Fairewinds Energy Education Podcast

By Fairewinds Energy Education

About this podcast   English    United States

Join the Fairewinds Crew as we discuss our energy future. Due to climate change, the world is transitioning away from fossil fuels, and the nuclear industry with its government regulators have pushed for an atomic energy takeover. In this podcast, the Fairewinds Crew uncovers the true risk of nuclear power from unregulated atomic operations, and seedy backroom deals amongst nuclear energy insiders to the enormous financial burden and health cost imposed on the public by atomic power for the next 200,000 years. There is hope! The growth of solar, wind, and battery storage are quickly making the shift towards 21st century small module renewables a much more economic, safe, and clean option promoted by scientists, energy experts, and environmentalists throughout the world. Listen as the Fairewinds Crew brings you the most up to date energy news, exposes atomic risk, and conducts interviews with leading scientists and experts. We’ll keep you informed.
44 episodes · since Oct, 2012
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Fairewinds Energy Education Podcast

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Nov. 17, 2016
In this podcast the Fairewinds Crew interviews University of Vermont graduates Sam Ghazey, Jon Liebherr, Grayson Webb, and Brandon Welch, about their internship with Fairewinds Energy Education and the project they completed, entitled Nuclear Energy: An Analysis of Total Carbon Emissions and Total Cost of Ownership versus Renewable Technologies. The concept for this project was developed following a presentation by Fairewinds chief engineer Arnie Gundersen at Northwestern University in April, 2015 that took an economic perspective in the comparison of nuclear energy to the escalation in renewable technological capacity.  Forbes Magazine featured the presentation in an article entitled: Has Tesla just Killed Nuclear Power?, which has had more than 528,000 views.  Read More about the back-story here. Listen Related MaterialsSmokescreenDemystifying Nuclear Power: Nuclear Power’s Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Smoke Screen CO2 Smoke Screen: New Nukes Make Global Warming Worse PresentationDemystifying Nuclear Power, The CO2 Smokescreen Back-StoryTranscript English MG: Hi. Welcome to the Fairewinds Energy Education podcast hosted by the Fairewinds crew. I’m Maggie Gundersen, and I’m here today to welcome you to the show. Today we have a really special podcast that we’re doing on nuclear energy, and on the analysis of total carbon emissions and total cost of ownership versus renewable technologies. Today we are joined by University of Vermont graduates who were interns for us in the Fall of 2015, to do this particular study. And we have issued an amazing paper with them and we’re very thankful for their research. We’re joined today by Brandon Welsh, Grayson Webb, Sam Gazy and John Liebhar, and of course we have our Fairewinds crew with us: Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen, and of course, Caroline Philips, our program administrator and newsletter maven. So thank you all for joining us today. So let’s begin with how the idea originated. And for that, I’m going to turn it over to Arnie Gundersen. AG: If you’ve been following the Fairewinds website for about a year, you might remember that I gave a speech at Northwestern University in April of 2015 and it was covered by Forbes Magazine. The title of the story was Has Tesla Just Killed Nuclear Power? And it’s had over a half a million people have read that speech, which I think an indication of how hungry the people on the web are for accurate information about alternatives in nuclear power. But anyway, when I started developing that, I was working with Amory Lovins and Michael Schneider and gosh, it must have taken me about a week to analyze everything to come up with a 20-minute speech. And I didn’t feel like I had enough information. So living in a college town with wonderful, smart seniors, I was able to go to the University of Vermont and ask for help to get some more information to beef up that speech even more. MG: My initial question is why did you all decide you wanted to do this project with Fairewinds Energy Education? I: Starting off in our class, it seemed like out of all of the projects that we were to choose from in our senior capstone class, this was the project that would have the most impact and push us to use our brains in the best way. CP: A follow-up question to that is what were your initial impressions when you were first coming in? What did you think you were going to find? Did you think anything? Did you not have any expectations? Or if you did, what were they? I: I’m Brandon. And initially coming into it, I thought it was going to be – and it was – a really intense research project. But the way I initially approached it is I thought it was just going to be crunching numbers all day and not actually delving into the social, cultural and the issues that are actually behind nuclear energy and the lack of people supporting renewables. So when we actually got into the information and saw that renewables are a real way of developing the future and finding a new way to change the