Nuclear Roulette: The Truth About the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth
December 29, 2012 The Nuclear Regulatory Commission too often takes its lead from industry, rewriting rules to keep failing plants in compliance. Nuclear Roulette cites NRC records showing how corporations routinely defer maintenance and lists resulting "near-misses" in the US, which average more than one per month.
Gar Smith: Atomic energy is impractical on many levels. Nuclear power has proven too costly to survive without massive government support and taxpayer bailouts. Nuclear power is inherently unreliable because reactors must be regularly shut down to replace used fuel assemblies. Reactors also experience "unplanned shutdowns," which means they can be offline more than 10 percent of the time. In 2011, the NRC's own records revealed at least 75 percent of US reactors were routinely leaking radioactive tritium.
Nuclear reactors are not energy efficient. They produce far more heat than they can possibly use. It takes as much as 500,000 gallons of water per minute to keep these plants cool. Even then, around two-thirds of the heat is wasted and needs to be spilled into nearby waterways or into the atmosphere.
Gar Smith: While there are new designs, as yet, none of them have been built or fully tested. Most of the so-called Generation IV reactors will probably never be built. The new AP1000 reactors under construction in Georgia and South Carolina have fundamental design flaws that prompted the former chair of the NRC to vote against granting them a license. Construction of Georgia's two AP1000 Vogtle reactors (supported with billions in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees) has been plagued by shoddy construction and second-rate building materials.
When the fallout from Fukushima reached the West Coast, the public was assured that the iodine-131 in the rainwater had a radioactive half-life of "only" six days. But if you really want to know how long an isotope remains hazardous, multiply the half-life by ten. And we were not warned not to play in the rain.
Following the Fukushima meltdowns, the White House falsely assured the public the fallout would not reach the US. The Environmental Protection Agency then failed to release evidence that its RadNet monitors detected radioactive iodine and cesium in West Coast rainwater. In Japan, when radiation levels rose above "safe" levels, Tokyo responded by raising the "allowable" exposure to radiation. The US did the same. The US has cut back its monitoring of fallout from daily detection to quarterly tests. With the Fukushima meltdowns still not contained, this is indefensible.
Gar Smith: In 2008, a government study found "degraded conditions" in aging US reactors were responsible for 70 percent of the industry's "potentially serious safety problems." Despite these warnings, the nuclear industry successfully pressured the NRC to begin extending the 40-year operating life of 52 aging US reactors to 60 years. In June 2012, the NRC met to consider extending some operating permits for up to 80 years - twice the reactors' intended operating life.
The world is not only running out of cheaply obtainable fossil fuels; we're also running out of high-grade uranium ore. Because all these mineral resources are finite, some kind of transition is inevitable. The only question is, how much damage will we inflict on human and planetary health in the meantime?
We really need to turn our focus toward decommissioning our reactors. Sure, decommissioning is a long and costly process, but it is infinitely more affordable than cleaning up the aftermath of a single nuclear meltdown. Decommissioning one reactor can cost $10 billion over ten years, but cleaning up the mess at Fukushima is expected to take 30 years and cost $137 billion.
Nuclear power has been promoted as a clean alternative to fossil fuels, but even if atomic power were carbon-free (which it is not), relying on nuclear to eliminate even half of the world's climate-warming CO2 emissions would require building 32 new reactors a year. That's not gonna happen.
Wind energy is the world's fast-growing energy sector. The potential for land-based wind power is estimated to be 20 times greater than the world's current electric power consumption. While it took 24 years to build the last US reactor, a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine can be installed in a single day and will be producing electricity in a matter of weeks. In California, 100,000 rooftop solar panels are generating more than 1 gigawatt of clean electricity.
Depleted Uranium Penetrators (Bullets)
United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority 'self initiated' a report for the British government on DU shortly after the 1991 war. If 50 tones of the residual DU dust remained, they estimated that there would be in excess of half a million cancer deaths in the region by the year 2000. The Pentagon admits to 325 tones remaining and other estimates are as high as 900 tones. In 2003 a further two thousand tone DU burden has been admitted to.
Iraq and the region's cancers have become a tragedy equaling Chernobyl. Oddly, when the US/UK military allowed the looting of every Iraqi State building, all medical records of this unique war crime was
Helbig is exercised by a memo from Los Alamos National Laboratories, New Mexico, from a Lt. Colonel Larson to a Major Ziehman. It is dated the day after the 1991 onslaught on Iraq ended (1st March 1991.) Headed The Effectiveness of Depleted Uranium Penetrators, it reads: 'There is a relatively small amount of lethality data for uranium penetrators... The recent war has likely multiplied the DU rounds fired at targets by orders of magnitude...
“There has been and continues to be a concern regarding the impact of DU on the environment. Therefore, if no one makes a case for the effectiveness of DU on the battlefield, DU rounds may become politically unacceptable and thus, be deleted from the arsenal.' Thus, 'we should assure their future existence' otherwise may stand to lose them. He continues, 'I believe we should keep this sensitive issue in mind, when, after action, reports are
US tanks damaged by DU rounds in 1991 were taken to a nuclear decontamination plant at Barnwell, North Carolina, reportedly constructed the previous year solely for this purpose. Those beyond decontamination were buried in specially licensed landfill sites.
In June 1995 the US Army Environmental Policy Institute wrote of DU: 'DU is a radioactive waste and therefore should be deposited in a licensed repository'. The poisoned chalice of breaking the news that Kuwait had been turned in to an unlicensed one, fell to the luckless British Ambassador.
Helbig's email cites the United Nations Environment Agency Report. There were two UNEP Reports on Balkans contamination. The first was cut – under alleged US/UK pressure – from 72 pages, to two. An impeccable source on the second, to which Helbig refers, stated that in spite of considerable obstacles placed in their way, a list of the most contaminated sites to sample was
compiled. On arrival, the multinational forces excluded visits to those sites. As Professor Malcolm Hooper, Emeritus Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Sunderland University (UK) writes in his article Most Toxic War in Western Military History, regarding Iraq in 1991: “at every level, investigation into illness, birth defects, contamination has been blocked and be devilled by ... a pervasive myopia which sees lack of evidence as proof.”