Here is the smoking gun—the clear, hard evidence that the nuclear industry AND its regulators care nothing about our safety.
The Associated Press spent a year investigating nuclear power plant safety. And found something really scary: when regulators encounter problems, instead of shutting the plants to make repairs, the regulators relax their standards. Double-plus ungood, as George Orwell would say.
In a long bylined story by investigative reporter Jeff Donn, the respected journalism group lays out a harrowing picture of deferred maintenance, aging parts, reactor licenses renewed without any semblance of adequate investigation, and a “regulatory” agency whose response to problems is to say, oh, we didn’t mean to be so tough, sorry, go right on risking the public safety:
Time after time, officials at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have decided that original regulations were too strict, arguing that safety margins could be eased…
The result? Rising fears that these accommodations by the NRC are significantly undermining safety…
Examples abound. When valves leaked, more leakage was allowed — up to 20 times the original limit. When rampant cracking caused radioactive leaks from steam generator tubing, an easier test of the tubes was devised…
Failed cables. Busted seals. Broken nozzles, clogged screens, cracked concrete, dented containers, corroded metals and rusty underground pipes…could escalate dangers in the event of an accident.
To name one of many examples cited in the article: valves that were allowed to leak up to 11.5 cubic feet per hour each (there are four, so total permissible leakage was 46 cubic feet per hour per plant) could not meet that standard, so the NRC bumped the limit all the way up to 200 cubic feet per hour for the set of four—that’s more than 500% over the original standard. Even this was not enough, however; one Georgia plant admitted releases of 576 cubic feet per hour.
In short, not only have we experienced a whole lot of radiation releases as these parts age, but the risk of catastrophic accident is far higher than most of us would have imagined. Especially since the plants were only designed with a 40-year lifespan in mind, and yet the NRC is granting 20-year license renewals in a way that seems almost like a pro forma rubber stamp.
And speaking of radiation releases, Donn posted a new article June 21, documenting that…
Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping
Under the best of circumstances, nuclear power is an extremely risky, energy-intensive operation where human error and mechanical failure can combine to create massive catastrophe. And this is far from the best of circumstances; this is playing Russian roulette not with a single individual but with the lives of thousands or even millions, all around the country.
This is a game with no winners.
It is time to demand from Washington the leadership it should have shown all along. It is time to shut down every operating nuclear power plant and take steps to stabilize the infrastructure so serious accidents won’t happen even after the plants are no longer generating power. The stakes are unacceptably high.
Read those two stories all the way through—and let’s think together about action!