grid, I changed my opinion from supporting nuclear energy to, now I’m on the fence about it, and the data is convincing me to back renewables more than nuclear. G: I’m Grayson, and like Brandon, I just kind of thought we were going to be doing an intensive research project. I picked the project because I thought it was going to be hard, and I wanted to push myself and not just pick an easy project to cruise through for senior year. And I was really pleased to find that this project was so engaging and had us thinking on a different level and we were able to get involved with so many great people. And like Brandon, I also – I wasn’t sure about nuclear going into and so I was very interested in learning more about the differences between the two energy options – renewable or nuclear. I went from kind of being on the fence about it, not really being sure which option was best. I’ve grown up in Vermont so I was witness to the whole Vermont Yankee incidents and leakages and so I didn’t really know what to think. But now I’m a pretty firm believer that renewable energy can handle all the load that nuclear can in a much safer way. S: I’m Sam. I definitely would piggyback off of Brandon’s point when I first saw the kind of proposal for this project, I thought I would just be kind of doing number crunching and helping a little bit with some economic analysis. But when we actually arrived and Arnie presented us with his idea and whatnot, what first struck me was that he had given this thesis and he said nobody had really empirically proved it before, and that was kind of a shock to me. But then when he really started showing us a lot of the data and the past research that he’s done, it became evident that this was something that hadn’t been done yet and needed to be done, frankly, if we were to make the case for renewable energy in the future versus nuclear energy. And then when he came out and basically said we want you all to compile this research for us and put it into a report, I just felt very empowered. I kind of anticipated just being a worker bee, but the extent that they actually trusted us to do the research and write the report, that was very amazing and it certainly gave me confidence professionally, especially for abilities. And it was certainly something that I became very much more excited to be a part of right off the bat, and jumping into everything taught me a great, great deal about how to do full analyses. Before, our working classrooms were always limited to one aspect of the entire cycle of something like an energy facility. But this project gave us the whole scope of things and how to understand in a very much more holistic sense rather than the minute, biological details of it. That was really fantastic. J: This is John. And coming into this project, I hadn’t really ever thought about energy systems before, and I didn’t really have a solid opinion on nuclear power and whether I liked it or not, and this project was definitely a formative experience to getting opinions on the entire industry. And like the other guys said, I came in thinking that this was going to be a lot about economics and number crunching. But what it seemed to turn out to be to me was demystifying the data that everyone has put out there on the internet and around in multiple sources. Because we weren’t just looking at the numbers. We were looking at whose numbers they were. And if they were from a certain source, they could be magnitudes different than another person’s source, and we had to take that completely into consideration because we could have had different, different data if we had used biased sources instead of the unbiased sources that we tried to keep. AG: (7:40) What I found exciting was that we used nuclear industry data. We found the World Association of Nuclear, WANU and used their information. We’ve used an investment bank, Lazard, but it wasn’t like we were cherry picking the low-hanging fruit that’s in the renewables community. We actually were able to dig in and get source material from the nuclear and the investment banking business. MG: What’s exciting for me is that I’m normally the final writer on everything, and this is a really well-written research project. We didn’t direct you on the research. You did the research, you wrote the paper and when I finally got to read the final product, I was really stunned and just very excited by what it showed, because we didn’t know what we’d find going into this ourselves. CP: While doing the research from the research portion through analysis, what were some of the greatest obstacles that you guys faced? And did you experience sort of one big oh, aha! This is it! Moment? I: One of the toughest data points to find was for the renewable energy for maintenance costs. Just because the technologies that we’re using today just are drastically different from the ones that are aging on the field. And so we weren’t able to really find good points for that. I: One of the biggest aha moments was when we got our biggest chunk of data from the Lazard Investment Bank, which was an entire report on basically all kinds of energy production and their costs and basically anything to do with them in terms of money. It was a cram-packed report that was very unbiased because basically what Lazard