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Overlooked Nuclear Vulnerability to Grid Failure

April 1, 2011


Conspiracies abound, but collusion can be proven – Asheham Press

Government needs to operate independently from business. Influence peddling and lobbying is putting the safety of our people at risk. We have two clear cases of where this is happening. One has already devastated tens of millions of Americans and the second is perched on the precipice of disaster. The first we can recover from, although it will take a decade or more. The second is is irreversible, permanent, and deadly.

Collusion Fusion Led to Economic Failure
We are seeing a wave of irresponsible social behavior that is having major negative social consequences across the world. Within the financial sector, nefarious practices in credit default swaps, mortgage backed securities, and credit debt obligations by the largest investment banks led to the multi-trillion dollar 2008 global collapse. They did this by no means by themselves. It was not a fluke. It was not a miscalculation. There was collusion amongst the investment banks, a federal regulatory agency (the SEC), and individuals in government (the head of the Federal Reserve bank of New York, then Timothy Geitner, now Treasury Secretary) and head of the U.S. Treasury department – then Hank Paulson, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs). The practices originated at the top tier and spread downstream to other banks across the nation. There were many self-interested parties who participated in the collusion: real estate agents, appraisers, mortgage lenders, and the borrowers themselves. This is called a systemic problem.

There is an even more serious problem in that none of the major players involved are in jail or even being prosecuted. The fact is, investigating one would lead to another and another and the inter-related groups would be exposed. See the Oscar winning documentary, Inside Job for more information.

Pattern of Social Irresponsibility
Now we see the same kind of pattern of social irresponsibility in the nuclear energy sector and the same type of collusion. In this case, the players are the energy corporations who obtain leases from the federal government to establish and run their facilities, the NRC, National Regulatory Commission who regulates these companies, and the President of the United States who endorses nuclear energy as being safe. Just a couple days ago the President stated:

“America gets one-fifth of our electricity from nuclear energy,” the president said in a speech at Georgetown University. “It has important potential for increasing our electricity without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. But I’m determined to ensure that it’s safe.”

Good for him. He is now the watchdog for safe nuclear energy. Grrr…. he’s on the job watching out for you and me. So, if you buy that argument, once he is out of office how will the American people know how diligent the NRC will be in regulating the nuclear industry? We don’t. We have his say so. All in all, this is a false notion. It’s pure fiction. This woeful attempt by the President this week to reassure Americans of the safety of nuclear energy at the same time we are witnessing the dire situation still unfolding at the Fukushima Nuclear plant in Japan weeks after the initial event is pathetic; PLUS making a pitch at the same time for more investment in nuclear energy is plainly irresponsible.

The Three-legged Stool
Now in both cases in the financial sector and nuclear sector, we see a three-legged stool. One is approving the other to do what they do: (i) the corporate entity who is given license by the government; (ii), a government regulation agency who gives the stamp of approval; (iii), and a top federal government official who endorses the whole deal.

In the case of the nuclear energy industry in the United States, the NRC is the government agency who oversees 104 nuclear power plants. The safety of the people of the United States rests in their hands. If there is a misstep or some disaster, the American people have little recourse against the agency except a law suit for negligence which would be difficult to prove and very costly. Quite frankly, who would we sue? Do we sue the corporations for negligence or safety violations? Do we sue the NRC? Or the President?

And when have the American people been told of a violation where it was headline news? Only one I can think of is Three Mile Island and that was after the fact. But here is the real deal and this came to light only after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Union of Concerned Scientists found 14 “near misses” at nuclear plants in 2010. And there were 56 serious violations at nuclear power plants from 2007 to 2011, according the ABC News review of NRC records.

Source: ABC News

Guess those were not worthy of the nightly news report before. Let’s be clear. These are very powerful forces at work within our country. With the exception of the President, none of these people are elected. The Treasury Secretary, the Federal Reserve chairman, and the Commissioners of the NRC are appointed positions — by the President. All the other parties are independent business people and government employees. They are beholding to what? To us? How about self-interest and profit. That is as close to the truth as you will get. But social responsibility seems to be an antiquated concept. What you have is a closed circle, socially reinforced, that has the others back and are virtually untouchable.

The NRC is headed by five Commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms. One of them is designated by the President to be the Chairman and official spokesperson of the Commission.

We Cannot Control the Earth or the Sun
What the President and all the other players fail to grasp is no one controls the weather, planet Earth, or the Sun. While nuclear plants may be well run — and that is a big assumption — what if we had a Solar event where is took down the grid? We are entering the peak phase of Solar 24. NASA has estimated we could see a major event that could bring down the electrical grid in Europe. In fact, that story is my number one post here at PTWB. It was a story I came across last fall but not in a U.S. paper. It was in the Guardian UK reported last June 2010. So, let’s say we have a major solar storm that cripples the United States grid for more than 4 hours. Most nuclear facilities in the United States are prepared with only 4 hours of backup power. Fukushima had 8 hours. You see the problem here. Regardless of the cause of the power failure, a prolonged interuption of power will lead to a similar situation — keeping the reactor(s) core, the fuel rods and spent fuel rods cool. No power = no cooling = disaster across the United States at all facilities. These facts cannot be ignored or mitigated or marketed or otherwise sidestepped.

It is clear that nuclear is not insulated from naturally occurring events like tsunamis, earthquakes, and solar events. Their impact upon these nuclear facilities creates a cascading of events that are uncontrollable and the consequences of which when radiation and its related deadly contaminants is leaked render plant life, ocean life, the atmosphere, the food chain, and the fresh water supply poisonous and hazardous to humans. Therefore, nuclear energy plants should all be shutdown as this would be the socially responsible thing to do.


NASA Warns Solar Flares from ‘huge space storm’ Will Cause Devastation

List of Nuclear Power Plants

Maps of Nuclear Facilities

Union of Concerned Scientists

NRC Rules Emergency Preparedness
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has revised a section of its emergency preparedness regulations. The revised rule requires that States* with a population within the 10-mile emergency planning zone (EPZ) of commercial nuclear power plants consider including potassium iodide as a protective measure for the general public to supplement sheltering and evacuation in the unlikely event of a severe nuclear power plant accident.

The final rule amends 10 CFR 50.47(b)(10). The NRC published the rule change in the Federal Register (Volume 66, Number 13, page 5427) on January 19, 2001. The change became effective April 19, 2001.

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