Here is the suggested sound-track to my gripe:
San Onofre Nuclear Power Station Has An Accident… San Diego Media Is Silent
Granted, this isn’t a big accident, as far as anyone can tell… yet. (h/t to Horace Boothroyd III at GOS)
But it was originally announced as a Class 3 accident, which includes the following definition:
3. Site Area Emergency
Events are in process or have occurred that result in actual or likely major failures of plant functions needed for protection of the public. Any releases of radioactive material are not expected to exceed EPA guidelines, except near the site boundary.
Other reports in the Sacramento Bee, for example, reported a Class 2 emergency, which is not as irksome. Of course, the problem with the other reports is that it’s not clear just how the emergency was reported in the first place by officialdom. Class 2, Class 3… it’s almost like such distinctions don’t even matter.
Except that they do to the public, who might be inhaling all sorts of undesirable things over the next few days, weeks and months. A public which numbers almost ten million within a 50-mile radius of the plant itself. At least in this case, it’s merely a leak of ammonia, used as a solvent to clean things that are radioactive.
So there was an accident. At a nuclear power station. It turned out to be not terribly serious, even though the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept. reported it as a Class 3… which seems serious enough to warrant telling the public, but not enough to freak out about.
But in San Diego? Not one single outlet has yet to even mention it.
Not a single one, even though roughly four million people live within its “reach,” as it were.
One wonders what has to happen at San Onofre that might justify San Diego media outlets actually reporting it.
History is a race between education and catastrophe. – H.G. Wells
Well, it’s that time of year again. It’s Earth Day, when reasonable people, trying to grasp at some notion of a nicer world to live in, go plant trees, clean up beaches and write checks to environmental groups that take far too much corporate (read: polluter) money––to shut up at inopportune occasions. Those members, of course, actually do give a shit about the world they live in. Those nice folks on television tell us what we can do as individuals, to make the planet a little greener. Buy the right light bulbs, remember to recycle and buy a new car with marginally better gas mileage. Somehow, making the planet––and thusly our own existences–– healthier always seems to involve buying more shit, mostly made in countries with no labor or environmental laws to speak of. Countries in which the workers who actually make these wonders of environmental goodness are wallowing in their own sea of toxic waste, open sewers and are forced to work under conditions which kill rather a lot of them in the process.
And yet Americans still seem attached to this notion of individualizing everything under the sun. We’re starting to buy electric cars now, but they really should be called Coal Cars, because that’s what charging most of them up in this country. Are the drivers of those cars wondering about the miners with Black Lung or the communities being destroyed by Fly Ash Pond ruptures or the mountains that were but are no longer? How do my purchasing decisions provide adequate pressure to change this arrangement? Grrr. They don’t!
Even worse, of course, is nuclear power. It’s an industry built up primarily on lies. They said it would be “too cheap to meter.” Heh. That’s one of the best tropes anyone ever invented. They said it was safe, until TMI and Chernobyl, when people stopped believing it. They still say no one was killed by TMI and only 48 people were killed by Chernobyl. Indeed, even during this current disaster at Fukushima Daiichi, our betters amongst the ruling class are still saying everything’s great and full speed ahead. Why, some nuclear salespeople are even going so far as to compare the relative radioactivity of a Fly Ash pond (which is very toxic, actually) to typical, routine releases from nuclear power stations. Thing is, most people don’t realize that there are routine releases and even worse, when they do actually make the news, they’re not routine at all. But the worstest thing of all is the simple fact that none of these asswipes ever put serious accidents into their statistical models. So what do our guardians of the public interest do when things go awry?
When you can’t control the situation, control the information
Silence seems to be the best option and failing that, just fucking lie. A major nuclear power accident is by nature (both literally and figuratively) a global event. What happens here will also end up there. Western Europe learned that after Chernobyl. Yet in perusing the US media, the most notable aspect of coverage of the Fukushima accident is… that there isn’t any. If you’re anything like me––and I hope for your sake you’re not, although I could use the company!––then you undoubtedly share in my fuming frustration at the lack of actual news that is available for those of us unfortunate to not speak Japanese. But even the Japanese have been complaining for weeks about the lack of useful data being issued by TEPCO and the governmental regulatory agencies. Still, there are items that pop up with some regularity and they simply aren’t being addressed in a constructive fashion.
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Just in case you thought all was going well, Japan ups nuke crisis severity to match Chernobyl
Japanese nuclear regulators said the rating was being raised from 5 to 7 — the highest level on an international scale overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency — after new assessments of radiation leaks from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant since it was disabled by the March 11 tsunami.