is, is investment bank and they just want to know who they need to put their money in. And that just fundamentally has no bias. AG: The piece of data that had the biggest variability in this whole analysis is nobody knows exactly how much carbon dioxide we’re throwing up into the atmosphere. We were off with low readings of 35,000 million tons and high readings of 50,000 million tons. And at the same time the Paris accords were going down about trying to limit CO2. So here we as politicians trying to limit CO2, but at the same time, there is extraordinary variability in exactly how much CO2 we’re trying to limit. So here are the politicians of the world making decisions about limiting carbon dioxide but when you look at the hard data, nobody really knows how much carbon dioxide we’re throwing up into the atmosphere yearly. I: (10:34) I think that the hardest thing is with the data that Arnie was talking about with the total carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, everything is a prediction. And we were also looking at the predictions of the amount of CO2 put into the atmosphere 50 years from now. And nobody has a good idea. It’s all very hypothetical and it just depends on what model they use. And so getting a solid number from that is hard and we just have to choose which one we think is from the best source. CP: We’ve sort of beaten around the bush a little bit, but it would be great if one of you all could sort of summarize what your overall results and findings are. I: So the result of culmination of research that we did over the total of the semester, essentially we found that it would take 2,891 nuclear reactors in order to sustain the amount of energy that we need in the future up until 2050. And in order to create renewable energy sources that could achieve that same amount of energy production until 2050, we found that a total cost for nuclear reactors would be $22.6 trillion U.S. dollars. And for wind power, it would only be $9.93 trillion and for solar, it would be $17 trillion U.S. Dollars. And this is factoring in the lifecycle cost and the capacity factor, which a lot of people don’t consider. For wind, you only have it running about 25 percent of the time because wind speeds vary, wind direction varies. For solar, you have about a 45 percent capacity factor because the sun doesn’t shine all the time. And for nuclear, it’s running at about 90 to 95 percent of the time. But even accounting for these factors, we still see that wind is about half the price and solar is about 70 percent of the price of maintaining the amount of energy that we need in the future compared to nuclear up until 2050. I: And with new technology such as Tesla’s power wall, we can increase the capacity factor for both wind and solar, making nuclear’s price skyrocket about solar and wind because that will just be a way to store the energy made when it’s being made. So there’s no limit to what can be done. I: A lot of people have concerns about the recyclability of lithium ion and other battery technologies. But with Elon Musk’s Gigafactory that is releasing next year, he actually has a lithium ion recycling portion of the factory, so like you were saying John, with the power wall and the power stacks they’re creating, when those go bad after so many recharges, they can actually take them in, recycle them and then reuse them, and they can be used again. So lithium ion technology shouldn’t really be a factor holding back solar and wind storage. MG; Thank you both, Brandon and John. That’s really interesting to me, especially the lithium ion issue, because lithium is a resource that’s very precious in this world and a lot of environmentalists are concerned that there won’t be enough to do this project for batteries and storage. So I think that knowing about the renewability of the lithium ion batteries by Tesla is an amazing thing. I wasn’t even aware of that until you just said it right now, Brandon. So thank you. I: Tesla’s Gigafactory is actually going to be placed in Nevada, which has the largest abundance of lithium in the world. That’s also going to be another factor in the creation of batteries in the future. MG: That brings me to the question of mining. When you all did this report, did you factor in any of the nuclear costs of mining or the decommissioning costs, which are what’s called economically externalities? I: Well, we didn’t factor in any of the kind of extraction costs for either nuclear nor renewable energy in that regard, but to our understanding, especially if you were to include the decommissioning costs and extend that towards the storage of depleted uranium rods, we’d have kind of a baseline understanding that it would be a marginally larger cost on the nuclear side relative to renewable energy. So it was kind of a no-brainer. If we were to include that, it would only inflate the cost of nuclear to a larger degree, and so it was not something that we felt like was essential to the argument in that regard, simply because our argument still holds water pretty credibly without that aspect. CP: So you guys in this paper really focused on the economics of nuclear in comparing that to renewables. Scientists right now are really concerned about CO2 emissions and although that wasn’t the basis of your