeaveChernobyl_04012022

 

 

2022 has been quite a year so far.  No sooner do we begin recovering from the gut-punching reminder of “Don’t Look Up!” that we have a potentially civilization ending Climate Code Red to contend with, and fast, when along comes – Russia. Read more

       
 

UKRAINE NUCLEAR UPDATE —  3/6/2022, 9 pm (CST)

Gail Snyder, NEIS Board President

Ukraine has 4 sites with a total of 15 operational reactors, Chernobyl is also a nuclear site of concern because of the nuclear waste stored on site as well as the contaminated accident site. Read more

Ukraine Nuclear update: 10 pm, Thursday, March 3, 2022

Like many of you we are watching the situation in Ukraine with the nuclear power plants unfold as if our worst nightmare is coming true. 

By Gail Snyder, NEIS Board President

CHERNOBYL

The Chernobyl nuclear facility is now occupied by the Russians and did experience a large spike in radiation that returned to its previous normal level. It is not understood what caused the spike in radiation and it is our understanding that new radiation levels have not been updated. It has been speculated that the army moving about the area disturbed the contaminated soil causing the radiation to spike. We have also heard that such a high spike in radiation would have to have been caused by something else, possibly opening the sarcophagus that covers the damaged reactor but we do not have any confirmation that anything like that occurred and as far as we know that is just a theory of what could have caused the spike.

ZAPORIZHZHYA
The brave Ukrainians that blocked the Russians from accessing the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant were overtaken by the Russians. As you are probably already aware there are currently multiple types of artillery fire around the nuclear power plant and a structure adjacent to or within the nuclear site is on fire. Such a facility has many buildings. We do not know what is on fire. CNN this evening had the spokesperson for the facility, Android Tuz, on, he said, “many buildings are on fire” but “not fire on the reactor”. He also said firefighters cannot enter the facility to put the fire out.

There are six reactors at this site, one is in operation but all six are loaded with fuel in the reactors according to the spokesperson.  This is the largest nuclear reactor site in Europe

The spokesperson said a nuclear accident could occur at any time if the Russians start firing weapons again. It seems to have stopped for the moment.

There is a great amount of spent nuclear fuel on the site. Which is of equal or greater concern that the reactors themselves depending on how the spent reactor fuel is stored.

Under the current situation there are many ways that significant damage can cause a nuclear accident to either the fuel in the reactors or to the spent fuel. A meltdown of any fuel could cause a significant release of radiation into the environment impacting those nearest the facility and anyone downwind.

Here is a link to the latest IAEA update but it is already outdated as it does not talk about the fire.

https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/update-9-iaea-director-general-statement-on-the-situation-in-ukraine

Russia Attacks Ukraine – LIVE BREAKING NEWS COVERAGE (Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant, War Updates)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HVRapGiNoY

 

 

ILLINOIS ENERGY TRANSFORMATION #29:

When Nuclear Power Meets War

Feb. 24, 2022

As I write this, the World is greeted with the news that Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  The feeling in my stomach is the same as I had when I watched the Fukushima reactors in Japan explode in early March, 2011.  It comes from thinking and remembering the people I met in Kyiv in 2006 at the 20th anniversary of the Chornobyl (Ukrainian spelling) disaster conference NEIS helped plan;  the beauty of old, historic Kyiv; the memory of St. Andrew’s Church (my favorite of the many old ones, even better than St. Sophia and St. Michael.) – and how all of these are now in grave danger. Read more

[NOTE: Due to COVID, event could not be held at the University of Chicago Campus ‘Nuclear Energy’ Statue so it was held online via Zoom conference.]

Good Evening, Thank you all for your concern and time regarding this issue and thank you to Charles Strain for organizing this event as well as to Roberta Siegel, Jack Lawler and Brad Little for all the work on past events.

I am Gail Snyder and serve as President of the Board of Nuclear Energy Information Service a 39 year old non-profit organization based in Chicago. We are focused primarily on bringing an end to the use of nuclear energy locally here in Illinois as well as the nation and the world.

