Less than one lifetime: Eyewitness to nuclear development, from Hunters Point to Chernobyl and Fukushima, issues a warning — San Francisco Bay View

I highly recommend reading this article that elaborates on the dangers of nuclear energy, the health effects of radiation exposure from isotopes strontium-90, cesium-134 and cesium-137, and the historical corruption of the global nuclear industry. The author, Jannette D. Sherman, M.D., is a physician, toxicologist and author, concentrating on chemicals and nuclear radiation that cause cancer and birth defects, and is consulting editor for “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature,” a comprehensive presentation of all the available information concerning the health and environmental effects of the low dose radioactive contaminants. Dr. Sherman has worked in radiation and biologic research at the University of California nuclear facility and at the U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory at the Hunters Point Shipyard in San Francisco.

read article with an interview with Dr. Sherman at the bottom of the page

‘Fukushima’ sounds warning on nuclear energy – Los Angeles Times

” On March 18, 2011, an official from theU.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission  named Chuck Casto called together the NRC delegation on assignment with him in Tokyo.

“We’re in never-never land,” he told them.

Seven days earlier, a magnitude 9 earthquake had rattled a complex of six nuclear power plants known as Fukushima Daiichi, roughly 150 miles northeast of Tokyo. Then came nature’s second, more devastating blow: a tsunami that swamped the complex, flooding its electrical generators and putting its three operating reactors out of commission. The reactors were soon out of control, the plant effectively disabled by that most feared event in the nuclear industry: a “station blackout,” when no power is available to run any of the safety systems designed to defend the public from a runaway reaction.

In the days that followed, three explosions blew apart portions of two reactor buildings, and the reactors’ fuel cores at least partly melted down. Public officials steadily expanded the evacuation zone around the plant, eventually to 19 miles; the evacuation of Tokyo itself was briefly considered.

“Never-never land” barely did justice to the situation. Casto and his team had been flown to Japan to help deal with the crisis, but all that they knew was that the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owned the plant, were at an almost complete loss about how to deal with the catastrophe, as was the Japanese government.

Today, nearly three years after the event, only two of Japan’s 50 nuclear power reactors have been permitted to restart. The wrecked Fukushima station has been leaking radioactive water into the Pacific.

These events and more are meticulously reconstructed in “Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster” by David Lochbaum, Edwin Lyman and Susan Q. Stranahan of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Followers of Fukushima and its consequences for the nuclear power movement have come to rely on Lochbaum and Lyman for their scientific expertise on the topic. Stranahan, a journalist and writer whose experience with nuclear power dates back to her coverage of the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, is evidently responsible for the book’s lucid and gripping narrative.

No one with an interest in the present and future of nuclear power in the United States should miss it.

Books and news coverage about nuclear power coalesced into three periods, roughly tracking the fortunes and self-image of the industry itself. First came the years of optimism, starting in the late 1940s and extending into the 1950s, when physicists and government bureaucrats alike were eager to spread the idea of the “peaceful atom” as counterpoint to the image of nuclear technology as a tool of war established by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The U.S. government heavily subsidized the nascent nuclear power industry, and General Electric and Westinghouse, manufacturers of the two leading power reactor designs, offered nuclear plants to a willing utility industry on loss-leader terms.

But reactor technology was vastly more complex than anything America’s utilities had dealt with previously. Their executives and their workforces were incapable of safely managing the willful atom. Meanwhile, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission kept a tight lid on its own staff’s reports of the health perils of radioactivity loosed into the environment and the implications of runaway reactions. Anxious to tamp down public opposition to the novel technology, the AEC issued earnest reassurances about the rigorous safety standards of the nation’s burgeoning fleet of nuclear power stations.

By the late 1970s the truth was beginning to leak out, in part through the indefatigable efforts of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the home of the authors of “Fukushima,” which used the Freedom of Information Act to spring reams of documents from purgatory. The years of doubt culminated in 1979, when the Three Mile Island accident underscored the inadequacy of the “human factor” in managing power reactors. Over the next 10 years, plans for more than 60 nuclear plants in the U.S. were canceled.

But with the turn of the century, interest in nuclear power returned. Today the atom is treated as a potential “green” energy source. The managerial shortcomings of the past supposedly have been overcome, and the safety of the technology supposedly has advanced.