report, it’d be wonderful if you could share what you sort of discovered regarding economics and their relationship to CO2 emissions and our earth’s need to reduce CO2 emissions. I: Because nuclear, solar and wind all have around the same CO2 emissions for their lifecycle and for running costs, we looked up how many nuclear plants it would take to get a 20 percent CO2 emissions for the entire world. And then from that, we looked at how many megawatts of power those reactors would make, and then that turned out to be a decent amount of power. So then we looked at how much money it would take to make that same amount of power with nuclear, solar and wind. And what we finally got was that it would take $22.6 trillion to make nuclear work for a 20 percent reduction of CO2 emissions. $17 trillion for solar and just $9.9 trillion for wind. So that’s a pretty strong conclusion against nuclear. CP: So just to clarify, you looked at reducing CO2 emissions by 20 percent and comparing the costs of the amount of nuclear power and construction of nuclear power plants that would be necessary to make that 20 percent CO2 emission decline. You looked at that amount of money – how much was it? Can you repeat that number again? I: $22.6 trillion. CP: Okay. And you compared that to looking at a 20 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from solar? I: Well, we looked at how much money it would cost to make the same amount of power that nuclear would be making with a 20 percent decrease in solar – CP: And how much was that? I: And so to make that 2,483,000 megawatt difference, it’s $17 trillion for solar and then $9.9 trillion for wind. CP: And did you guys look at all at the timeline for how long it takes to construct a nuclear power plant versus to construct a solar field or a wind-power field. I: So solar and wind I think each maybe take, including planning and construction and permitting, it takes around 4 years to build utility-sized project. Whereas nuclear can take around 10 years and it can take up to 5 to get it all planned and permitted and then they won’t even start breaking ground until halfway through that. So it takes much longer to build a nuke than it does to start building renewable energies. And when we’re talking about CO2 reduction, I mean we’re past 400 parts per million right now. We need to start making reductions right now. So the technology that can get on the ground and up and running faster is vital. I: And it’s not even necessarily just the build time that we have to be concerned about. It’s the actual maintenance of the reactors. With a solar field or a wind field, once you install it, you have to go in and maintain all the mechanical properties of it, but with a nuclear reactor, you’re basically containing a bomb, so that nearby cities and people aren’t affected by nuclear radiation if there’s leaking or any other problems occurring there. So even just the actual maintenance and safety risk that you have to account for are drastically lower with renewable energies versus nuclear energy. CP: Thank you, Brendan. That’s an interesting point. I hear a lot of people talk about small modular reactors and the issues with small modular reactors – there hasn’t been one built that’s really been a successful small modular reactor yet, but apart from that, they’re promoted as a way to decentralize nuclear. But as you just said – that’s a great point – nuclear is always very centralized as small reactors would still need the safety protocol and the safety waste storage of a large reactor that would still remain an issue. And as students of environment science and studies, what do you think of the time-and-cost comparison between small modular renewables versus these small modular reactors? I: (20:40) Well, I think that brings up the question of what kind of energy system that we want and kind of the future of the grid in regards to a centralized versus a distributive model of energy production. And I think the argument that modular nuclear plants make as far as means to be a decentralized power system is – you have to consider it relative to what else is out there as far as production, and when compared to things such as wind, especially even back yard wind, or solar panels that can easily be established just on a residential rooftop. So when trying to make the argument that these small, modular nuclear power plants are a decentralized form of energy production, it’s a little bit of a stretch, especially compared to residential rooftop solar and backyard wind and whatnot. And so if we want to – if we’re concerned about the effects of potential, even natural destruction we’ve even seen with past Hurricane Irene in Vermont itself. If we had had Vermont Yankee just a little further north in that case and that were on a different river than the one it was on, there could have been some serious, serious destruction to that, which could have opened up the floodgates to nuclear radiation throughout the state and throughout even the Northeast. And so compare that to if that were just a small solar field producing the same amount of electricity, it would have very drastic effects both environmentally, on human health and whatnot. So when we want to think about an energy system that’s resilient, resiliency comes in the form