By now most of you have seen the footage of the explosion in Beirut Lebanon linked to the storage of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate on the edge of a harbor in a city of over one million people. Estimates are that over 130 have died and over 5,000 were wounded. 300,000 people are homeless as a result and the damages are estimated to be upwards of $15 billion dollars.

The pictures and videos of the devastation and impact to people as they went about their daily lives there are heart breaking.

Now I want you to think about what if they had been warned. What if someone told them there is something dangerous stored in your community that can do so much damage that if you live through it your community may not recover? Would people demand the danger be removed? Would they protest? Would they accept the risk and keep living there?

Four Hiroshima Day alums — Bradford Lyttle and friend, Roberta and Howard Siegel — show up anyway at the Henry Moore Sculpture, Univ. of Chicago, Aug. 6, 2020.

Our organization and others are sending out a warning that we have something dangerous in our communities and it is nuclear energy and the nuclear waste it produces. If it was a nuclear power plant that melted down in Beirut the damage would have been widespread and long lasting. There would be no rebuilding and returning to live there because the area would be a permanent exclusion zone like those created when the nuclear energy power plants melted down in Chernobyl in the Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan. Everything would be abandoned. There would be no returning to get your household items or your car, no community to return to. Radiation levels could be so high that rescue efforts might not be attempted. If you can imagine if the white part of that explosion you see on the video in Beirut was radioactive thousands of people would be exposed to radiation depending on which way the wind was blowing. The difference being that in a nuclear meltdown no huge explosion and shockwave would occur and no visible warning that radiation was coming toward you or was all around you be obvious to you. It is invisible and deadly.

The explosion in Beirut was small by comparison to the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and miniscule by comparison to the modern nuclear weapons countries have today which if dropped on Beirut could easily kill 150,000 to 400,000 people instantly.  By comparison almost 160,000 people have died in the U.S. from Covid-19 but that took several months.

The connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons is clear. Nuclear reactors at nuclear energy facilities create the fuel for nuclear weapons. Recently countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have advanced their nuclear energy programs. We would argue those countries don’t need nuclear power for energy. The expansion of nuclear power brings with it the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. If we want to say “never again” in regards to Hiroshima and Nagasaki we must address the dangers of existing and expanding nuclear energy.

Water IS Life: Stop Polluting the Pacific Ocean!

Today, we observe the 6th anniversary of the ongoing nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in Japan.  Six years after what is arguably the world’s worst nuclear disaster, one which was avoidable even under the extraordinary conditions of the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, Japan’s destroyed reactors continue to dump between 300-400 tons of water contaminated with radionuclides daily into the Pacific Ocean.  These radioactive discharges not only represent an immediate health threat to the local bio-systems, they have now been detected with certainty as far away as the U.S. Pacific West Coast.

After 6 years we have seen:

  • the failure of the ice wall containment to keep radioactive run-off water out of the Pacific Ocean;
  • the ever growing contaminated water tank farms;
  • confirmation of three complete core melts, with no idea how to clean them up;
  • government imposition of radiation standards on the general population of Japan, especially young school children most vulnerable to the effects of radiation, many times greater than those allowed for nuclear plant workers in Europe and North America;
  • accusations taken to the United Nations of human rights violations perpetrated against children and women in Japan from the contaminated areas;
  • corruption complaints against the numerous private contractors conducting the so-called cleanup efforts;
  • and finally, the daily flow of 400 tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean – the WORLD’S largest body of surface water.

In spite of Japan’s best efforts, it is clear that no substantive progress has been made, and no solution is in sight.  Fukushima is now a  WORLD catastrophe.  It requires a WORLD intervention.

In essence Japan’s inability to contain the ongoing Fukushima disaster constitutes a crime against humanity, one that will last far into the future.  It also demonstrates Japan’s inability to get the situation under control on its own, a situation which therefore calls for international intervention – voluntarily accepted or not; and/or sanctions from the world community whose health and future the continued contamination jeopardizes.