However, Japanese officials have played down any health effects of radioactive releases so far from the Fukushima plant. They said the leaks amount to only a tenth of the radiation emitted in the Chernobyl disaster, while acknowledging they eventually could exceed Chernobyl’s emissions if the crisis continues.
Just in time for the new foodie fad, “Atomic Sushi,” the EPA is making sure we feel safe with higher doses of radiation. And this is coming from a “pro-science” administration? I guess it depends on how one defines “pro.” In any case, kudos to Facing South for running this:
EPA plan to raise radiation exposure limits sparks internal debate
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering dramatically increasing the allowable level of radioactive contamination in water, food and soil after radiological incidents such as spills or “dirty bomb” attacks.
The move preceded the nuclear disaster now unfolding in Japan in the wake of last month’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. Documents released today by the whistleblower group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility show the plan has sparked concerns within EPA.
The agency’s Office of Radiation and Indoor Air (ORIA) has prepared an update of the 1992 “Protective Action Guides” for radiation exposure. Other EPA divisions have raised concerns about how much the new guidelines would raise allowable exposures.
As Charles Openchowski of EPA’s Office of General Counsel wrote in a January 2009 e-mail to ORIA:
“[T]his guidance would allow cleanup levels that exceed MCLs [Maximum Contamination Limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act] by a factor of 100, 1000, and in two instances 7 million and there is nothing to prevent those levels from being the final cleanup achieved (i.e., it’s not confined to immediate response of emergency phase).”
Other EPA officials have raised concerns that drinking water containing radioactive contamination at the proposed limits would result in acute health effects such as vomiting and fever. PEER obtained the internal EPA e-mails after filing a lawsuit last fall under the Freedom of Information Act. It is still waiting for the agency to turn over thousands more communications.
“This critical debate is taking place entirely behind closed doors because this plan is ‘guidance’ and does not require public notice as a regulation would,” said PEER Counsel Christine Erickson.
Put in the context of an administration that is relicensing nuke plants that should have been decommissioned a couple decades ago, this makes perfect sense. They’re protecting the utilities that will eventually have to release radionuclides into the air and water when the accidents occur (and they almost certainly will). This will limit their liabilities and keep them in business when people find out they’ve been contaminated.
From ClaimsJournal.com, something that is oddly missing from the renewed discussion of nuclear power:
Many of the serious safety or security lapses at U.S. nuclear power plants in 2010 happened because plant owners — and often the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) — failed to address known safety problems, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
In 2010, the NRC reported on 14 special inspections it launched in response to troubling events, safety equipment problems, and security shortcomings at nuclear power plants. The UCS says that many of these significant events occurred because reactor owners, and often the NRC, tolerated known safety problems.
Now that the humanitarian war on Libya has pushed the Japanese meltdowns off the front page of media outlets everywhere outside Japan, those of us who wish to keep up with the events there can now just stick to various expert or scientific sites… which I prefer in any case. Even before the Libyan “bang, bang” hit the viddy screens, of course, reporting was tapering off due to a palpable dearth of useful information being released in the first place. There are some good reasons why the official reports are lacking, since the blackout at the plant knocked out all the control room instruments and thusly the ability to make more than guesses about the status of the reactors and spent fuel pools. There are also some historically well grounded suspicions as to TEPCO and the Japanese government’s motivations as to their reporting. But now that power is being restored, they ought to be reporting in richer detail as to what’s happening. If nothing else, tolerance for underreporting ought to resemble the life span of a gnat in the Gobi Desert.
There has been some some relatively good news the last few days. Units 5 & 6 have power and the cooling systems for their spent fuel pools seem to have been restored. Those reactors weren’t an issue since they were already shut down prior the geological events. Units 1 – 4, however, still look like terrible problems, with exposed cores in all three reactors that weren’t previously shut down. All four units have major problems with spent fuel pools, with #4 being the worst. Indeed, today marks the first time in days Unit 4 was even mentioned in these reports other than a heading which admitted its existence. While its good power is being restored, it remains to be seen if the cooling systems are even functional. You’ll notice right away the complete difference in reporting on Unit 4, and sadly, this is an actual improvement.
Side note: rather than bury the following link to the Union of Concerned Scientists, I’ll just put this up as another site worth reading every day.
From Jeffrey Lewis at ArmsControlWonk, today’s FEPC report on the Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. And while he points out there are questions as to the reliability of some of this information, it’s probably worth watching in any case:
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