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Fukushima’s Children Are Dying

9:08 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

By Harvey Wasserman

 

“More than 120 childhood cancers have been indicated where just three would be expected.”

Some 39 months after the multiple explosions at Fukushima, thyroid cancer rates among nearby children have skyrocketed to more than forty times (40x) normal.

More than 48 percent of some 375,000 young people—nearly 200,000 kids—tested by the Fukushima Medical University near the smoldering reactors nowsuffer from pre-cancerous thyroid abnormalities, primarily nodules and cysts. The rate is accelerating.

More than 120 childhood cancers have been indicated where just three would be expected, says Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.

The nuclear industry and its apologists continue to deny this public health tragedy. Some have actually asserted that “not one person” has been affected by Fukushima’s massive radiation releases, which for some isotopes exceed Hiroshima by a factor of nearly 30.

But the deadly epidemic at Fukushima is consistent with impacts suffered among children near the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island and the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl, as well as findings at other commercial reactors.

But a wide range of independent studies confirm heightened infant death rates and excessive cancers among the general population. Excessive death, mutation and disease rates among local animals were confirmed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and local journalists.

In the 1980s federal Judge Sylvia Rambo blocked a class action suit by some 2,400 central Pennsylvania downwinders, claiming not enough radiation had escaped to harm anyone. But after 35 years, no one knows how much radiation escaped or where it went. Three Mile Island’s owners have quietly paid millions to downwind victims in exchange for gag orders.

At Chernobyl, a compendium of more than 5,000 studies has yielded an estimated death toll of more than 1,000,000 people.

The radiation effects on youngsters in downwind Belarus and Ukraine have been horrific. According to Mangano, some 80 percent of the “Children of Chernobyl” born downwind since the accident have been harmed by a wide range of impacts ranging from birth defects and thyroid cancer to long-term heart, respiratory and mental illnesses. The findings mean that just one in five young downwinders can be termed healthy.

Physicians for Social Responsibility and the German chapter of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War have warned of parallel problems near Fukushima.

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has recently issued reports downplaying the disaster’s human impacts. UNSCEAR is interlocked with the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, whose mandate is to promote atomic power. The IAEA has a long-term controlling gag order on UN findings about reactor health impacts. For decades UNSCEAR and the World Health Organization have run protective cover for the nuclear industry’s widespread health impacts. Fukushima has proven no exception.

In response, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the German International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War have issued a ten-point rebuttal, warning the public of the UN’s compromised credibility. The disaster is “ongoing” say the groups, and must be monitored for decades. “Things could have turned for the worse” if winds had been blowing toward Tokyo rather than out to sea (and towards America).

There is on-going risk from irradiated produce, and among site workers whose doses and health impacts are not being monitored. Current dose estimates among workers as well as downwinders are unreliable, and special notice must be taken of radiation’s severe impacts on the human embryo.

UNSCEAR’s studies on background radiation are also “misleading,” say the groups, and there must be further study of genetic radiation effects as well as “non-cancer diseases.” The UN assertion that “no discernible radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members” is “cynical,” say the groups. They add that things were made worse by the official refusal to distribute potassium iodide, which might have protected the public from thyroid impacts from massive releases of radioactive I-131.

Overall, the horrific news from Fukushima can only get worse. Radiation from three lost cores is still being carried into the Pacific. Management of spent fuel rods in pools suspended in the air and scattered around the site remains fraught with danger.

The pro-nuclear Shinzo Abe regime wants to reopen Japan’s remaining 48 reactors. It has pushed hard for families who fled the disaster to re-occupy irradiated homes and villages.

But Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and the plague of death and disease now surfacing near Fukushima make it all too clear that the human cost of such decisions continues to escalate—with our children suffering first and worst.

Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org and wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm. Read the rest of this entry →

Japan’s Deadly New ‘Fukushima Fascism’

7:28 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

Fukushima continues to spew out radiation. The quantities seem to be rising, as do the impacts.

Smoke rises in an aerial view of Fukushima

New Japanese laws seek to suppress Fukushima reporting.

The site has been infiltrated by organized crime. There are horrifying signs of ecological disaster in the Pacific and human health impacts in the U.S.