of distribution, not centralization. Because you do not want to maximize exposure within certain areas. You want to distribute your exposure, just like a good financial portfolio. So it’s certainly something that you would need to consider when trying to make the argument that if we’re trying to push for a distributive system, is nuclear the way to go? And is that going to protect us in the long run, especially as we see the increased environmental effects of climate change in the form of extreme weather patterns and whatnot. CP: You all are recent graduates, roughly 21, 22 years old. I’m curious if you could share with the Fairewinds audience your experience having been University of Vermont students in the Rubenstein School Environmental Programs. If you can share what your fellow classmates who are entering the energy field, what energy fields are they going into? From your schooling, did you discuss nuclear power? Did you discuss alternative energies? And if you did, was there an emphasis on any particular one? And sort of what was your experience in college with the environmental energy sort of movement as we know that we need to steer away from fossil fuels? I: I think there’s a lot to be said for what inspires students to study what they study. And I think the vision that has been instilled into us of a renewable energy future is a lot more promising that any other; particularly a petroleum-based future, which we’re already experiencing, or a nuclear-based future. And I think a lot of it is due to the fact that renewable energy we have the issue of climate change, and renewable energy is just the most clear solution towards hedging the potential damage that that will cause on us. And so I think there’s a lot more that is (a) yet to be explored with renewable energy because it’s also a relatively new field; but (b) there’s a lot more that will be provided to us, not just in an academic sense, but almost in a security sense that if we have enough people finding the solution towards power storage or finding a solution towards high costs or whatnot within the renewable field, that will only yield greater benefits outside of potentially high incomes for the students that discover that stuff. It ensures that there are future generations for us to continue to inhabit this planet. And so I think that yields a lot more inspiration, like I said, for students and particularly in regards to nuclear energy. I mean I can certainly say I know one or two petroleum engineer students, and they’re not at UVM. I went to high school with them. But aside from that, everyone else that I know is studying renewable energy and nobody that I know is studying nuclear, just because of kind of the factors that I previously mentioned. I: (25:21) Also, I think that the culture just even outside of the energy field or people who are trying to go into the energy field at colleges, is really going towards the green movement and kind of people who are looking towards making their lives a lot easier on the earth. And people who I know who are in the UVM Business School, some people who are in the Engineering School have all voiced opinions on how they want to be environmentally conscious with their job and with their life. And I think that that’s just kind of the culture that we’re moving towards. I: Yeah, John, I definitely agree with you that the culture is moving towards a green movement. And it’s not only a social or a cultural thing, but it’s an economical factor. Like recently the Rockefeller family just announced that they’re actually completely divesting from oil, which is what made them the trillions and trillions of dollars they’ve made over the past few decades. And just that alone shows it’s not sustainable to stay in the oil and fossil fuel industry. I mean it’s the Rockefellers, Dubai, the Saudi Arabia investment funds – they’re all getting out of fossil fuels and moving towards renewables. And that shows that it’s not only a socially green movement, but it’s a economical movement. And if the economics are there, that’s where the social constructs are going to move to, because people always need money. And if something is more inexpensive and more effect, that’s the direction that I think our society is going to move into. CP: That’s an interesting point, Brendan, and I have to ask where’s nuclear in that equation? You talk about the economics of fossil fuel, people divesting from fossil fuels and embracing renewables. Where’s nuclear in that equation? I: From our time with this project, I definitely know that nuclear is still a force to be reckoned with and a lot of people are for it and a lot of people are against it. But when we went and talked to UVM Professor Jennie Stevens about our project and where to get sources and stuff, she had the general mindset that nuclear was a done deal and it’s on the way out. And I feel like that is slightly the thinking of most people in the academic world. CP: So Brendan, you discussed the divestment of the Rockefellers from fossil fuels recently. We’ve seen large investments from companies like Google, Apple, Disney in renewable energy. The big investors of nuclear power is the government. Government subsidies are a major factor when it comes to nuclear. We see Entergy Corporation, a private