Dressed all in white from head to toe (including a respirator), it was a shotgun wedding. Or worse, a rape. But one way or the other, U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials were out to force themselves and their radiation on a helpless Japan — again. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 1945. More than a hundred thousand dead, perhaps as many born deformed, or stillborn. Then there was Monju in 1995, and Tokaimura in 1997, and again in 1999. And then Fukushima Dai-ichi, 2011.
And now they’re back. The NRC delegation wants Japan to restart more of its nuclear reactors. They’ve been pushing Japan for more than a year, but the citizens of Japan have been opposing restart vehemently.
American nuclear officials toured the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane, who led the delegation, praised the “courage” of the Japanese nuclear workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi and nearly-as-damaged Fukushima Dai-ni nuclear power plants. The delegation took an elevator to the top of the spent fuel pool at Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 4, the most dangerous place on earth. They called the accident a tragedy, and said all countries need independent regulators, who need to operate in an “open and transparent manner.”
We, the citizens of California who live near the also-not-operating San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, can tell the Japanese people exactly what that will mean.
We’ve been fighting for “open and transparent” nuclear regulation, and independent regulators, for decades. So we can tell the Japanese people that the #1 obstacle we have faced in achieving that — is the NRC itself!
And although MacFarlane hasn’t been in office long, there’s no reason to expect a change. No changes appears in the offing here in California, where the next NRC meeting about San Onofre will be held with the pubic in absentia — 2700 miles away, in Maryland.
The NRC continues to work in collusion with the nuclear industry to keep old, dilapidated nuclear power plants open forever — 20 year licenses automatically become 40, then 60, then who-knows-what. It doesn’t seem to matter to the NRC that everywhere they look, reactors are leaking tritium. It doesn’t seem to matter that there is a “waste confidence” issue that federal judges have ruled needs to be resolved. And it doesn’t seem to matter than all over America, nuclear power plants are crumbling due to age. Parts are rusting out and failing abruptly (Davis-Besse’s “hole in the reactor pressure vessel head” in 2002 is a classic example, and Vermont Yankee’s collapsed cooling system in 2007 is another). Major components have failed at numerous nuclear power plants, and it’s only a matter of time before there’s a U. S. meltdown. Will it be San Onofre?
And what will Macfarlane and the NRC do when there is a U. S. meltdown?
What does THAT mean? Those who have been following nuclear issues for decades (like myself) know it means NOTHING. After a nuclear accident, the poisons blanket the area, thousands of lethal doses per square mile, maybe tens of thousands, maybe millions.
Accidents permanently displace people and contaminate the land. Hundreds of square miles around Fukushima Dai-ichi are no longer inhabitable. So what does “mitigation” mean? Nothing.
Imagine if we were to lose ALL of Southern California due to ONE industrial accident! That’s what happened in Japan. San Onofre could make Los Angeles AND San Diego, and all points in-between, uninhabitable for generations in just a few hours. Fukushima is still spewing poisons into the air and water — hence the white suits and respirators for the visitors and workers. San Onofre can do the same thing.
Macfarlane said the Fukushima accident “profoundly changed the nuclear safety landscape and brought a new urgency to improving nuclear safety worldwide.” But here in Southern California, the NRC won’t force San Onofre to stop trying to restart a broken, old, dilapidated, nuclear reactor! And there is NO transparency, no openness, no independence! Citizens cannot speak to regulators in an adjudicatory process, that is: They can be lied to. No official records of the meetings and hearings are kept, no one is under oath. Promises are made and broken. Nothing changes.
Macfarlane said we’ve “learned a considerable amount” since the 3/11/11 accident. Have we? Here in California is a perfect opportunity to shut down a dangerous old reactor near numerous earthquake faults AND in a tsunami inundation zone. But instead the utility is trying to spend billions of dollars (of ratepayer’s money) to keep San Onofre operating. And meanwhile, the utility actively blocks or delays numerous renewable energy projects in order to appear to “need” San Onofre. And the state regulators have no shame: They give San Onofre everything it needs.
Friday Macfarlane will meet with Japanese regulators and then, this weekend, with officials from around the “global nuclear regulatory” community. Let’s hope when she gets back to America, she converts lip service into action.
Russell D. Hoffman lives in Carlsbad, California. He is an educational software developer and bladder cancer survivor, as well as a collector of military and nuclear historical documents and books. He is the author and programmer of the award-winning Animated Periodic Table of the Elements. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org