As we learned this past year at Oceti Sakowin (Standing Rock), “Water is Life;” and the Pacific Ocean is the WORLD’S water.  Japan must consider internationalization of the continued efforts to stop the Fukushima catastrophe.  We feel there is no choice remaining but to petition the United Nations to create an international intervention team to stop the ongoing contamination of the Pacific Ocean, and of Japan.

EVENING PROGRAM

Short films and discussion about the Fukushima disaster will take place at the NEIS Office in the evening of march 10th: 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.,  3411 W. Diversey, Ste. 13, Chicago IL  60647.  This is in Logan Square, Chicago, at Kimball, Milwaukee and Diversey Aves., at the Logan Square Blue Line “L” stop.  Open to the public.  Admission free.

 

Read more

Letter to the Editors     

The “nuclear hostage crisis” is finally over.  Governor Rauner and the Illinois Legislature has ordered all Illinois ratepayers to pay the $2.35 billion ransom to Exelon Corporation over the next ten years, ostensibly to save the ~1,500 jobs at the Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear reactors.  That amounts to $1.57 million for each job “saved.”  Heckuva job, Raunie!

But this threat of job loss has only been postponed not eliminated.  Every operating reactor has an inevitable ending hanging over it known as its operating license termination date – the date beyond which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says, “Game over, lights out!”  That date is publicly available, and was known in advance for Clinton and Quad, and for all other Illinois reactors – meaning that every reactor community in Illinois will at some point be going through the same psychodrama that unfolded around Clinton and Quad Cities recently.

Make no mistake – the impact of Exelon’s closure threats were real, needed to be taken seriously, and would have been hugely painful to those communities.  Loss of jobs, reduced tax base and reduction of public services are all very real effects experienced by the Zion community when ComEd closed those reactors in 1998, effects from which it still has not recovered, according to Mayor Al Hill.

Responsible governance calls for this never happening again.  Responsible governance calls for pro-active plans to insure that workers are protected, and local tax bases are not decimated overnight by legally allowed corporate caprice.  Illinois needs a “reactor exit strategy” in place BEFORE the next nuclear hostage crisis occurs.

Gov. Rauner said he supported the Exelon bailout because, “closing the plants would have “devastated the two communities.”  If he really and truly believes that, then he should have worked to bail out the potentially devastated communities, not the hugely profitable Exelon corporation.

For over 2 years our organization argued that the State must insist that a “just transitions” program be instituted to protect reactor (and perhaps coal) communities from the withdrawal of “company town” utilities like Exelon.  Absent such a proactive plan, this “bailout tango” will be repeated in the future when Byron, LaSalle, Dresden and Braidwood start to become “unprofitable” for Exelon.

We spelled out potential funding mechanisms, which are eminently negotiable. We left copies of this plan at the offices of over 40 legislators and state officials, including Governor Rauner’s office, Rep. Madigan’s office, Sen. Cullerton’s office, the AG’s office, and numerous individual legislators including Sen. Radogno, the Clean Jobs Bill sponsors, and others.  We personally gave copies to Sen. Chapin Rose who represents the Clinton community, and representatives from the Quad Cities chamber of commerce and City Administrator of Clinton.  We made it part of our testimony before the House and Senate Energy Committees.  We urged that it become a topic of discussion and negotiation in the recently enacted legislation.

No luck.

Evidently. legislators love 6-hour public hearings, and annual bailout proceedings.  It’s much easier to pass the bills along to disempowered ratepayers than to engage in responsible governance.

Already, Exelon has announced to Bloomberg Press that it’s possible that the Byron nuclear station could become economically challenged as early as 2017.  We asked legislators during the House Energy Committee hearing on the Exelon bailout if they will convene more six hour hearings to debate more bailouts when Dresden becomes challenged, or Braidwood, or LaSalle.  Then, they can start with the coal communities.  Or alternately, they can plan ahead for the inevitable.

Now that Exelon has received its pound of flesh, the public needs protection.  The Spring legislative session would not be too soon to enact a “just transitions” provision that protects both communities affected by powerplant closures, and Illinois ratepayers now forced to pay ransom to delay them.