“Fukushima” is an indispensable reminder of the nuclear power industry’s failure to learn from the past. The assurances of greater rigor in the operation and regulation of the peaceful atom after Three Mile Island are contradicted by the flaws exposed by Fukushima. As Lyman, one of the authors of this book, observed in congressional testimony shortly after the disaster, a similar event could happen in the U.S. “We have plants that are just as old. … We have a regulatory system that is not clearly superior to that of the Japanese. We have had extreme weather events that exceeded our expectations and defeated our emergency planning.”

How safe is safe enough? Throughout the history of nuclear power, utilities and regulators have assured the public that their plants can withstand every emergency situation except the truly unimaginable. But the unimaginable can happen, as it did on the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011.

“Fukushima” shows in sobering detail what can follow when those with a vested interest in making the technology seem safer than it is decide not to plan for an extreme event because “it can’t happen here.” The authors remind us: Yes, it can. 

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Why the Obama administration will not admit that Fukushima radiation is poisoning Americans — Global Research

” We all know that the radiation from the stricken  Fukushima plant has spread around the globe and is poisoning people worldwide. We all know that the West Coast of the United States  is being polluted with radioactive debris and that the oceans, the beaches that border them, and even the air is becoming more polluted by radioactivity as time goes on.

You have to ask yourself why the government won’t admit this. It’s not like a disaster half a world away is their fault, is it?

Or is it? Could the United States government have done something to prevent the situation getting to this point?

Nothing in this article is a state secret, everything is in the public domain, but the information is so disseminated that it appears disconnected.

  • the US government knows only too well that the West Coast is polluted with radiation and that the situation is getting worse by the day.
  • the US government and General Electric knew that Fukushima was a disaster waiting to happen, and they did nothing to prevent it.
  • they also know that the many nuclear reactors in the United States are also prone to catastrophic meltdown, and they are doing nothing about it.
  • research by doctors and scientists is being suppressed, and research by private citizens is being written off purely because they have no scientific background.

 All the warnings were ignored

The narrative that leads us to the state we are in today starts in 1972.

Stephen Hanauer, an official at the atomic Energy Commission recommended that General Electric’s Mark 1 design be discontinued as it presented unacceptable safety risks.

The New York Times reported:

In 1972, Stephen H. Hanauer, then a safety official with the Atomic Energy Commission, recommended that the Mark 1 system be discontinued because it presented unacceptable safety risks. Among the concerns cited was the smaller containment design, which was more susceptible to explosion and rupture from a buildup in hydrogen — a situation that may have unfolded at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Later that same year, Joseph Hendrie, who would later become chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a successor agency to the atomic commission, said the idea of a ban on such systems was attractive. But the technology had been so widely accepted by the industry and regulatory officials, he said, that “reversal of this hallowed policy, particularly at this time, could well be the end of nuclear power.” (source)

Then, three years later in 1975, Dale Bridenbaugh and two colleagues were asked to review the GE Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor (BWR). They were convinced that the reactor was inherently unsafe and so flawed in its design that it could catastrophically fail under certain circumstances. There were two main issues. First was the possible failure of the Mark 1 to deal with the huge pressures created if the unit lost cooling power. Secondly, the spent fuel ponds were situated 100 feet in the air near the top of the reactor.

They voiced their opinions, which were promptly pushed aside, and after realizing that they were not going to be allowed to make their opinions public all three resigned.

Over the years numerous other experts voiced concerns over the GE Mark 1 BWR. All have gone unheeded.

Five of the six reactors at Fukushima were GE Mark 1 BWR. The first reactor, unit one, was commissioned in 1971, prior to the first concerns about the design being raised. The other reactors came on line in 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978 and 1979 respectively. Although all six reactors were the GE Mark 1 design only three were built and supplied by GE. Units 1, 2 and 6 were supplied by GE, 3 and 5 by Toshiba and unit 4 by Hitachi. (Now Hitachi-GE)

Why isn’t GE being held accountable?

Why wouldn’t GE be held accountable? Here’s one possibility: Jeffrey Immelt is the head of GE. He is also the head of the United States Economic Advisory Board. He was invited to join the board personally by President Obama in 2009 and took over as head in 2011 when Paul Volcker stepped down in February 2011, just a month before the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Fukushima.

Paul Volcker was often seen as being at odds with the administration, and many of his ideas were not embraced by the government. The appointment of Immelt, a self-described Republican, was seen as a move to give Obama a leg up when dealing with the Republican majority in the House.

