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.
Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing to reason, than reality, since the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear. –– Hannah Arendt
Who doesn’t want to be lied to in the event of a radiological disaster? I’m sure many a PR professional are being paid good money by the nuclear industry right now to play on that very question. I’m sure even some good natured journalists are even prone to offer up palliatives as an alternative to perceived potential for panic. But it doesn’t exactly help move the national discourse along productive lines. And so it is with one of my worst pet peeves: the misrepresentation of “experts” for the purpose of manipulating public opinion. At the moment, there is a real need for the nuclear industry and their cohorts in government––past, current and future migrants of the institutional Revolving Door of Fortune––to dispel fears and tamp down concern about radiation poisoning and the relative worthiness of nuclear power itself, especially now that we’re having a “nuclear renaissance” and all the federal subsidies needed to make that happen.
Public opinion has been pretty intolerant of nuclear power in the US since Three Mile Island. But recent efforts to shore up opinion were somewhat successful, until now.
Most Now Oppose The Increased Use of Nuclear Power
So if you’ve watched any television news segments lately, you’ve probably already memorized the name of one Jeffery Merrifield. On CNN and MSNBC (owned by GE, makers of the fabulous Mark 1 BWR), he is simply identified as “former NRC Commissioner.” Not a word about what he’s up to these days. Here’s POGO’s timeline of his career:
October 23, 1998 – Merrifield begins term at NRC
November 2006 – NRC Chair taps Merrifield to lead Combined License Review Task Force
March 1, 2007 – Westinghouse/Shaw Consortium completes framework agreement that includes early funding with China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Company to build four AP1000 nuclear power plants in China
April 17, 2007 – With a 4-1 vote, the NRC approved the final rule on “Limited Work Authorizations,” which one power plant lobbying firm says responds “favorably to industry comments” and “eliminates a major impediment” for new power plant construction. In addition to voting in support of the rule, Merrifield had championed the rule to ease environmental and oversight restrictions for construction activities at nuclear power plants. Few companies stood to benefit more from this “Limited Work Authorizations” rule than the Shaw Group.
April 18, 2007 – Task Force published the “Report of the Combined License Review Task Force,” which was distributed to the Commissioners for review
May 23, 2007 – Merrifield signs, on behalf of the NRC, the Memorandum of Cooperation on Nuclear Safety for the Westinghouse Advanced Pressurized Reactor (AP1000) with the National Nuclear Safety Administration of the People’s Republic of China. Shaw has a 20% ownership position in Westinghouse
June 8, 2007 – Merrifield accepted an offer to serve as Senior Vice President of Shaw Power Group
June 14, 2007 – Merrifield visits with General Electric in Albany, New York, regarding job search. General Electric picks up the ~$800 travel tab.
June 22, 2007 – NRC approves the recommendations of the Combined License Review Task Force. Merrifield recuses himself from vote.
June 26-30, 2007 – Merrifield and family accept visit to the Shaw Group in Baton Rouge,Louisiana. Shaw picks up the $2,915.87 tab.