But within Japan, a new State Secrets Act makes such talk punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Taro Yamamoto, a Japanese legislator, says the law “represents a coup d’etat” leading to “the recreation of a fascist state.” The powerful Asahi Shimbun newspaper compares it to “conspiracy” laws passed by totalitarian Japan in the lead-up to Pearl Harbor, and warns it could end independent reporting on Fukushima.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been leading Japan in an increasingly militaristic direction. Tensions have increased with China. Massive demonstrations have been renounced with talk of “treason.”

But it’s Fukushima that hangs most heavily over the nation and the world.

Tokyo Electric Power has begun the bring-down of hot fuel rods suspended high in the air over the heavily damaged Unit Four. The first assemblies it removed may have contained unused rods. The second may have been extremely radioactive.

But Tepco has clamped down on media coverage and complains about news helicopters filming the fuel rod removal.

Under the new State Secrets Act, the government could ban—and arrest—all independent media under any conditions at Fukushima, throwing a shroud of darkness over a disaster that threatens us all.

By all accounts, whatever clean-up is possible will span decades. The town of Fairfax, CA, has now called for a global takeover at Fukushima. More than 150,000 signees have asked the UN for such intervention.

As a private corporation, Tepco is geared to cut corners, slash wages and turn the clean-up into a private profit center.

It will have ample opportunity. The fuel pool at Unit Four poses huge dangers that could take years to sort out. But so do the ones at Units One, Two and Three. The site overall is littered with thousands of intensely radioactive rods and other materials whose potential fallout is thousands of times greater than what hit Hiroshima in 1945.

Soon after the accident, Tepco slashed the Fukushima workforce. It has since restored some of it, but has cut wages. Shady contractors shuttle in hundreds of untrained laborers to work in horrific conditions. Reuters says the site is heavily infiltrated by organized crime, raising the specter of stolen radioactive materials for dirty bombs and more.

Thousands of tons of radioactive water now sit in leaky tanks built by temporary workers who warn of their shoddy construction. They are sure to collapse with a strong earthquake.

Tepco says it may just dump the excess water into the Pacific anyway. Nuclear expert Arjun Makhijani has advocated the water be stored in supertankers until it can be treated, but the suggestion has been ignored.

Hundreds of tons of water also flow daily from the mountains through the contaminated site and into the Pacific. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen long ago asked Tepco to dig a trench filled with absorbents to divert that flow. But he was told that would cost too much money.

Now Tepco wants to install a wall of ice. But that can’t be built for at least two years. It’s unclear where the energy to keep the wall frozen will come from, or if it would work at all.

Meanwhile, radiation is now reaching record levels in both the air and water.

Read the rest of this entry →

Robert Stone Must Film Fukushima Now

8:23 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

We are in desperate need of documentary filmmakers at Fukushima.

 

Pandora's Promise movie poster

The director of Pandora’s Promise should visit Fukushima.

The Japanese government is about to pass a national censorship law clearly meant to make it impossible to know what’s going on there.

Massive quantities of radioactive water have been flowing through the site since the 3/11/11 earthquake/tsunami.

At thousand flimsy tanks hold still more thousands of tons of radioactive water which would pour into the Pacific should they collapse.

An earthquake and two typhoons have have just hit there, flushing still more radioactive water into the sea.

The corrupt and incompetent Tokyo Electric Power Company will soon try moving 400 tons of supremely radioactive rods from a damaged Unit Four fuel pool, an operation that could easily end in global catastrophe. The rods contain 14,000 times as much radioactive cesium as was released at the bombing of Hiroshima.

Nobody knows the exact location of the melted cores from Units One, Two and Three or whether they are still fissioning.

Reuters and others report criminal involvement, slashed wages, inhuman working conditions, serious shortages and lack of training in what has become an extremely dangerous labor crisis.

Intensely radioactive hotspots have turned up throughout Japan, including some that threaten human life in Tokyo and make cast a pall on the upcoming Olympics.

At least one report indicates a massive dead zone in the Pacific apparently caused by radiation pouring in from the site. Tuna contaminated with radiation from Fukushima have been caught off the California coast, and there are widespread reports other marine life disappearing throughout the Pacific.

With the information flow from Fukushima apparently about to go dark, the presence of independent media and researchers has become more critical than ever.