There have been calls from many organizations for GE to be held accountable for the design faults in the reactors that powered the Fukushima plant. The fact that they had been known for so long does seem to indicate that the company ignored and over-ruled advice from nuclear experts.

GE ran Fukushima alongside TEPCO, but it isn’t liable for the clean-up costs.

A year after the disaster, Tepco was taken over by the Japanese government because it couldn’t afford the costs to get the damaged reactors under control. By June of 2012, Tepco had received nearly 50 billion dollars from the government.

The six reactors were designed by the U.S. company General Electric (GE). GE supplied the actual reactors for units one, two and six, while two Japanese companies Toshiba provided units three and five, and Hitachi unit four. These companies as well as other suppliers are exempted from liability or costs under Japanese law.

Many of them, including GE, Toshiba and Hitachi, are actually making money on the disaster by being involved in the decontamination and decommissioning, according to a report by Greenpeace International.

“The nuclear industry and governments have designed a nuclear liability system that protects the industry, and forces people to pick up the bill for its mistakes and disasters,” says the report, “Fukushima Fallout.” 

“If nuclear power is as safe as the industry always claims, then why do they insist on liability limits and exemptions?” asked Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace Canada.

Nuclear plant owner/operators in many countries have liability caps on how much they would be forced to pay in case of an accident. In Canada, this liability cap is only 75 million dollars. In the United Kingdom, it is 220 million dollars. In the U.S., each reactor owner puts around 100 million dollars into a no-fault insurance pool. This pool is worth about 10 billion dollars.

“Suppliers are indemnified even if they are negligent,” Stensil told IPS. (source)

GE will not have put anything into this ‘pot’ to cover Fukushima, as it is not in the United States. They have walked away, even though they knew their reactors have design faults.

Wait! There’s more!

It’s not that simple, though; and here’s where keeping quiet and denying what’s happening comes into its own.

So far I have not explained why Obama is keeping quiet about the radiation contamination. Well, that’s the easy part.

There are 23 nuclear plants in the United States that use the GE Mark 1 BWR.23.

There are 23 nuclear plants in the United States where the used fuel rods are suspended, in a pond, 100 feet above the ground. (source)

Any admission that radiation has spread across the Pacific Ocean and contaminated American soil is an admission that the technology was flawed, and that same flawed technology is being used in the United States. The government does not want anyone looking closer at the situation. They don’t want people poking around asking questions about why the radiation got out in the first place…it’s too close to home.

Better to say that the radiation is within safe levels, and then if such a disaster happens here they can mourn those in the immediate fallout zone and maintain that the rest of the country is okay, just as it was after Fukushima.

The fact that the CEO of GE works for Obama just highlights the facts. There is no way that Immelt doesn’t know about all the warning his company was given about the design flaws of the Mark 1; and if he knows, the government knows.

Ask yourself this, why after such a monumental event are all the scientific papers regarding the disaster singing the same song?

It is impossible to have so many scientists and doctors agreeing to this level. Nothing has been published regarding the increased rates of miscarriage and childhood thyroid cancers. Why is that?

After Chernobyl there was a plethora of papers announcing to the world the increased cancer risks, the risks to pregnant women and young children. I suggest that because Chernobyl was in Russia, a place where no American technology was used, that there was no suppression of the facts.

GE cannot afford a corporate law suit, and neither can the Obama administration. It wouldn’t be pretty if a senior advisor to the president was hauled through the courts. There’s a chance it would not just be GE that went down in the wake of such a case.

The President of the United States knows that the radiation from Fukushima is worse than it would have been had the reactors used at the plant been of a different design.

Know to the US government, the delicate and hazardous task of removing and storing the spent fuel rods is going to take years, and that one mistake can exacerbate the problems ten-fold.

23 sites in America are using the same flawed reactors and the government is doing nothing about it.

The President of the United States is holding the lives of tens of millions of Americans in his hands and he refuses to even admit there is a problem. He needs to understand that the people of the West Coast are not just pawns in his political game. Moreover he should be explaining what is causing all the fish die-offs if it is unconnected to radiation. 

Obama knows that millions of American citizens are being poisoned due, in part, to a failure of American technology. I recognize that the earthquake and tsunami were forces of nature, but the damage sustained could have been reduced considerably by not using the Mark 1.