LLC, buying nuclear reactors and nuclear power plants, but it’s heavily subsidized by the government. So as a follow-up question, I have to ask where’s the nuclear fall into this discussion on an academic standpoint of renewables and fossil fuels? And have you spoken to any professors about it? I: Well, actually for this project we went and talked to UVM Professor Jennie Stevens and I can’t say that it’s a consensus for the entire academic community, but when we talked to her, it seemed like she thought that nuclear is really on its way out. And what we were hypothesizing in our report was kind of already happening. From what I have learned doing the project and being part of Fairewinds, it’s definitely not completely on its way out, because there’s definitely a lot of people that are still proponents for nuclear energy. But from what we’ve heard from her, it seems like some people think that nuclear is already one foot out the door. MG: Your discussion is especially interesting to me because of some work Caroline has been doing here at Fairewinds with another researcher from UVM that we have with us this summer. And you all talked about, there would be a necessity of 2,891 nuclear reactors to make this 20 percent goal. You mentioned that earlier. Yet Caroline and Ben uncovered a real discrepancy on how many nuclear engineers are coming out and how many people, for example, are studying environmental. AG: There’s a thing called an elevator speech. Imagine yourself getting on an elevator with the next president of the United States and you’ve got one floor to make your point before he or she gets off. And so in one floor on the elevator, what would you tell the next president of the United States about this study we just completed? I: The installation of nuclear technology takes twice as long and costs twice as much as wind power. So it’d be more effective both economically and time wise to install wind over nuclear energy. I: After reviewing data of total life cost analysis of nuclear and renewable energies and the construction time, nuclear energy is almost twice as expensive as wind. I: We have a short time window to address the issues of climate change and we only have so much money to be able to do so while also retaining other parts of our economy. So in regard to trying to combat the issues of climate change effectively, if we want to do it in the shortest amount of time and use the least amount of money, then renewable energy is definitely the way to go versus nuclear energy. I: (31:24) So we have looked at the numbers, and when it comes to capacity factor and total cost of energies, we’ve looked at three different energies: Nuclear, wind and solar. And it comes down to nuclear being a lot more money than both of the other renewable energies, and that just leads to one conclusion, that it’s illogical to invest in anything else except for renewable energies. MG: I want to thank all of you for joining us today. And most importantly, for spending a whole term with us doing this project, undertaking the challenge. And I know that I want to hold in reserve that sometime next year, we can get in contact with you all, either together here or via phone or Skype so that we can have another discussion and see where things are happening at that time. So Brandon, Grayson, Sam, John, I want to thank you for joining the Fairewinds crew today and for the whole term you were with us. Fairewinds listeners, we’ll keep you informed.
Nov. 1, 2016
Fairewinds podcast this week features an interview with atomic power watchdog Clay Turnbull, a trustee and staff member for New England Coalition (NEC) in Brattleboro, VT.  Mr. Turnbull, who has spent his career speaking truth to power on environmental issues in the energy arena, was arrested in March 2016 for allegedly trespassing at the Entergy Vermont Yankee (VY) atomic power reactor site. Nuclear power watchdog NEC had requested that Mr. Turnbull [and his real dog Chicklette] photograph the visibility of Entergy’s VY site dry cask waste storage for the aesthetics case currently being heard before the Vermont Public Service Board. Entergy claimed in its testimony to the Public Service Board that the casks would not be visible from any location in Vermont. Listen to Fairewinds’ podcast to hear Mr. Turnbull describe Entergy’s Power Play that uses and abuses the legal system and judicial courts in Vermont.This sounds to the Fairewinds Crew like a case should be dropped well before more taxpayer funds are misspent. And really – how do the Vermont Statutes (Vermont State Law) define trespassing in Vermont? Vermont lay out the details of its Trespassing laws in Title 13 Chapter 81 Section 3705 of the Vermont Statutes: When proper notice is given, trespassers who enter or remain on any land or place shall be subject to up to 3 months in prison and a fine of $500, or both. Sufficient notice can be done verbally or through “signs or placards so designed and situated as to give reasonable notice.” Backstory:In 1990 Fairewinds’ chief engineer Arnie Gundersen was fired from his position as a Senior VP with the nuclear engineering consulting firm and vendor Nuclear Energy Services (NES) for uncovering radiation safety violations within the firm and trying to have the firm correct its deficiencies. When Mr. Gundersen detailed his firing to the Connecticut State Legislature at its request, he was sued for $1.5 Million. At that time, Fairewinds’ founder Maggie Gundersen worked as a print journalist and brought Mr. Gundersen’s whistleblowing issue forward to federal regulators and Congress. Senator John Glenn hosted Mr. Gundersen at hearings in Washington, DC, during which Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chair Ivan Selin commended Mr. Gundersen for the service he provided.  