Petitions with more than 140,000 signatures asking for a global takeover of the Fukushima site will be delivered to the United Nations November 7. The ask is for a transnational team of world’s best scientists and engineers to guarantee that all necessary resources are available to deal with this crisis.

Robert Stone has made a high budget dis-infomercial sponsored by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, whose cohort Bill Gates has bet heavily on new nukes. Called “Pandora’s Promise,” Stone’s promoters have refused to send us a review copy. We’re told it mocks industry opponents without actually interviewing them, while downplaying the killing power of atomic radiation. It’s scheduled to air on CNN without a balancing point of view.

A trip to Fukushima might change Stone’s mind. He’s worked in the past with Michael Moore, one of our greatest investigative documentarians. Using Michael’s aggressive techniques, we want him to bring back critical information that could make a difference.

At very least we desperately need to know more about the11,000 intensely radioactive fuel rods on site, the three missing reactor cores, the proposed bring-down of the Unit Four fuel rods, the potential for still more explosions, the labor crisis, the unending flow of potentially lethal radiation into the biosphere, and much more.

The fate of the Earth may now hang at the mercy of a widely distrusted corporation and far-right government intent on blacking out that site.

Dr. James Hanson, an important climate scientist, has expressed his support for atomic energy, and would make a fitting co-worker on this trip.

Along the way, Mr. Stone, you might check out Japan’s massive new offshore wind turbines whose promise is to replace all the reactors this disaster has forced shut.

But as a hired industry gun, you need above all to tell us what’s happening at Fukushima…before the lights go out.

Our future could well depend on how honestly you undertake this critical task. Please report back as soon as possible.

Harvey Wasserman edits Nuke Free. He is author of SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH and hosts the Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show at PRN.

14,000 Hiroshimas Still Hang in the Fukushima Air

12:51 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

Japan’s pro-nuclear Prime Minister has finally asked for global help at Fukushima.

It probably hasn’t hurt that more than 100,000 people have signed petitions calling for a global takeover; more than 8,000 have viewed a new YouTube on it.

Massive quantities of heavily contaminated water are pouring into the Pacific Ocean, dousing workers along the way. Hundreds of huge, flimsy tanks are leaking untold tons of highly radioactive fluids.

At Unit #4, more than 1300 fuel rods, with more than 400 tons of extremely radioactive material, containing potential cesium fallout comparable to 14,000 Hiroshima bombs, are stranded 100 feet in the air

All this more than 30 months after the 3/11/2011 earthquake/tsunami led to three melt-downs and at least four explosions.

“Our country needs your knowledge and expertise” he has said to the world community. “We are wide open to receive the most advanced knowledge from overseas to contain the problem.”

But is he serious?

“I am aware of three US companies with state of the art technology that have been to Japan repeatedly and have been rebuffed by the Japanese government,” says Arnie Gundersen, a Vermont-based nuclear engineer focused on Fukushima.

I have spoken with six Japanese medical doctors who have said that they were told not to discuss radiation induced medical issues with their patients. None will speak out to the press.

Three American University professors … were afraid to sign the UN petition to Ban Ki-Moon because it would endanger their Japanese colloquies who they are doing research with.

Abe, he says (to paraphrase it politely), might not be entirely forthcoming.

Fukushima Daiichi is less than 200 miles from Tokyo. Prevailing winds generally blow out to sea — directly towards the United States, where Fukushima’s fallout was measured less than a week after the initial disaster.

But radioactive hot spots have already been found in Tokyo. A worst-case cloud would eventually make Japan an uninhabitable waste-land. What it could do to the Pacific Ocean and the rest of us downwind approaches the unthinkable.

“If you calculate the amount of cesium 137 in the pool” at Unit #4, “the amount is equivalent to 14,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs,” says Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute 

The Unit #4 fuel assemblies were pulled for routine maintenance just prior to the earthquake/tsunami. An International Atomic Energy Agency document says they were exposed to the open air, did catch fire and did release radiation.

Since none of the six GE-designed Daiichi reactors has a containment over the fuel pools, that radiation poured directly into the atmosphere. Dozens more designed like these reactors operate in the US and around the world.

Then corrosive sea water was dumped into the pool.