But then, that would require governance.  And this is Illinois.

 

Published Version

NOTE: A version of this letter appeared in the State Journal Register, Dec. 13, 2016

Star Journal Register

 

An old Mark Twain adage states that a falsehood gets half-way around the world before Truth gets its boots on.  Its wisdom and accuracy is thoroughly proven – by the fact that Mark Twain was probably not the one who said this.

The wisdom of the adage has again been amply demonstrated by recent articles written by pro-nuclear advocates calling for the bailout of money-losing nuclear plants based on the dubious contention that they are needed to combat climate change. 

While this contention is flat out wrong, it does prove yet another adage:  “Never send in an engineer when you need an economist.”

The recent guest letter in the Cleveland.com/Cleveland Plain Dealer by Henry Spitz, a professor in nuclear and radiological engineering at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science [1] has made claims that are contestable at best, flat out wrong at worst concerning both the need to bail out failing nuclear plants to combat climate change, and that recent events in Illinois and New York demonstrate that environmentalists and legislatures are somehow endorsing this position. Upton Sinclair warnings aside, his interpretation of events is quite erroneous.

In the case of the Illinois example he cites, he claims, “Illinois recognized the value of nuclear power to meeting its clean energy goals by adopting a zero emission standard.” [1]  This glib pronouncement totally ignores the complex and often irrational political process that created that outcome.

Exelon Corporation originally created a “nuclear hostage” crisis in Illinois by using the threat of job loss to try to get the legislature to pass a multi-billion dollar nuclear bailout during election years; and the fig-leaf, after the fact “benefit” that nuclear plants were necessary to meet the state’s anticipated EPA carbon footprint reduction goals.  Over several years the Company’s political strategy rationales for the nuclear bailout changed in substance and frequency as much as did the explanations for why we invaded Iraq back in 2003.  In the end Exelon’s final motive was reported in Crain’s Chicago Business on Nov. 11, 2016 [2]:

“Exelon now has dubbed the legislation, which still hasn’t been introduced officially, as the Future Energy Jobs Bill. That underscores the company’s emphasis on preserving and creating jobs rather than the environmental benefits of keeping nuclear plants open.

The bill “was not driven by the Clean Power Plan, although it had meeting those goals as an added benefit,” Exelon said in a statement. “This bill is about economics—both for Illinois consumers and for the state’s future prospects for economic development.” [2]

This telling statement was made after Exelon attempted to make alliances with downstate coal companies to get the votes needed for passage of the nuclear bailout bill, which would have resulted in some coal plants getting bailouts as well.  This gambit failed when environmental groups withdrew their support for the Exelon legislation.  So much for nuclear utility Exelon’s fig-leaf commitment to abating climate change through nuclear power.

Professor Spitz continues saying, “The Illinois measure also strengthened and expanded the state’s renewable portfolio standard, requiring greater use of solar power and wind turbines, and it expanded energy efficiency programs.” [1]

What Prof. Spitz either ignores or is unaware of is that the “strengthen[ing] and expand[ing of] the state’s renewable portfolio standard” had been held hostage for several years, and its passage was not some energy alleluia moment; but rather a political trade-off predicated on the passage of some form of nuclear bailout first.  This was the only way Exelon lobbyists would permit fixing Illinois’ broken renewable portfolio standard. Legislative leadership ordered the competing parties – Exelon, environmental groups, utility ComEd — to negotiate among themselves, and come back with legislative sausage where everybody got something, whether or not deserved or sound energy policy.

In plain English – environmental groups would get no such renewables expansion unless they first agreed to a nuclear bailout.  There are legal terms that define such conditions.  None are particularly flattering.

Prof. Spitz and others go further in their efforts to rationalize the continued existence of uneconomic nuclear reactors by claiming – quite falsely – that “environmentalists” are backing such plans.  Professor Spitz asserts,

“What’s so striking about the Illinois action is that environmentalists joined labor and business leaders in backing it. Among the environmental groups that signed on were the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund. Something like that would have been unimaginable five years ago but it suggests that the environmental community now recognizes that nuclear power must play a role in the battle against climate change.” [1]

As a self-described scientist, Professor Spitz should understand that, just as correlation does not imply causality, coincidence does not necessarily equal agreement.