Still, the Gundersens were hung out to dry via the NES lawsuit and the aftermath of a blackballing campaign launched against them by the corporation.  When the dust settled – following a 7-year legal process – the Gundersens had lost their home, pensions, and savings… before receiving a settlement that was less than the losses sustained. They had two young children and no more money to fight for justice in a broken legal system.No one at Entergy or its law firm was arrested in 2003, when Vermont attorneys representing Entergy used fraudulent documents in an attempt to impeach Mr. Gundersen while he was giving his testimony to the Vermont Public Service Board.  The New England Coalition had retained Mr. Gundersen as an expert witness by to testify to the Public Service Board (PSB).  regarding inconsistencies in Vermont Yankee’s proposed power uprate. While under oath and giving his testimony, Entergy attorneys claimed his testimony was biased as an alleged anti-nuke rather than an expert witness using their fraudulent documents. Entergy was fined $51,000 for failing to provide the correct documents for Mr. Gundersen to review and then trying to impeach his testimony with the new documents that NEC had never received for the PSB case.Several months later in another docket before the Vermont Public Service Board, Entergy was fined $81,000 when Mr. Gundersen uncovered a secret Entergy plan  to build additional buildings on site without informing the State.  Once again, no one from Entergy was arrested – handcuffed – or harassed as Mr. Trunbull has been.Governor Peter Shumlin, then President pro-tem of the Vermont Senate, appointed Mr. Gundersen to the Vermont Yankee Public Oversight Panel in 2008. After extensive interviews with Entergy, that Panel decided that Vermont Yankee could run for 20 more years if 80 modifications were made.  Entergy agreed to make those changes.  During follow-up consulting to the Vermont State Legislature that began in 2009, Fairewinds Associates, Inc (paralegal services and expert witness testimony firm founded by Maggie Gundersen in 2003) was contracted to continue oversight of the Entergy and VY. As Mr. Gundersen reviewed documents regarding VY, he uncovered new documents discussing the buried and underground pipes at VY, which were non-existent according to Entergy’s testimony to the Vermont State Legislature. Several follow-up hearings and discussions occurred during which Entergy maintained that Fairewinds Associates was lying and no buried and/or underground pipes were on the Vermont Yankee site – that is until January when those non-existent buried and underground pipes leaked Tritium and other radioactive isotopes!  Once again, no one from Entergy or its million dollar law firm was arrested – handcuffed – or harassed for what they claim were misstatements, and no criminal charges were filed against Entergy for legal maneuvering.Four years ago Maggie and Arnie were identifying flaws of the San Onofre Nuclear Plant in California that lead to the plant’s closure.  Not coincidentally, the Fairewinds site was hit by a massive DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack similar to the one that recently hit the United States Internet infrastructure as well as Twitter, The New York Times, and many other online corporations.  When this happened to the Fairewinds Energy Education website in 2013, it was down for almost a week and some material was never recoverable.  The website of another expert testifying about the lies to ratepayers by San Onofre was also attacked, and his sites were offline for more than 2-weeks.  The perpetrators were never identified.Now, it appears that the atomic power industry and its supporters are striking out against environmental watchdogs in an even more public display of their wealth and power for abuse of public health and welfare.  In Fairewinds’ Newsletter News Stories section, read about the fake green (Astroturf) hit squad confronting and maligning NEIS (Nuclear Energy Information Service), one of the finest nuclear watchdog groups in America.  