Unit #4 was damaged in the quake, and by an explosion possibly caused by hydrogen leaking in from Unit #3. It shows signs of buckling and of sinking into soil turning to mud by water flowing down from the mountains, and from attempts to cool the cores missing from Units #1, #2 and #3.

Tokyo Electric Power and the Japanese government may try to bring down the Unit #4 rods next month. With cranes operated by computers, that might normally take about 100 days. But this requires manual control. Tepco says they’ll try to do it in a year (half their original estimate) presumably to beat the next earthquake.

But the pool may be damaged and corroded. Loose debris is visible. The rods and assemblies may be warped. Gundersen says they’re embrittled and may be crumbling.

Some 6,000 additional rods now sit in a common storage pool just 50 meters away. Overall some 11,000 rods are scattered around the site. Vital as it is, bringing Unit #4’s rods safely down is a just a small step toward coping with the overall mess.

Read the rest of this entry →

The Disaster at Fukushima Gets Even Worse

4:39 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

UPDATE: Radioactive water overruns Fukushima barrier.

Contaminated groundwater accumulating under the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has risen 60cm above the protective barrier, and is now freely leaking into the Pacific Ocean, the plant’s operator TEPCO has admitted.

Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant_20

Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant

The Horror at Fukushima Flows Ever Deeper

By Harvey Wasserman

Just when it seemed things might be under control at Fukushima, we find they are worse than ever.  Immeasurably worse.

Massive quantities of radioactive liquids are now flowing through the shattered reactor site into the Pacific Ocean.  And their make-up is far more lethal than the “mere” tritium that has dominated the headlines to date.

Tepco, the owner/operator—and one of the world’s biggest and most technologically advanced electric utilities—has all but admitted it cannot control the situation.  Their shoddy performance has prompted former US Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Dale Klein to charge:  ”You don’t what you are doing.”

The Japanese government is stepping in.  But there is no guarantee—or even likelihood—it will do any better.

In fact, there is no certainty as to what’s causing this out-of-control flow of death and destruction.   Some 16 months after three of the six reactors exploded at the Fukushima Daichi site, nobody can offer a definitive explanation of what is happening there or how to deal with it.

The most cogent speculation now centers on the reality that, simply enough, water flows downhill.

Aside from its location in an earthquake-prone tsunami zone, Fukushima Daichi was sited above a major aquifer.  That critical reality has been missing from nearly all discussion of the accident since it occurred.

There can be little doubt at this point that the water in that underground lake has been thoroughly contaminated.

In the wake of the March 11, 2011 disaster, Tepco led the public to believe that it had largely contained the flow of contaminated water into the Pacific.  But now it admits that not only was that a lie, but that the quantities of water involved—apparently some 400,000 gallons per day—are very large.

Some of that water may be flowing from the aquifer.  Much of it also, simply enough, flows down Japan’s steep hillsides, through the site and into the sea.

Until now the utility and regulatory authorities have assured an anxious planet that the contaminants in the water have been primarily tritium.  Tritium is a relatively simple isotope with an 8-day half-life. Its health effects can be substantial, but its short half-life has been used to proliferate the illusion that it’s not much to worry about.

Reports now indicate the outflow at Fukushima also includes substantial quantities of radioactive iodine, cesium and strontium.  That, in turn, indicates there is probably more we haven’t yet heard about.

This is very bad news.

Iodine-131, for example, can be ingested into the thyroid, where it emits beta particles (electrons) that damage tissue.  A plague of damaged thyroids has already been reported among as many as 40% of the children in the Fukushima area.  That percentage can only go higher.  In developing youngsters, it can stunt both physical and mental growth.  Among adults it causes a very wide range of ancillary ailments, including cancer.

Cesium-137 from Fukushima has been found in fish caught as far away as California. It spreads throughout the body, but tends to accumulate in the muscles.  Strontium-90′s half-life is around 29 years.  It mimics calcium and goes to our bones.

That these are among the isotopes being dumped into the Pacific is the worst news to come from Japan since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whose bombings occurred 68 years ago this week, and whose fallout has been vastly exceeded at Fukushima.

Indeed, Japanese experts have already estimated Fukushima’s fallout at 20-30 times as high as the 1945 bombings.  This latest revelation will send that number soaring.

