On Monday 3/21 an official with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) explained to us, via NPR news, that we needn’t worry about radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. NRC’s mission is to protect the public by ensuring that nuclear power plants in the U.S. operate as safely as possible. There are several worrisome factors that would lead us to question NRC credibility, as much as we’d like to believe their assuring pronouncements:
• The nuclear industry funds the NRC – can you say collusion of interest?
• The NRC has never turned down a license extension request from a reactor that has reached the end of its original operating life (this week they renewed a 40 year old reactor in Vermont for another twenty years)
• NRC has a history of ignoring or downplaying safety violations, for example ignoring a leak that had been going on since 1993 at Indian Point, a plant nearer New York City than Tokyo is to Fukushima; ignored regulations requiring releases of radioactively contaminated air be via controlled and monitored pathways at Vermont Yankee; there are others and these are only for 2010 according to a Union of Concerned Scientists annual report in which NRC also did some things right (see www.ucsusa.org).
• The day before 911 the NRC determined that the possibility of an airliner crashing into a reactor was so remote that it needn’t be considered in safety review. Many think a reactor was the target of the failed hi-jacked airliner of 911.
• Attempts to infiltrate mock-terrorists onto nuclear sites over the years were successful 50% of the time despite reactor security knowing the dates of these tests in advance.
• NRC staff embrace the flawed, potentially deadly belief, that an extremely dangerous process of boiling water, leaving extremely long-lived radioactive waste can be “safe” even when safety regulations are ignored and benign alternatives are available.
• NRC and other nuclear advocates constantly give assurances that certain scary outcomes are so unlikely as to be virtually impossible and when they do happen (think Japan, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl) there is a gathering of the wagons to defend the industry that resembles the denial surrounding alcoholic addiction.
• Anti-nuke groups warned against the decision to build nuclear plants in Georgia, their arguments and warnings ignored but their concerns about cost, safety and alternatives confirmed, item by item, in the end. This doesn’t seem to figure in Georgia Power’s recent decision to once again overrule these same objections to the same pro-nuke mind-set (denial is not a river in Egypt).
• President Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future includes exactly zero anti-nuclear advocates.
Keeping in mind that official weather reports in heavily nuke-committed France falsely reported wind patterns to the public showing radiation from Chernobyl by-passing France, that the scenario still being played out in Japan was considered impossible by our nuclear geniuses, are assurances from industry bedfellows to be uncritically bought? Or might it be wiser to adopt a philosophy of Buyer Beware!