With all the toothsome issues competing for our attention these days, it’s difficult to give nuclear energy concerns their due.
But Vermont Yankee still rumbles away, unchecked, on the banks of the Connecticut River; and the catastrophic events at Fukushima continue to be compounded by regulatory failures, corporate corruption and public deceit.
So at the dawn of 2013, almost two years after the Fukushima disaster coincided with NRC relicensing of VY, here is a GMD run-down on some things nuclear.
Let’s start with a new Fairewinds video release.
Revisiting the principle technical issues which affected outcomes at Fukushima, Arnie Gundersen explains how revelations over the past two years have borne out Fairewinds’ early analysis while effectively demonstrating the culture of denial that still plagues the entire industry.
He goes on to discuss how this fundamental dysfunction has resulted in regulatory paralysis, with the NRC
avoiding analysis of damage to many nuclear plants’ emergency cooling systems (Ultimate Heat Sink) from storm surges, tsunamis or dam failures.
The bad news from Fukushima just keeps on coming.
New estimates for the overall cost of the disaster are now in excess of $60 Billion. Compensation costs alone have increased steadily and now stand at $38 Billion and counting.
It has recently been revealed that, at the height of the disaster on March 16, 2011 communications between TEPCO’s head office and workers at the plant were severed:
the communications line between TEPCO’s head office in Tokyo and the on-site workers was cut off, but the emergency responders at Fukushima Daiichi were unable to deal with the problem because its communications staff had been evacuated. The disconnection is thought to have been caused by the erroneous severing of the fiber-optic cables during work to restore a power substation in Fukushima prefecture.
And crewmembers of the USS Ronald Reagan, who were enlisted in the relief effort, are now suing TEPCO for misrepresenting the radiation levels in order to minimize the sense of risk.
On March 14th, the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and other US Navy ships in the Pacific were repositioned after detecting radioactive materials from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, in total seven US Navy ships were swiftly moved to the eastern coast of Japan, and the crews were exposed to radiation from airborne plumes.
“TEPCO pursued a policy to cause rescuers, including the plaintiffs, to rush into an unsafe area which was too close to the FNPP [Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant] that had been damaged. Relying upon the misrepresentations regarding health and safety made by TEPCO … the U.S. Navy was lulled into a false sense of security,” the complaint states.
The U.S.’s aging “fleet” of nuclear power plants have not been without their share of incident, either.
The San Onofre plant operated by South California Edison has been out of commission since last January due to structural integrity issues and a radiation leak. Now, as Edison seeks permission to restart the plant, regulators have declared the plant unsafe and it will likely be offline for many more months, if not forever.
Recently, a pair of engineers asked the Senate to investigate safety threats to the security of the Indian Point power facility in upstate New York and at Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina.
Another Entergy albatross, Indian Point sits atop gas lines which, in the event of engineering failures or natural disaster, have the potential to unleash a disaster to dwarf that of Fukushima due to the facility’s close proximity of New York City.
Oconee is located downstream from a dam, which represents similar risk from engineering failure or natural disaster.
The engineers point out that the risk to these two facilities has been common knowledge for some time now, but both the NRC and Congress have refused to take action.
Here at home in Vermont, we seem to be unable to shed the spectre of Vermont Yankee. Even if the miraculous came to pass and the plant shut down tomorrow, our children and grandchildren would still have to live with the legacy of decommissioning costs and associated risks for decades to come.
And, after twenty-five years of uncertainty, the future of Yucca Mountain’s nuclear waste repository remains in limbo.
The German word for poison is ‘gift.’ ‘Giftig’ means ‘poisonous.’
It is ironically appropriate for describing nuclear energy, which once was sold to the American public as the ultimate clean, cheap, and safe energy solution.
If we’d only known.