Many instances of this blatant distortion of reality have occurred over the past year, most notably involving an attempt by the Wall Street Journal  to push that angle back in late June, 2016 [3].  This assertion was quickly rebutted by clarifying statements from Sierra Club director Michael Brune and others, and in a spectacularly devastating article by Miranda Spencer of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting [4] at the time:

“Sierra Club remains opposed to dangerous nuclear power, and our efforts to make sure these plants shut down continue. Our successful work to stop and retire coal, oil, and gas operations has not precluded this important work, nor will it in the future. It’s imperative that we move toward an economy powered by 100% clean, renewable energy like wind and solar right away.” [5]  — Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, June 17, 2016

But, let’s see what “the environmentalists” in Illinois said about the nuclear bailout legislation Professor Spitz gushes over.  Was it really a recognition that nuclear has a role to play in battling climate change?  Illinois Sierra Club director Jack Darin apparently did not think so – and neither did many other environmental groups — at the bill-signing on December 7, 2016:

“These are huge leaps forward for clean energy, but the Future Energy Jobs Bill was also a compromise that includes ratepayer support for two nuclear power plants. To be clear, the Sierra Club remains opposed to nuclear power, and we do not consider nuclear to be clean energy.  While we fought for our clean energy priorities, we strongly opposed Exelon’s proposed “Low Carbon Portfolio Standard,” which would have subsidized all of Exelon’s six nuclear reactors, to the exclusion of renewable power. We defeated that proposal, and championed the Illinois Clean Jobs bill as a much better alternative. However, after nearly two years, legislative leaders and the Governor convened all stakeholders with the directive to agree on a single, comprehensive energy proposal. We fought and won to make renewable energy and energy efficiency the cornerstones of the compromise legislation, and of Illinois’ energy future.” [6] – Jack Darin, Director, Illinois Sierra Club, Dec. 7, 2016

This is hardly the ringing endorsement of nuclear’s roles in combating climate change that Prof. Spitz and others assert.

When you buy into nuclear power, it really is a lot like buying a burrito – you have to take everything they stuff inside it, and can’t cherry pick the contents after the fact.  You have to take the radioactive wastes, the Fukushima’s and Chornobyl’s, the perpetual cost overruns, the counterfeit and substandard parts, and above all – the multi-billion dollar bailouts of economically failing reactors, along with the, um, oh yeah, less-carbon intensive electricity.  But that’s not how nuclear is sold by its supporters, which tend to glibly gloss over, distort, or ignore these downsides, and more often than not seem to possess the Alfred E. Newman attitude of, “What – me worry?”

These nuclear wealth-transfer schemes (from public ratepayer wallets to private company shareholder portfolios) mortgage our energy future by bailing out the past.  Ask any blacksmith or clipper ship sail manufacturer you meet how far that will get you.

If nuclear proponents can so egregiously misinterpret an outcome, whether by ignorance of readily available and necessary facts or by deliberately cherry-picking the data to arrive at a self-aggrandizing outcome, then perhaps the public’s mistrust of nuclear power has not been so misplaced after all.  If that’s how they do their science and engineering, we’re all in big trouble.

 

SOURCES:
[1]  “Save Ohio’s two nuclear plants and continue their contributions to clean energy: Henry Spitz (Opinion),“ Cleveland.com and Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jan 16, 2017.  http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/01/save_nuclear_power_in_ohio_and.html

[2] “Trump election takes some air out of Exelon’s Illinois energy bill,” Crain’s Chicago Business, November 11, 2016

[3] “Environmental Groups Change Tune on Nuclear Power,” Amy Harder, Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2016.

[4]  “WSJ Fakes a Green Shift Toward Nuclear Power,” Miranda Spencer, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), June 24, 2016.

