Nuclear leaks are the rule, not the exception

Posted: February 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

The problem is obvious: An ‘old boy’ network involving civilian government, military and industry officials has created a culture of complacency and hazard

Nuclear power plants near Chicago in Byron, IL, and in San Ofrio, CA, have been shut down and have leaked radioactive materials as this was being written. The Byron plant has been restarted after discharging radioactive tritium.

In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in 2011 that radioactive tritium had leaked from three-fourths of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites — at least 48 of 65 sites — often into groundwater from corroded pipes and leaky tanks.

“Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard — sometimes at hundreds of times the limit.”

Think about this for a moment.

When airbone leaks are reported they are discussed and dismissed by plant or government officials in terms of background radiation levels. What they do not say is that any ADDITION to background radiation levels such as the leaks from these plants increases the incidence of cancers in human beings and mutation in human beings and other forms of life. We are a bit short in research on that end — but look around. Look at cancer, look at leukemia, look at reproductive problems. Look at mysterious allergies, autism, etc.

We don’t have the data to put a dollar amount, in terms of healthcare, per unit of radiation leaked from nuclear plants. We should acknowledge that there is one, however.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s repeated claim that the release of radioactive tritium into the air is harmless is suspect.

In 2010, Paul Gunter, a nuclear reactor oversight specialist with the Beyond Nuclear organization, stated unequivocally that there is “no safe dose” of tritium for human beings. Beyond Nuclear points out that there is no such thing as “safe” levels of exposure to radioactivity, tritium or otherwise:

“The linear no threshold theory, endorsed by the U.S. National Academies of Science for decades, holds that ANY exposure to radioactvity, no matter how small, still carries a health risk, and such risks are cumulative over a lifetime. It would be more honest for NRC officials to state that the tritium releases from Byron are ‘acceptably risky,’ in their judgment, but not ‘safe.’ After all, tritium is a potent radionuclide, a clinically proven cause of cancer, mutations, and birth defects, and if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin, can integrate anywhere in the human body, right down to the DNA level.”

Why, oh why, are government and industry personnel so tolerant of the risks? It’s the profit motive. The executives of a corporation are beholden only to the stockholders.

Workers at the Byron, IL, plant accidentally punched through pipes containing radioactive water with wire brushes in 2007. The culprit: A management decision to tolerate thinning of pipes due to corrosion:

The New York Times reported that the plant’s owner, the Exelon Corporation, had long known that corrosion was thinning most of these pipes. Rather than fix them, it repeatedly lowered the minimum thickness it deemed safe. By the time the pipe broke, Exelon had declared that pipe walls just three-hundredths of an inch thick–less than one-tenth the original minimum thickness–would be good enough.

Safety experts said that if enough pipes had ruptured during a reactor accident, the result could easily have been a nuclear catastrophe at a plant just 100 miles west of Chicago.

The ongoing disaster and cover-up at Tokyo’s Fukushima plant has shed more light on this problem — with both U.S. and Japanese corporations and government officials appearing to be driven by corporate profits ahead of human safety.

Check out the Washington Post’s recent coverage.

It appears — at least appears — that management at Bechtel Corporation (which, by the way, is handling the $12.2 billion U.S. nuclear waste vitrification project at Hanford, Washington — more on that later, I’m sure) attempted to gouge the Fukushima plant’s operator at the height of the crisis in March, 2011 and that U.S. agency experts proposed “solutions” that could have made the disaster even worse. It also appears that the situation, even now, is much worse than previously reported, with contaminated water in the plant measuring not in gallons, but of tons.

It has been apparent since U.S. nuclear power experts botched their response to the disaster through the present, with Japan’s government under pressure from domestic industrialists to loosen radiation regulations in a post-3/11 Japan.

“Because “we have to make sure producers are not inconvenienced’,” the report indicated. Source: ex-skf.

What has happened to our cultures to permit this sort of tolerance of not only risk, but disaster? It’s not hard to fathom — just observe. We have tolerated the establishment of an “old boy” network which has eliminated the division of civilian, military and industrial powers. It is a drunken culture but it is also thuggish and quite likely, murderous.

Our nation’s capital is ringed with military and nuclear power suppliers. The nuclear energy sector is tied to the military which is tied to suppliers which are directing the activities of government officials. Suppliers get drunk with U.S. Defense Department officials. Government officials sleep with lobbyists and it is tolerated by an indifferent public. Resolve weakens. I say this quite literally.

We need a true civilian government.

Just as the branches of government must be kept separate to balance power, so, too, do corporate interests need to be kept separate from those of government. The first step is to restore Constitutional guidance. Consider Move to Amend and Working Assets’ Credo Action.

Ultimately the solution may be to take the energy industry … lock, stock and barrel … out of the private sector. It’s simply a question of human health.

Something else to think about: Lifestyle. Just a thought.

More on San Ofrio

More from PoetsCollective

Source material may also be found here


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