The dominant reality is this:  there is absolutely no indication how or when this lethal outflow will stop.  Thus far Tepco has built scores of tanks on the site to contain whatever contaminated water they can capture.  But they by no means are getting all of it, and they are running out of space.  Some of the tanks, of course, have already sprung leaks.

There is no clear idea whether this outflow is accelerating.  Tepco has injected chemicals into the ground meant to harden and form a wall between the reactors and the sea.  There’s also a surreal discussion of super-cooling a part of the site to conjure up a wall of ice.

But water has a way of flowing around such feeble devices.

We may yet hear that this massive outflow is a temporary phenomenon, but that’s not likely.

The dire reality is that the site is still unpredictably radioactive.  It remains unclear what has happened to the melted cores of the three exploded reactors. The recent appearance of a steam plume has raised the spectre that fission may still be occurring somewhere in the area.

It is also unclear what will happen to the hundreds of tons of spent fuel perched precariously in a pool 100 feet in the air above Unit Four.  Sustaining that cooling system until the rods can be removed—and it’s unclear when that will happen—is a major challenge.  Should the inevitable earthquake come before that’s done, and should those rods go crashing to the ground where they and their zirconium cladding could ignite in the open air, the consequences could only be described as apocalyptic.

Through it all, Japan’s new pro-nuclear administration has been talking of re-starting the 48 reactors that remain shut since Fukushima.  Tepco has been among the utilities pushing to resume operations at its other plants.  In the US, there is talk of atomic reactors somehow solving the global warming crisis.

But what we now know all too well at Fukushima is that the world’s worst atomic catastrophe is very far from over.  The only thing predictable is that worse news will come.  And that when it does, our increasingly fragile planet will be further irradiated, at immeasurable cost to us all. Read the rest of this entry →

Fukushima Continues to Spew its Darkness

7:51 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

Fukushima Continues to Spew Its Darkness
By Harvey Wasserman
Radiation leaks, steam releases, disease and death continue to spew from Fukushima and a disaster which is far from over.  Its most profound threat to the global ecology—a spent fuel fire—is still very much with us.
The latest steam leak has raised fears around the planet.  A worst-case scenario of an on-going out-of-control fission reaction was dismissed by the owners, Tokyo Electric, because they didn’t find xenon in the plume.  The company says the steam likely came from rain water being vaporized by residual heat in one of plant’s stricken reactors.
But independent experts tend to disbelieve anything Tepco says, for good reason.  Reactor Units One, Two and Three have exploded at Fukushima despite decades of official assurances that commercial atomic power plants could not explode at all.  The company has been unable to clear out enough radioactive debris to allow it to put a cover over the site that might contain further airborne emissions.
Tepco has also been forced to admit that it has been leaking radioactive water into the ocean ever since the disaster began on March 11, 2011.  In one instance it admitted to a 90-fold increase of Cesium in a nearby test over a period of just 3 days.
Earlier this year a rat ate through critical electrical cables, shorting out a critical cooling system.  When Tepco workers were dispatched to install metal guards to protect the cabling, they managed to short out the system yet again.
Early this month Fukushima’s former chief operator, Masao Yoshida, died of esophogeal cancer at the age of 58.  Masao became a hero during the worst of the disaster by standing firm at his on-site command post as multiple explosions rocked the reactor complex.  Tepco claimed his ensuing cancer and death were “unlikely” to have been caused by Fukushima’s radiation.
The impact of work in and near the reactors has become a rising concern.  Critics have warned that there are not enough skilled technicians willing to sacrifice themselves at the plant.  Tepco has worsened the situation by applying to open a number of its shut reactors elsewhere in Japan, straining its already depleted skilled workforce even further.
Meanwhile, a staggering 40% rise in thyroid irregularities among young children in the area has caused a deepening concern about widespread health impacts from Fukushima’s fallout within the general public.  Because these numbers have come in just two years after the disaster, the percentage of affected children is expected to continue to rise.
And the worst fear of all remains unabated.  At Unit Four, which apparently did not actually explode, the building’s structural integrity has been seriously undermined.  Debate continues to rage over exactly how this happened.
But there’s no doubt that a pool containing many tons of highly radioactive used fuel is suspended 100 feet in the air, with little left to support the structure.  Should an earthquake or other trauma knock the pool to the ground, there’s a high likelihood the fuel rods could catch fire.
In such an event, the radioactive emissions could be catastrophic.  Intensely lethal emissions could spew for a very long time, eventually circling the globe many times, wrecking untold havoc.
The Japanese have removed two apparently unused rods from the fuel pool so far.  But intense international pressure to clear out the rest of them has thus far been unsuccessful.
So while a depleted, discredited and disorganized nuclear utility moves to restart its other reactors, its stricken units at Fukushima continue to hold the rest of us at the brink of apocalyptic terror.
Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org and is author of SOLARTOPIA!  Our Green-Powered Earth.