[5] Sierra Club Statement on Nuclear Power Plants, June 17, 2016,  http://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2016/06/sierra-club-statement-nuclear-power-plants

[6] Illinois Sierra Club press statement, Dec. 7, 2016, http://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2016/12/sierra-club-statement-signing-future-energy-jobs-bill

 

OPPORTUNITIES MISSED, LESSONS NOT LEARNED

The 5th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster seems an apt time to recall the advice of philosopher and essayist George Santayana, who warned: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Regrettably, the Orwellian truth is that the history of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster is not only being “forgotten;” it is being radically altered by what the late Jeff Patterson, past President of Physicians for Social Responsibility, called “nuclear industry SCUM: Secrecy, Cover-Up, and Minimization,” that nuclear industry advocates and their supporters in governments proliferate.  This inevitably results in opportunities being missed, and lessons going unlearned.

In Chicago the week before the March 11th anniversary, the Japanese Consulate announced a series of memorial events relating to the disaster.  Virtually all the focus was on the effects of the tsunami.  Virtually nothing was mentioned about the ongoing nuclear disaster.  This massive and obvious denial of the existence of what is arguably one of the largest industrial disasters in the human history recalls the same kind of reaction the Japanese government took towards the Rape of Nanking and the Korean “comfort girls.”  It is hard to learn anything useful that would prevent the recurrence of Rising Sun Flag Radioactivefuture disasters when the perpetrators don’t even acknowledge the existence of the ongoing problem.

Recent headlines lend credence to Patterson’s SCUM theory.  As recently as Feb 24th it was revealed [3] that both TEPCo and the Japanese government knew that reactors had melted down as early as March 12, 2011, yet both denied this until May of that year, and for years refused to admit to the extent of the damage.  Reports of under-reporting radiation levels [5], worker exposures and injuries, and extent of hazard have all been trickling out over the past five years.

Japan’s responses to the disaster in light of the revelation of situations far worse than officially acknowledged have been equally Orwellian – if not outright criminal.  In the five years since the disaster, the Japanese Government has: repeatedly understated or outright lied about the seriousness of the initial disaster, and the subsequent levels of pollution and contamination relating to it and the clean-up [1,2,3]; enacted “secrecy laws” that would result in the prosecution of journalists reporting negatively on the disaster and the so-called “clean-up” operations;  decided that all of Japan should “share the pain” of the disaster, by spreading around to all other prefectures the millions of bags of radioactively contaminated debris [8] collected in the Fukushima area, as well as incinerating this waste in those other prefectures; deemed foods grown in the Fukushima area safe for consumption and export; minimized the emergence of a spike in thyroid-related conditions, as well as the 100+ surgeries that have taken place relating to thyroid disease [8]; refused clean-up help from the 700+ retired nuclear personnel of the Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima, who not only had professional expertise to offer, but who because of age were attempting to reduce exposure to younger workers of reproduction ages.

The government has totally ignored the demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of Japanese people protesting the restart of Japan’s reactors (echoing sentiments of 2/3 of the population), and calling for their replacement with renewable energy.  Currently, it is in effect forcing evacuees to return to potentially contaminated areas or else lose their victim compensation.  And certainly not the least – it has failed to prosecute anyone from TEPCo or the government for their contributing roles in the ongoing disaster.

It has taken five years for anyone to finally be indicted [4] for their actions/inactions relating to the disaster.  While the Japanese government itself could not find any wrongdoing serious enough to indict anyone for the perpetual radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean and large swathes of eastern Japan, and the displacement of 160,000 people and 3,200 evacuation-related deaths, a rarely used civilian judicial panel finally did on February 29, 2016 – five years after the fact, and after repeated government inaction.  Three former TEPCo officials were recently (and some news accounts point out – finally) indicted on charges of professional negligence resulting in injury and death.  Perhaps the government reasoned that if Nanking was not so bad, Fukushima must simply be a misdemeanor.