I understand that these reactors were not installed on his watch, but he’s there now. He’s the one that can make the difference now. It is he who can look into the nuclear power stations on American soil in the hope of preventing a meltdown here.

Our nuclear power stations are old, past their sell by date in some cases. It’s not just the reactors that are the problem either. Hanford, right on the Columbia River in Washington state, as one example, constantly leaks radioactive liquid into the ground, and possibly the groundwater.

The situation at Fukushima is still far from stable, and it will be years before  stability is even on the horizon.

Something has to be done before one of our aging power stations starts Fukushima Part ll.

Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple, where this first appeared. Wake the flock up! 

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Japan should shun treaty that will shield nuclear tech suppliers — The Japan Times

” Dear Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida,

Although you are probably unaware, longtime readers of The Japan Times may recall that in April 2011, I sent an open letter to then Prime Minister Naoto Kan (“Who pays for nuclear nightmare?” Hotline to Nagata-cho, April 19, 2011) asking about who was going to pay for the massive costs resulting from the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

This question was prompted in part by the existence of documents revealing that as early as November 1971, officials at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) expressed concern about design flaws in General Electric’s Mark I nuclear reactors. All of the reactors that experienced meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1 were of this type.

In fact, in a memo dated Sept. 25, 1972, the top safety official at the AEC, Joseph Hendrie, agreed that elements of the General Electric (GE) reactor design could contribute to a core meltdown in the event of an accident. However, he refused to take action because doing so “could well mean the end of nuclear power.”

Further, by 1976, three GE nuclear engineers became so concerned about the dangerous shortcomings of the GE design that they resigned their highly paid positions in protest and testified about the reasons they had done so before the U.S. Congress. Yet no substantive corrective action was taken.

While this may now seem like old news, the question of who is going to pay for the massive and ever-growing cost associated with the 30-to-40-year-plus cleanup and associated compensatory damages has yet to be finalized, beyond ad hoc financial assistance dished out to Tepco by the Japanese government — i.e., ultimately by taxpayers in Japan, both Japanese and foreign.

The question now is whether this is fair in the face of possible financial liability on the part of GE, especially since the company built part of the Fukushima No. 1 complex as a turnkey operation. GE was also involved in shaving down the 35-meter-high cliff at the plant’s construction site to only 10 meters above sea level, thereby greatly increasing the plant’s vulnerability to tsunami.

Is GE financially liable for its part in the Fukushima No. 1 disaster? No one can answer that question until a thorough investigation of the relevant facts and applicable laws has been undertaken. Yet such an investigation has not been conducted either in Japan or anywhere else. Why not?

What gives this question particular urgency are recent news reports that Japan is now preparing to sign a treaty known as the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. This treaty assigns accident liability entirely to plant operators rather than equipment and technology vendors.

At the moment, this treaty is not yet legally binding inasmuch as it requires a total of five countries to ratify it. At present only four nations have done so: the U.S., Romania, Morocco and Argentina. Thus, if Japan ratifies this treaty, it will, as the fifth nation, bring this treaty into force.

On Nov. 1, Kyodo News reported that you, Foreign Minister Kishida, intend to ask the Diet to ratify this treaty early next year. Ratification would appear to make examination of GE’s responsibility for the Fukushima disaster moot since, moving forward, Japan will be unable to hold GE or any other domestic or foreign nuclear equipment vendor financially liable, no matter how defective or dangerous the equipment they installed is. This is of special concern inasmuch as Japan currently has an additional 23 boiling water reactors of similar design to those in service at Fukushima No. 1.

I am aware there is a positive side to this treaty, i.e., that U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz recently promised assistance with the cleanup at Fukushima No. 1 once Japan ratifies the treaty. Yet, could the U.S. afford to be seen to be withholding technical assistance to Japan when the Pacific Ocean, the common resource of both nations, continues to serve as a sewer for Fukushima’s radioactively contaminated water?

But the real question, Foreign Minister Kishida, is this: As someone who is responsible for protecting Japan’s national interest, is it fair to taxpayers in Japan to be saddled either directly or indirectly with the massive costs of the Fukushima cleanup for a generation or more when there is good reason to believe that GE is legally liable for at least a portion of that cost?

As someone deeply attached to this country and its people, I appeal to you to postpone introducing this treaty to the Diet for ratification until the question of GE’s financial responsibility for the ongoing disaster has been clarified.

BRIAN VICTORIA

Kyoto ”

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