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Do You Trust Your Skies to Texas Oversight?

6:50 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Nuclear facility in VT

(Picture courtesy of Greenpeace photostream, flickr.)

If you are okay with believing regulators in Texas are able to ward off nuclear accidents, just sit there.   If not, you might want to file your take on that prospect with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

As I posted yesterday, the Loan Star State is already home to nuclear waste.  Regulators are fine with putting the health of the public in the hands of profit oriented businesses with no record of responsibility for natural resources or public safety.

Those regulators are currently trying to shut EPA out of the state so industry has a free hand with the air in Texas.   There is a nuclear power generator now in their care that will soon be permitted to increase capacity to four.

…CPS Energy, TEPCO, and potentially the Japanese government itself, were among investors lined up to fund expansion of the South Texas Project nuclear complex near Bay City. A partnership between NRG Energy, Toshiba, and federal contractor Shaw Group (in charge of maintenance at STP), were preparing to construct two advanced boiling water reactors (ABWR) at the South Texas Project nuclear complex where CPS already owns 40 percent of STP reactors 1 and 2. CPS Energy planned to invest 7.6 percent in proposed reactors 3 and 4, but the utility said on March 21 that it had indefinitely postponed talks with reactor owner NRG Energy.

“Terminating discussions with NRG allows us to devote more resources in pursuit of the other options,” said CPS Energy President and CEO Doyle Beneby. “When the development of STP 3 and 4 moves forward again, our present ownership interest will remain unchanged.”

In the meantime, San Antonio will continue drawing a large portion of its energy from STP’s 1 and 2 reactors. Those facilities, which came online in 1988 and 1989, also happen to be up for a 20-year renewal by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Without the renewal, the reactors would close in 2027 and 2028. April 1 is the deadline for the public to tell the NRC how it feels about the renewal, which, oddly enough, won’t take place for another 20 years.

The ongoing disaster in Japan has served as a sinister backdrop to consideration of construction by the powers that put together the Fukushima facility.  Radioactivity from the accident there has been detected in Boston.

For many years, the State of Texas has fought back against safety regulations of all sort.   This is not the kind of approach that should be addressing the new problems we now are seeing play out for nuclear power generation.

Our planet’s future depends on the action we take, or fail to take, today.   What we are seeing play out now is the result of believing assurances that are more related to profit taking than to safety systems and their effectiveness.   We can’t take a chance on believing the promises of those who’ve shown those promises mean only that they want us to fall for them again, and again.

Nuclear Waste Isn’t Something We Can Trust To Texas Politicians

2:22 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Comanche Peak glows,from flickr, Zack Hollandsworth

Among all the stories coming at us out of the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan comes one that is really frightening.   It seems as if yet another nuclear facility is in the works that would be managed by the Loan Star State.   From the folks whose idea of generating power is to have the most freedom available to pollute, this is insanity.

The government in Texas has declared itself  firmly on the side of attracting business by fighting down any regulation, but it has most particularly devoted itself to polluting the environment.  In recent history, Texas has taken on the EPA in the courts in order to maintain its ‘business friendly’ dirt.

As I pointed out in recent months, the ongoing suit against EPA is just another way the state tries to throw off protections its citizens should have.

Now we are assured by our Rep. Joe Barton, famed for apologizing to BP for having their deepwater rig leak into our gulf, assuring us that nuclear power is great stuff and only wackos who selfishly clean the air for their own breathing purposes would oppose it.

“I think our new reactor designs are very safe,” said Congressman Joe Barton.

(snip)

Still, spent fuel storage needs to change.

“That is an issue,” Barton said during a tour of the Comanche Peak plant. “And quite frankly, that’s a fault of the federal government. You shouldn’t have to store your fuel rods on site. We should have an operating repository.”

That silly old federal government that inconveniences business like all get out, that’s the one that ought to be slurping up the spent fuel in Barton’s and his kindred spirits’ opinion.   With 2,200 spent fuel rods in storage south of Fort Worth, at Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant,  it might begin to occur to local officials that early retirement might be attractive right about now.

We have an outstandingly anti-public interest government here in Texas, but most local jurisdictions have at least a smattering of that sort.  These are the very officials charged with safety systems and their maintenance.

Nuclear power is not safe as long as the very officials that show mostly laughable amounts of common sense are in charge.

Do-It-Yourself Earthquakes; Fracking

1:03 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Fracking rig.

(Picture courtesy of thedailygreen.com )

While we are watching with horror the aftereffects of the immense earthquake that hit Japan this week, out there in our backyard, increasing numbers of quakes are occurring in places there is no reason for them to happen.  As the usual testing ground for offenses against nature, Texas was experiencing the phenomenon before it spread to other places where a citizenry could express outrage more readily.

In the Fort Worth area, the effects of fracking have been under scrutiny for awhile – effects ranging for flammable tapwater to increasing numbers of tremblors.

Natural earthquakes had been felt in other parts of the state, and human meddling had been tied to such movement elsewhere. The ground shook shortly after the filling of Lake Mead in the 1930s, for example, as well as after major oil extractions and fluid injections around the world.

