Saturday, May 28, 2011


ITEM: The Japanese government announced it has abandoned its goal of getting 50% of the nation's power needs from nuclear energy. The prime minister said they would seek to increase alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric energy.

ITEM: As American nuclear power plants come up for re-licensing, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been accused of being too cozy with the nuclear power industry. Too many industry insiders have been appointed to the commission over the years and its regulatory policies are considered lax.

ITEM: The Japanese Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency says the Fukushima Daiichi reactor was damaged much worse than originally thought and a meltdown of fuel rods occurred. Tepco Electric Power Co. admits one of the plants six reactors suffered substantial meltdown on DAY ONE. All three nuclear reactors are leaking radioactive material.

ITEM: A commission on what to do with nuclear waster wants to build steel and concrete buildings above ground to store the waste admitting the plan to bury nuclear waste is a political non-starter.

ITEM: Nuclear fuel began melting much sooner than had been previously thought in the damaged Japanese reactors. Much of the chaos and many of the most serious mistakes were made by engineers BEFORE the tsunami struck.

ITEM: An engineer at a Minnesota nuclear plant warned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that crucial emergency vents, designed to relieve pressure at crippled Japanese nuclear plants, were seriously flawed and could fail in an earthquake. His warning came 5 years before the meltdown in Japan and the NRC rejected his warning and did nothing. The same vents are used in American nuclear reactors.

ITEM: A review of emergency plans in American nuclear plants found them out of date and many poorly designed to deal with multiple crises as occurred in Japan.

You can't turn on the program of Dr. Bill Wattenberg without hearing glowing tributes and passionate defense of the nuclear energy industry. He is not alone. President Obama and some environmentalists have also included increased nuclear plants into their mixture of energy policy in the future. Construction on at least three new plants is currently underway right now in this country. It is so alluring. It's relatively cheap, does not contribute to global warming and is so much prettier and safer for workers than ugly coal mines.

Unfortunately, when the lights come on and everyone sobers up, the picture is much less attractive. We now know the agency in the Dept. of the Interior whose job it was to regulate deep water oil drilling was a joke. It allowed the oil industry to write regulations. Federal employees were winded and dined by oil and construction companies and the result was the Gulf Oil spill. The Securities and Exchange Commission was a fox guarding the henhouse. Because so many of its commissioners and regulators moved back and forth between Wall Street and Washington, the SEC was a walking conflict of interest. It was soft on Wall Street and ignored people like Bernie Madoff even after being warned. In fact, we now know the entire financial regulatory industry failed to protect our interests resulting in the financial meltdown of 2008 the effects of which we are still feeling. The Food and Drug Administration allows pharmaceutical companies to pay for and run their own tests for new drugs. The Agriculture Department does not inspect a tenth of all meat and poultry and egg processing operations. A recent Federal Communications Commission member, who voted in favor of the merger of Comcast and NBC, quickly resigned and went to work for Comcast. Now, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is accused of the same problem. The commission is too cozy with the industry it regulates. It overlooks serious problems when re-licensing old nuclear facilities. It doesn't rigorously review emergency protocols. There is a revolving door between the commission and the industry. This agency tasked with ensuring the safety of nuclear plant design, approving emergency procedures, and forcing the industry to produce a safe product no matter what the cost, is just as corrupt and inept as almost all other federal regulatory agencies. That should make anyone living near Diablo Canyon or San Onofre sleep better at night.

The ultimate reason why nuclear power must be abandoned is the problem of waste. For years the answer was to bury it in Nevada. President Obama has abandoned this plan when it was discovered the deep caves leaked, and the political will to force it down Nevadans throats didn't exist. Now, a commission is proposing building aboveground waste containment buildings. Why not just hang out a large neon sign saying "TERRORISTS ATTACK HERE"? What city or state would want nuclear waste repositories anywhere near them? What would happen if one of these buildings got hit by a 9.0 earthquake or a 200 mph force 5 tornado? Oh, they would be built to withstand such possibilities right? Who would oversee this process to ensure it was done right? The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Congress, of course. There is no solution about what to do with nuclear waste. Right now it is stored in pools alongside operating nuclear plants. How safe is that?

It is time to admit the truth. Nuclear power plants and nuclear power have to be abandoned as answers to our energy needs. They are not safe and the nuclear power industry will always be trying to build them as cheaply as possible. They will water down regulations and spend millions to lobby Congress to prevent strict oversight. They will fight anything viewed as too stringent or onerous and the federal regulatory process will allow them to continue unabated. They will act like typical American corporations. There is no solution about what to do with nuclear waste. It is only a matter of time before someone with bad intentions gets their hands on some or an accident or natural disaster causes an environmental nightmare.

In Joplin, Missouri, residents say despite being hit by the biggest tornado in 60 years, and losing a third of their city, they will rebuild. There is a debate about whether anyone will be allowed to live within 12 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi plant EVER again.

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