How to Dwarf Fukushima

If you don’t want Fukushima USA to happen, there’s only one choice:

Shut ’em down!  Shut ’em all down NOW!

But don’t for a minute think that Fukushima was as bad as it can get!

It was bad.  It was under-reported how bad it was — and is.

But Fukushima could have been worse — and still might be.  In fact, it still probably WILL get worse — when the corium (reactor cores, melted into blobs) start hitting the water table.

At that point, Fukushima will get worse.

But there are other ways things can be worse than Fukushima is already.

For example, the entire core of the reactor can be blown to vapor, hot particles, fuel fleas and bits of corium in an instant (it’s called a “core rubblization”).

This can happen to any nuclear reactor anywhere in the world.  Is it likely?  No.  Is it possible?  Yes.  Would it take an extraordinary sequence of events to happen?  Yes.

But so did Fukushima.

Calling for increased regulatory oversight in light of Fukushima, calling for increased safety, calling for increased “margins of error” — all these won’t do much more than loosen up the tight packing in the spent fuel pools — and increase the dry cask storage capacity from beyond intolerable to whatever comes after that.

They might add additional battery-backed up electronic monitors for the water levels and temperatures in the spent fuel pools (gee, you’d have thought they already did that, wouldn’t you?).

They might have to purchase a fire pumper truck to keep on hand at every reactor site — not to put out fires (though it can be used for that, too) but to pour water on the reactors or spent fuel pools if needed.

They might require eight full hours of battery backup power for each reactor, instead of just four.  They might require that radiation monitors be “hardened” to survive hydrogen explosions, and have battery backup in case of “Station Black Out” (SBO), a danger they practically never considered before Fukushima.

They might store an extra diesel generator on the West Coast somewhere, to be used by seven different reactors in case of emergency (I wonder how they decide who will get it if two places need it?)  Similarly, a few diesel generators will be “strategically located” to provide mutual backup for all the other 97 reactors around the country.

That’s all the “increased safety” calls will ever accomplish.  Little steps.  All good, but none decisive.  Fukushima, USA will still come if these are the kinds of steps America will be taking in light of Fukushima, Japan.

You can be sure that even with all these improvements, nuclear power will still not be able to get insurance.  The despicable Price-Anderson Act will not be rescinded.

To make things truly safer, we MUST shut the plants down.

And even that doesn’t guarantee safety.  Only moving the waste to an isolated location (which doesn’t exist) AND shutting the plants down gives us any sort of reasonable guarantee, but then you still need:  A safe way to store the waste (doesn’t exist), and a safe way to transport it there (also doesn’t exist).

The tragedy at Fukushima happened because the plants were operational and because fresh, hot fuel was in the spent fuel pools.

Not that dry casks can’t have problems just as fierce: In my opinion, a jetliner crashing into the line of dry casks here at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station a few miles from where I live, for example, could conceivably cause a criticality event which would dwarf Fukushima.  The casks can be rearranged to prevent that (it’s a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic) but there are still other dangers to dry casks which need to be addressed.

But at least the full spectrum of accidents possible with an operating reactor can’t happen if we shut the plants down.

A pro-nuker in a debate I watched recently hit the nail on the head about what the real problem is:  Once a nuke is built, it becomes a cash cow for the utility that operates it.

Once it’s built.  New nuclear power plants aren’t financially viable in America (without massive government subsidies), and new nuclear construction isn’t even allowed in California until the impossible happens — the nuclear waste problem is solved.  So instead, we have old nukes across the country, with hoped-for 40 year lives being extended to 60 years, and if they haven’t melted down by then, 80 years, then 100 and 1000.

Sooner or later, leaving these old deathtraps running is what will kill us by the hundreds of thousands, ruin our lifestyle, and poison our land, air, and water forever.

Shut-down isn’t a guarantee of eternal safety, but it’s a huge step in the right direction and stops us from increasing the size of the problem every day.

Across America the problem of “spent fuel” piling up with nowhere to put it increases by about 10 tons PER DAY.

It is impossible to make a totally safe nuke.  It is impossible to find a totally safe storage place for the waste.

That’s why the concept of “probabilistic risk assessment” is used to justify nuclear power.  But all such calculations are based on faulty assumptions and wishful thinking by those desiring to promote the industry — and being paid to do so.

The “passive” emergency cooling systems promised for the next generation of nuke plants MIGHT work… but they might not… especially if an airplane crashed into the facility.

It is impossible to make a totally safe nuke.

Even if the nuclear power plant operates perfectly for its entire life — which has never happened and never will — it creates an enormous hazardous waste pile which cannot be safely or economically contained.

Every nuclear power plant is capable of an accident which can dwarf what happened at Fukushima.  When that happens, it will be very difficult to analyze what went wrong!  They still haven’t figured out what happened at Fukushima almost seven months later, or what’s happening there at this moment.

Yet still, the pronukers insist that increased safety measures are all we need.  They point out weak spots in the Japanese latticework of regulations and claim that America’s system is better.  But in March of 2002 Davis-Besse nearly did what Fukushima did in March of 2011, without any act of mother nature except rust (and rust never sleeps), and there have been numerous close calls before and since — perhaps less dramatic than a football-sized hole in the reactor pressure vessel head, as happened at Davis-Besse, but no less dangerous.

Fukushima can — and will — happen in America.  And when it does, we will no longer be a first-world country.  We will be a pitiable, poverty-stricken, has-been nation of mutants, debtors, the diseased and the dying.

Just like Japan is now.  Oh, you don’t think so?  Look more closely — look past the official reports, past the main stream media, and read about the abortions, the suicides, the deformities that are showing up everywhere.

Weep for Japan today.  Weep for us tomorrow.

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: rhoffman@animatedsoftware.com

More articles by:
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It