TEPCo too has engaged in its own levels of obfuscation and questionable behaviors relating to the clean-up.  They have lied on numerous occasions to the Japanese government, as well as the international community [2,3,4,5]; employed clean-up sub-contractors and personnel reportedly with ties to the Yakuza; provided workers little training and not much in the way of personal protection from irradiation and contamination; demonstrated no ability to stanch the flow of radioactively contaminated water from the reactors and into the Pacific Ocean, finally publicly admitting that they felt they would have to release contaminated water directly at some point.  It has also reneged on mediated victim compensation payment agreements [7].

Although further removed in time and buried in the collective consciousness of a society that seems to demonstrate the recall capacity of a fruit fly, the Chornobyl disaster of 30 years ago continues to offer its own unique examples of “SCUM”.  While numerous health organizations, NGOs and individual governments

Construction of the newly completed replacement sarcophagus.

Construction of the newly completed replacement sarcophagus

report deaths and health effects into the hundreds of thousands, the “official story” number of 56 radiation-related deaths is the one most conveniently used in news stories and public statements.  The explosion of thyroid-related conditions and surgeries is minimized by the terse clinical observation that this is somehow acceptable, since it is “relatively easy” to provide treatment for thyroid disorders.  The stories of the 800,000 liquidators receive little attention these days, and their diseases and suffering are relegated to “stress” and “nuclear phobia” – as if these would have existed absent the nuclear disaster.

High-priced, slick documentaries abound, claiming the “recovery” of wildlife in the Contaminated Zone.  These often “forget” to mention that much of this alleged recovery can be attributed to the near-total absence of the apex predator – mankind.  They further fail to mention the numerous studies showing the opposite is actually true when one examines in greater depth the overall health and reproductive capabilities of many of the remaining wildlife inhabitants of The Zone that aren’t good photogenic subjects for heartwarming documentaries – the insects, bacteria, fungi, plant species, etc., which make up the base of the web of life in the region.

Ignoring the rhinoceros in the living room – the current de facto civil war raging in Ukraine – the Kyiv-based Ukrainian government continues to insist that it will build an additional 13 nuclear reactors [9] on top of the 15 currently in operation in a nation on the cusp of war and self-annihilation — some of which were under threat during the hotter hostilities.  Apparently, the phrase, ”loss-of-offsite-power” accident has not yet been translated into Ukrainian.

 

THE U.S. (LACK OF) RESPONSE POST FUKUSHIMA/CHORNOBYL

One should not get the erroneous impression that the “SCUM” phenomenon applies solely to Japan and Ukraine.  The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the nuclear industry here have contributed heavily to the list of lessons-not-learned and missed opportunities to improve safety.  Consider:

  • Going against the recommendations of its hand-picked expert analysis team making post-Fukushima “lessons-learned” recommendations, the NRC denied an emergency interveners 2.206 petition which called for safety improvements in the 24 U.S. reactors of the same design that melted down and blew up at Fukushima – four of which are in Illinois.  These improvements would have added filtered vents (which were added to European and Japanese reactors after the Fukushima meltdowns) to keep radioactive materials inside the plant during meltdowns; and improvements to the emergency cooling systems for the “spent fuel pools” containing the reactor’s spent fuel. [10]
  • The NRC also delayed for years the implementation of several other “lessons learned” recommended by NRC staff.
  • After the Chornobyl disaster in 1986, regulators insisted that there were no lessons to be learned here in the U.S. because the U.S. utilities did not operate any reactors of the design type of Chornobyl, which NRC deemed inferior to U.S. designs. After the Fukushima disaster, in which three U.S.-design GE boiling water reactors widely used in the U.S. melted down and exploded, the NRC insisted that lessons were not applicable to the U.S. because the Japanese had modified these designs and operated them differently than is done in the U.S.
  • In December 2012 NRC whistle-blowers revealed that the NRC had been covering up the severity of accident potential from floods at U.S. reactors downstream of dams.[13]
  • In August 2015 the NRC rejected another recommendation emanating from the high-level task force it convened after the March 2011 Fukushima disaster which called for making Severe Accident Management Guidelines for reactor emergency response planning for Fukushima-level emergencies mandatory at nuclear reactors, stating the staff recommendation did not meet a strict cost-benefit standard. [12]NRC regulation 6-21-11
  • In September 2015 the NRC abruptly cancelled a cancer study [11] it had commissioned with the National Academy of Sciences to definitively determine the health impacts of living near nuclear reactors. The Academy had already done considerable work in this direction when NRC terminated the study, claiming it would not be “cost effective” to obtain this definitive answer.
  • Most recently seven NRC nuclear engineers felt compelled to file an emergency 2.206 safety-related petition with their superiors at NRC after uncovering a safety flaw found in 98 of 99 U.S. reactors which has existed since the reactors were built. Their concerns and recommended actions were denied two times previously by NRC officials higher in the chain of command.  This forced the NRC engineers to file as “citizen petitioners” rather than as NRC employees to bypass the NRC regulatory obstruction.  The condition was first identified at Exelon’s Byron Illinois nuclear station in 2012.  In spite of the fact that the safety condition persists, and is of a concern level that NRC regulations require that the reactors be fixed or be shut down, NRC has taken no action to implement the fixes four years after being reported. [14]

