When it comes to the truth about radiation and health effects, there are no experts who are honest - not in government, not in science, not anywhere. Yet, people would rather listen to liars than challenge their assumptions about the sources of the so-called truth and disregard the purveyors of actual truth on this topic: the non-creditialed self-taught. - Andrew Kishner, May 18, 2013
Could Fukushima Happen in the U.S.?
Fukushima should have been a wake-up call to U.S. citizens, especially to millions of Americans who live in the 'impact zone' of the same kind of 'Mark 1' reactors that were so flawed that they relatively easily melted down in Japan. The 23 Mark 1's in the U.S. haven't been fixed. A prolonged power outage and failure of backup generators could result in a meltdown - just like in Japan - and permanent evacuation and destruction of regional farms, schools, towns and cities would happen as fast as 12-24 hours after the accident's onset. But we didn't need Fukushima to know that U.S.-built reactors are flawed and dangerously operating. Warnings issued in the 1980s about these faulty designs of Generic Electric-made reactors were ignored and the only other company that built reactors in the U.S. was Westinghouse, which also built unsafe nuclear plants. Court documents that surfaced during decades of litigation against the nuclear plant developer revealed (before Fukushima) that Westinghouse reactors (built across the U.S. and world) have had chronic problems that were linked to the company's faulty designs, defective parts and improper reactor installation. A 1982 report by the group Critical Mass Energy warned that defective steam generator components being used in the construction of 16 U.S. nuclear power plants in the early 1980s would put those reactors at risk - or prohibit operation if run at more than 50% capacity. Some of these reactors are still operating.
But even U.S. reactors that were built with non-defective parts and according to correct, safer designs are in danger. In the book The Enemy Within, Jay Gould wrote that "Corrosion may be an unanticipated problem in curtailing the operational lifetimes of all nuclear reactors and may some day be seen as one of the great technological blunders of the twentieth century." U.S. reactors are suffering from aging 'steam generators.' The steam generator is a very large reactor component comprised of thousands and thousands of brittle pipes that create the steam that is made to spin a nuclear power plant's turbines. Corrosion-induced holes and leaks at the steam generator that account for a daily loss of cups or liters of coolant at U.S. reactors are not getting smaller. These pipes have been known to burst and force a reactor to shut-down. A 2011 article titled 'Flaw Found in Safety Mechanism at Limerick Nuclear Plant' mentioned that nuclear reactor and component maker GE Hitachi warned the NRC in late 2010 that a safety mechanism it made that is in many nuclear plants might not work during an earthquake. GE Hitachi said its mechanism that inserts the control rods could fail to work during an earthquake. The NRC has not fixed the problem in U.S. reactors and an earthquake in combination with a steam generator crisis could easily cause a meltdown. (If you run out of coolant in your radiator, your engine faces a massive overheat. In a reactor, that's called a meltdown.) Other corrosive issues endemic to many U.S. reactor plants like 'reactor embrittlement' or the weakening of the vessel encapsulating the reactor, and fuel rod corrosion, which can lead uranium pellet-filled tubes to burst open and release radioactivity, also could be a contributing factor to a meltdown.
A nuclear meltdown actually isn't the worst thing that could happen at a nuclear power plant in the U.S. Every U.S. reactor houses spent fuel 'pools' which don't need to be located near fault lines and seashores to pose a danger. All reactors and their spent fuel pools in the U.S. are vulnerable to terrorist attack, sabotage, and catastrophic weather and other events. In 2011, overwhelmed earthen dams along the swollen and flooding Missouri River that luckily held and a diesel gas bucket-brigade during an outside power loss incident spared the melt-down of the riverside Ft. Calhoun power plant in Nebraska. The plant's cosmetic super-barrier was no match for a strong river current let alone a collapsing dam-induced tsunami which would have undoubtedly created one or more Fukushima-like meltdowns and spent fuel fires on the farm-lined Missouri River - the disaster could have turned cities along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers into ghost-towns.
These spent fuel inventories are ticking time bombs. A tragic spent fuel accident whereby water in the fuel pool drops, or starts boiling, could firstly lead to the cladding catching on fire. This will release the gaseous isotopes stored in the gaps between the fuel rods and the cladding. After the cladding catches on fire, the solid radioactive particles in the fuel rods that are vaporizing (turning from solid to gas) will also escape. This is called fuel vaporization. According to the book 'Biocatastrophe and the Collapse of Global Consumer Society,' by Ephraim Tinkham, the global ramifications from airborne contamination from fuel vaporization would be disastrous:
"Nuclear vaporization of an operational nuclear reactor and its spent fuel pool has the potential to release 50 to 100 times the biologically significant radioactivity released by the Chernobyl accident, resulting in contamination of a large portion of the world's food producing ecosystems." [p.89]
During a reactor accident, nearly all of the leaked radioactive gas will end up settling in low-lying areas or river valleys downwind. Sometimes these areas 'downwind' can be 5 or 100 miles away from a reactor. Winds, weather fronts and other weather conditions can move the pockets of low-lying radioactive air both near and far. What's so dangerous about pockets of radioactive gases? A scientist named Dr. Henry Kendell, a co-founder of the Union of Concerned Scientists, once remarked in testimony that based on figures from the then U.S. Atomic Energy Commission 'if twenty percent of the radioactive gas from a 650 million watt plant were to escape and be blown away by a 6.5 mile per hour wind, it could form a cloud that would have lethal effects over an area 2 miles wide and 7.5 miles long.'
It CAN happen here. While our pro-nuclear government has a vested interest in keeping reactors running and suppressing these worrying concerns, and the utilities interested in not doling out money for repairs and shut-downs are playing along, we are sitting ducks. It's time we wake up and make sure we're not next.
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