San Onofre is Dead & So is Nuclear Power

9:51 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Units 2 and 3

From his California beach house at San Clemente, Richard Nixon once watched three reactors rise at nearby San Onofre.  As of June 7, 2013, all three are permanently shut.

It’s a monumental victory for grassroots activism.  it marks an epic transition in how we get our energy.

In the thick of the 1970s Arab oil embargo, Nixon said there’d be 1000 such reactors in the US by the year 2000.  As of today, there are 100.  Four have shut here this year.  Citizen activism has put the “nuclear renaissance” into full retreat.

Just two of 54 reactors now operate in Japan, where Fukushima has joined Chernobyl and Three Mile Island in permanently scarring us all.

Germany is shutting its entire fleet and switching to renewables.  France, once the poster child for the global reactor industry, is following suit.  South Korea has just shut three due to fraudulent safety procedures.  Massive demonstrations rage against reactors being built in India.  Only the Koreans, Chinese and Russians remain at all serious about pushing ahead with this tragic technology.

Cheap gas has undercut the short-term market for expensive electricity generated by obsolete coal and nuke burners.  But the vision of Solartopia—a totally green-powered Earth—is now our tangible long-term reality.

With falling prices and soaring efficiency, every moving electron our species consumes will be generated by a solar panel, wind turbine, bio-fueled or geothermal generator, wave machine and their green siblings.

As of early this year, Southern California Edison’s path to a re-start at San Onofre seemed as clear as any to be expected by a traditional atomic tyrannosaur.  But with help from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator-to-be Ed Markey (D-MA), a powerful citizen uprising stopped it dead.

So did the terrifying incompetence and greed that has defined the nuclear industry from the days of Nixon and before.

San Onofre Unit One shut in the 1990s due largely to steam generator problems.  In the early 2000s, Units 2 & 3 needed new steam generators of their own. In the usual grasp for more profits, Edison chose untested, unlicensed new designs.  But they failed.  And the whole world was watching.  In the wake of Fukushima, two more leaky tsunami-zone reactors surrounded by earthquake faults were massively unwelcome.

So a well-organized non-violent core of local, state and national activists and organizations rose up to stop the madness.

At Vermont Yankee, Indian Point, Seabrook, Davis-Besse and dozens of other reactors around the US and world, parallel opposition is escalating.

Make no mistake—this double victory at San Onofre is a falling domino.  Had the public not fought back, those reactors would have been “fixed” at public expense.

Today, they are dead.

Worldwide, there are some 400 to go.  Each of them—including the 100 remaining in the US—could do apocalyptic damage.  We still have our work cut out for us.

But a huge double-step has been taken up the road to Solartopia.  There will be no Fukushimas at San Onofre.  A green-powered Earth is that much closer.  And we have yet another proof that citizen action makes all the difference in our world.

So seize the day and celebrate!

Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org.  SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth is at www.solartopia.org, along with Harvey Wasserman’s History of the US.    From personal experience he reports that San Luis Obispo, host to the Diablo Canyon nuclear facility, is also in a seismic/tsunami zone, and has a lovely county jail. Read the rest of this entry →

San Onofre at the No Nukes Brink

9:00 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

San Onofre at the No Nukes Brink

San Onofre Nuke Towers

An update on the continued troubles of San Onofre from Harvey Wasserman.

In January, it seemed the restart of San Onofre Unit 2 would be a corporate cake walk.

With its massive money and clout, Southern California Edison was ready to ram through a license exception for a reactor whose botched $770 million steam generator fix had kept it shut for a year.