Historically, repeated instances like these show that NRC has demonstrated a near anaphalactic-allergic response to assertive regulation of the U.S. nuclear industry – so much so that critics insist that NRC must stand for “not really concerned.”  This abdication of regulatory responsibility comes to the detriment of protecting the U.S. public and the environment.

A former senior aide to the Commission bluntly observed [15] in 2012, that the “[C]ommission and that agency [NRC] were complete and total captives of the nuclear industry. One and the same.”

The one and only “lesson to be learned” from the nuclear disasters at Fukushima and Chornobyl is that – this is what you get when the regulators stop regulating.  Perhaps these anniversaries suggest – or warn — it is time to do major house cleaning at the NRC, and establish a truly independent regulator that will make public health and safety its prime concern – before we’re forced to start observing more such anniversaries here in the U.S.

 

SOURCES:
  1. Sources reveal Fukushima radiation cover-up — ‘Massively high levels’ hidden since last July — Nuclear Official: “Something like this cannot happen”, Japan Times, 12, 2014.
  2. ‘TEPCO covered up the truth about Fukushima disaster’, RT News, Oct. 28, 2014.
  3. TEPCO Admits to Fukushima Meltdown Coverup, Simply Info, Feb. 24, 2016.
  4. Former TEPCO Bosses Indicted Over Fukushima Nuclear Disaster; The indictments are the first against officials at TEPCO. 02/29/2016 04:53 am ET – Huffington Post/World Post.
  5. 142 workers’ radiation exposure higher than reported by Tepco, Japan Times, 3/26/14.
  6. Fukushima Keeps Fighting Radioactive Tide 5 Years After Disaster, by Jonathan Soble, New York Times, March 10, 2016.
  7. TEPCO ‘breaks vow,’ refuses more compensation for Fukushima nuclear victims, The Asahi Shimbun, June 27, 2014.
  8. Crippled Fukushima Reactors Are Still a Danger, 5 Years after the Accident: Japan’s citizens, and scientists worldwide, do not have answers to basic health and environment questions, by Madhusree Mukerjee, Scientific American, March 8, 2016.
  9. World Nuclear Power Reactors & Uranium Requirements, 1 March 2016.
  10. NRC letter of correspondence from John Lamb, July 8, 2013.
  11. NRC cancels health study around nuclear plants, including San Onofre, Orange County Register, Sept. 11, 2015.
  12. Concerning decision: Nuclear history doomed to repeat itself?, by Barbara Vergetis Lundin, Fierce Energy, August 31, 2015.
  13. Nuclear Safety Whistleblowers Blast NRC For Covering Up Flood Risks To Plants Lying Below Dams, Huffington Post, December 4, 2012.
  14. Dangerous Flaw Threatens to Close Nation’s Nuclear Fleet, Roger Witherspoon, Energy Matters, March 4, 2016.
  15. Nuclear Power Play: Ambition, Betrayal And The ‘Ugly Underbelly’ Of Energy Regulation Ryan Grim, Huffington Post, 12/29/11.