While science can’t prove that the injections triggered the Texas shaking, Frohlich suggested that new data, which show a large number of quakes striking close in time and space to the well’s activity, does make a mere coincidence unlikely.

While major earthquakes have not been traced to unnatural causes, the spread of mining natural gas by fracking – a method that injects liquids and undisclosed chemicals into the layers of earth that contain fossil fuels – the increase of areas covers has spread concerns that Texas rural areas have felt when their land has been endangered.

Of course, BP is yet another party that we’ve already experienced too up close and personal in their drilling for our resources.  Another party that was involved in constructing the now exploding nuclear facilities in Japan, GE, even pops up in hearings now under way in New York about the safety of fracking.

An executive from General Electric (GE, Fortune 500), which has a big water purification businesses, told the CERA panel that 35 billion gallons of water are used in U.S. shale gas wells each year — the same amount consumed by a million U.S. homes.

As our experience of the dangers inherent in disturbing areas around nuclear facilities are being enlarged, so are concerns about the possibility for damage that cannot be withstood.  Fracking is a disturbance of the earth that is increasingly endangering areas of the U.S. that are already subject to earthquakes.

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Second Explosion; Emergencies Continue

2:41 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Another explosion has occurred at Fukushima, as Scarecrow earlier reported.  News reports are varying.

A second hydrogen explosion at a nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan has caused concern. Officials had warned the second explosion was possible, after the first explosion on Saturday.

A third reactor at the same plant has lost its cooling capacity. If the core is not sufficiently cooled, it will melt.

Hundreds of thousands have been told to evacuate.

As safety crews struggle to contain further damage, the conditions at Japan’s nuclear energy plants worsened during the third day since the major earthquake there.  News released by the government was not entirely clear, and sometimes contradictory.   That another explosion has happened seems inescapable.

Two days after the alarm was first raised about safety at Fukushima Daiichi plant, uncertainty still surrounds the situation on the ground and the status of the three reactors that were functioning at the time of Friday’s earthquake and tsunami.

It appears that a partial meltdown did occur in reactor 1.

On Sunday, officials said the same thing was suspected in reactor 3 – although later, they appeared to retract this statement.

(snip)

Venting of mildly radioactive steam continued at reactors 2 and 3, and officials warned that an explosion was possible in reactor 3′s building.

The official line is that the reactor 1 explosion was caused by a build-up of hydrogen originally produced in the reactor, though this remains to be confirmed.

The amount of radioactive poisoning that has occurred in the population surrounding the reactor is the subject of varying reports, but it is certain that some has been encountered.

Crew members on the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan received radiation exposure and contamination spread through air currents.

“At this point, we have not picked up anything” in detectors midway between Japan and Hawaii.

“We’re talking a couple of days – nothing before Tuesday – in terms of picking something up,” NYT quoted Thunborg as saying.

Foreign offices are asking their nationals not to travel to Japan.

As aftershocks continued to shake the coast, the Foreign Office urged Britons to avoid all non-essential travel to Tokyo and the north-east of Japan, while the US state department recommended that Americans stay away from Japan.

The Japanese meteorological agency warned that there was a 70% possibility of a magnitude 7 or greater tremor during the next three days. It lifted the tsunami warning, but cautioned that aftershocks could cause further waves.

Staying away is probably not possible for members of the many rescue teams that have descended on the nation in its trouble.   Locally, residents are warned to stay indoors.

Hopefully the worst will not occur, but further disaster seems dreadfully likely.

Nothing Bad Could Possibly Come of This

6:09 am in Environment, Government by Ruth Calvo

Titan II missile on display at the Titan Missile Museum, Green Valley, Arizona. (photo: Evelyn Proimos via Flickr)

For anyone who’s traveled on interstate highways out West with convoys of trucks all around will know why this item makes me shudder.  Nuclear warheads are being trucked from Washington state to the Texas panhandle for a bit of upkeep.  The trucks are said to be speciallly equipped to keep the warheads from being a danger.

Knowing warheads are coming through would be disturbing, so those entertaining this traffic are being left unaware of when they go through.

Eight of the Navy’s 14 ballistic-missile submarines are based at Bangor, so about 900 to 1,000 warheads are to be transported from and returned to Kitsap County in special unmarked tractor trailers. Each trailer can carry several warheads at a time.

The NNSA’s Office of Secure Transportation conducts the shipping. Scripps Howard News Service could not reach anyone from the office or the Navy for comment, but the NNSA’s website says the office has safely completed 100 percent of its shipments without compromising or losing a nuclear weapon or component, or releasing radioactive material.

In November, the Energy Department inspector general’s office said it reviewed 16 alcohol-related incidents involving agents, candidate-agents and others from the Office of Secure Transportation from 2007 through 2009. They included an agent arrested for public intoxication and two agents detained by police after a bar fight.

Live transport of nuclear weapons is always associated with risks, Kristensen said.

See, didn’t feel a thing did you?  Okay, since this is an item that is associated with possible public reaction, I actually do not believe that it’s done and past.  I do believe you will never know unless there’s an accident.   As in the case of the explosion on Horizon Well in the Gulf, if there is an accident, you will not be able to escape knowing.

The START Treaty is before a congress that has too many members totally disassociated from public interests or safety concerns.