But a funny thing has happened on the way to the restart:  a No Nukes groundswell has turned this routine rubber stamping into an epic battle the grassroots just might win.

Indeed, if ever there was a time when individual activism could have a magnified impact, this is it (see www.sanonofresafety.org and www.a4nr.org).

This comes as the nuclear industry is in nearly full retreat.  Two US reactors are already down this year.  Yet another proposed project has just been cancelled in North Carolina.  And powerful grassroots campaigns have pushed numerous operating reactors to the brink of extinction throughout the US, Europe and Japan, where all but two reactors remain shut since Fukushima.

In California, it’s San Onofre that’s perched at the brink.

By all accounts Southern California Edison should have the clout to restart it with ease.   The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been a notorious rubber stamp for decades.  The California Public Utilities Commission, which decides how much the utilities can gouge from the ratepayers, has long been in Edison’s pocket.  State water quality regulations could force Edison to build cooling towers, a very expensive proposition that would likely lead to a quick retirement.  But Gov. Jerry Brown has been deafeningly silent on the issue.

But San Onofre sits in an earthquake/tsunami zone halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.  At least 8 million people live within a 50 mile radius, many millions more within 100. The reactors are a stone’s throw from both a major interstate and the high tide line, with a 14-foot flood wall a bare fraction of the height of the tsunami that overwhelmed at Fukushima.

San Onofre Unit One was shut in 1992 by steam generator issues. Edison recently spent some three-quarters of a billion dollars upgrading the steam generators for Units 2 and 3. But the pipes have leaked and failed.  Units 2 and 3 have been shut since January 2012. Edison has now asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to run Unit 2 at 70% power for five months to see how the reactor might do. An NRC panel has termed the idea “experimental.”

Edison is desperate to get the reactor running before summer.  But in the wake of Fukushima, and in the midst of a major boom in solar energy, southern California is rising up to stop that from happening:

Read the rest of this entry →

Los Angeles to San Onofre: “Not So Fast!!!”

9:57 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

Los Angeles to San Onofre: “Not So Fast!”

San Onofre Nuke Towers

An update on the continued troubles of San Onofre from Harvey Wasserman.

A unanimous Los Angeles City Council has demanded the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conduct extended investigations before any restart at the San Onofre atomic power plant.

The move reflects a deep-rooted public opposition to resumed operations at reactors perched in a tsunami zone near earthquake faults that threaten all of southern California.

Meanwhile, yet another top-level atomic insider has told ABC News that San Onofre Units 2 and 3 are not safe to operate.

On April 23, LA’s eleven City Council members approved a resolution directing the NRC to “make no decision about restarting either San Onofre unit” until it conducts a “prudent, transparent and precautionary” investigation.  The city wants “ample opportunity” for public comment and confirmation that “mandated repairs, replacements, or other actions” have been completed to guarantee the public safety.

California’s largest city thus joins Del Mar, Encinitas, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Santa Monica, Solana Beach, Vista, Berkeley, Fairfax and the San Diego Unified School District board in asking the NRC to take all steps necessary to guarantee the public safety.  Some resolutions include the demand that the NRC make utility officials testify under oath in public before San Onofre might be allowed to go back on line. The sentiment has been echoed by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who chairs the Senate committee that oversees the NRC. Boxer has been joined by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) in questioning whether Southern California Edison knew steam generators being installed at San Onofre were faulty.

The new Mitsubishi generators cost some $770,000,000. But critical tubes began banging together and sprang leaks after less than a year of operations. As many as 17% of the plant’s 19,400 tubes may have been involved.

The reactors were shut in January, 2012. Edison has since billed ratepayers roughly a billion dollars for them, even though they’ve generated no electricity for more than a year. The utility says it needs the reactors’ power for the coming southern California summer, even though the region operated just fine last summer without them.

ABC News has now broadcast warnings from a 25-year insider at San Onofre. “There is something grossly wrong,” the whistleblower told a San Diego TV.  Fearing reprisals, the whistleblower appeared in a carefully disguised appearance.

Edison wants to operate Unit Two for five months on an experimental basis. But there are 8 million people living within a 50-mile radius. “If an accident like this happens, (an) emergency plan is not geared to handle such a public safety devastation,” says ABC’s inside source. “Those things have never been practiced or demonstrated in a drill scenario.”

The Government Accountability Office has recently confirmed the confused state of atomic evacuation planning nationwide, a warning picked up by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).

Such warnings echo those of former NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko, who has told the public that none of the 104 reactors currently licensed to operate in the US are safe. The industry, he says, is “just rolling the dice” by continuing to operate these commercial reactors, including San Onofre.

Edison has dismissed Jaczko, the GAO and the whistleblower’s warnings in demanding a June 1 restart. Boxer and Markey want the NRC to refuse approval until public hearings can be heldBut the Commission seems to be rushing ahead with the licensing process.

This unanimous resolution from Los Angeles and so many other southern California communities may have a significant impact. The public is being asked to call Boxer ((202) 224-3553) and Markey ((202) 225-2836) in support of formal hearings to pre-date any licensing.

Putting Edison, Mitsubishi and the reactors’ inside operators under oath, on the stand, in front of the public could help answer some key questions about some very expensive decisions that have put the health, safety and economy of southern California at serious risk.

Despite Edison’s fierce opposition, renewables are spreading rapidly throughout the region. With no real need for San Onofre’s power, activism has never had more a more decisive potential impact.

A radioactive cloud from a restarted San Onofre could completely contaminate San Diego, Los Angeles and the central valley, carrying all the way across the US within four days.

With an NRC decision apparently imminent, Senator Boxer and the city of Los Angeles are right to demand complete transparency and total public access to everything there is to know about this infernal machine.

This power plant is truly on the brink of being shut forever. Let’s make sure that happens. The time is now.

Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org and is author of SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH.

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San Onofre to Boxer, Markey & You: “Drop Dead”

9:59 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

The bitter battle over two stricken southern California reactors has taken a shocking seismic hit.

San Onofre Nuke Towers

The political battle continues over the San Onofre, CA nuclear power plants.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ignored critical questions from two powerful members of Congress just as the Government Accountability Office has seriously questioned emergency planning at the San Onofre nuclear plant.

At a cost of some $770 million, Southern California Edison and its partners installed faulty steam generators at San Onofre Units 2 and 3 that have failed and leaked.

Those reactors have been been shut since January, 2012 (similar defects doomed Unit 1 in 1992).

They’ve generated zero electricity, but SCE and its partners have billed ratepayers over a billion dollars for them.

SCE wants San Onofre reopened by June 1. The idea is to experiment with Unit 2 at 70% of full power for five months, despite widespread concerns that the defective generators will fail again.

That would require a license amendment, about which the NRC staff has asked Edison 32 key preliminary questions. But there’s been no official, adjudicated public hearing on Edison’s response.

On April 9, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) asked the NRC to keep Unit 2 shut until the safety issues can be fully vetted.

Boxer chairs the powerful Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, which oversees the NRC. Markey is ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and is the current front-runner to fill John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat.

Their letter to NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane says San Onofre must not re-open without a “comprehensive investigation” and “full opportunity for public participation.” Utility efforts to “shortcut the license amendment process,” they say, “would put public safety at risk.”

SCE’s backdoor dodge “was made despite evidence showing that there could be a significant hazard from the operation of the deficient steam generators.” That, in turn, “would fall far short of the kind of consideration the 8 million people who live within 50 miles of San Onofre deserve.”

Boxer and Markey asked the NRC to respond by 4pm April 10. Instead, the Commission staff publicly issued a “no significant hazard” ruling that would speed the re-licensing process—a precise renunciation of the Boxer/Markey concerns.

Markey, in turn, said the NRC “showed blatant disregard” for public safety.

Boxer said the ruling was “dangerous and premature,” especially since “the damaged plant is located in an area at risk of earthquake and tsunami.”

She added that “It makes absolutely no sense to even consider taking any steps to reopen San Onofre until these investigations look into every aspect of reopening the plant given the failure of tubes that carry radioactive water.”

The Commission has made some preliminary recommendations in response to Fukushima, including a call for new filters, which the industry has resisted. But it’s at least two years away from issuing new regulations based on lessons learned. Former NRC Chair Greg Jaszco has criticized the industry for failing to respond to Fukushima’s warnings. The Commission, he says, is “just rolling the dice” on public safety.

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