This is sure sign of the desperation facing the nuclear industry with their aging decrepit atomic power reactors on financial ropes and nearing closure – when none of them have either adequate funding to decommission and dismantle these leaking nukes or the technology to store thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel for a quarter of a million years.Listen Transcript English MG: Hi, you’re listening to the Fairewinds Energy Education podcast hosted by the Fairewinds crew. I’m Maggie Gundersen, and welcome to the show. Today we’re interviewing Clay Turnbull, and he’s a staff member and trustee of New England Coalition in Brattleboro, Vermont. New England Coalition has been instrumental in pushing back against Entergy Corporation regarding its Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. They are the original stakeholders and interveners in all the cases before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the State Public Service Board and communications regarding their take on Vermont Yankee and its safety violations in front of the NRC and all of the reliabilities issues that we’ve all focused on in front of the State Legislature. So Clay is here to talk with us. Clay, welcome on board. Clay: I’m glad to be here. MG: So thank you, first off, to the New England Coalition for inviting Arnie and I to speak at your annual meeting. We’re really looking forward to that. Our subject matter is The Flawed Myth of Nuclear Power. We have a lot to share with all of you. And it was in our discussion about what was happening behind the scene at New England Coalition that made me decide to want to do this podcast with you. I understand that you were arrested at the Vermont Yankee fence line back in March, 2016. All of our crew members know that many, many people over the years have been arrested at Vermont Yankee. The Affinity Group constantly chained themselves to the gates, and even got in – no guards stopped them – and walked into one of the buildings and they sat down in the conference room and started to have a meeting. So we know that Vermont Yankee hasn’t been really good about security. With that in mind, I was shocked to hear not only did they arrest you for being at the fence line, but they’re pressing charges and moving ahead with a case against you personally. So let’s go back in time to March. Why were you at the fence line, Clay? Clay: I was gathering evidence for the case before the Public Service Board where Entergy’s expert witness had told the board you would not be able to see the dry casks storing high-level waste. You would only see them from out in the middle of the Connecticut River or across the river in New Hampshire. I was in Vermont making photographs to show the Public Service Board the visibility of the casks in proposed location. CP: Why is the visibility an issue? Clay: Well, in front of the Public Service Board, there’s different criteria than in front of the NRC and the general public. In front of the Public Service Board, the visibility is a factor in terms of aesthetics. Would people enjoying a hike along the riverbank find it offensive to come upon these 20-foot-tall, 16-foot-diameter, concrete silos – or would it be better if they were shielded any number of ways. So in Vermont, the question is aesthetics. How will they look aesthetically? And the other issue is land use. Is putting this high-level waste dump, call it interim storage if you like – is the best place to store this high-level nuclear waste 200 feet from the Connecticut River? And from a land use perspective, NEC contends there were better options. So that’s how the visibility impacts the state regulations and permitting process. MG: Tell our audience why wasn’t New England Coalition looking at the safety ramifications, too? I mean those casks are along the river, and to me that’s a safety concern. And they’re next door to a school. Why didn’t you talk to the Public Service Board about safety? Clay: The Public Service Board is prohibited from making regulatory decisions based on safety. MG: So one of the articles that was in the paper tells me that when you were arrested, they alleged that you crossed fence line and walked across posted land. Tell us what happened. Clay: Well, I am very familiar with the Vermont Yankee site. As an intervener, I’ve visited the site with my badge and having passed security. And so I know the place from the inside. To see it from the outside, I am familiar with the land surrounding the plant. I’ve never had a view looking in through the chain link fence from the location that I was arrested. But it was pretty clear from my previous on-site visits that I would get a good shot of the proposed cask location. So I parked the car at the end of a non-marked dirt road with a farm field on one side and Delco transmission lines on the other side. And I walked along the river. As I approached the vantage point to take my picture from the direction of the Connecticut River, I came up a riverbank, I came upon a chain-link fence with a sign that said essentially “Don’t come beyond this point, we’re authorized to shoot you.” I stayed on the outside of that fence. CP: Clay, how easy was it to get to that chain link fence? Clay: I was surprised to be arrested where I was because I was shocked that I got as far as I did. I could not believe how close I was to the belly of the beast almost. If you look at an aerial photograph of the site and see the vent stack, I was feet from that. It was very easy. It’s not yet central to this criminal trespass case. We actually haven’t gone into trial. We’re still in pretrial proceedings CP: I’d love to hear more about sort of what set off the motion cameras and the experience of being detected, if you will. Clay: The day I was arrested, my first knowledge of not being welcome was two Windham County Deputy Sheriffs approaching me with their hands – not on their guns, their guns weren’t drawn, but their hands were either resting on their gun or I think they were nearby. This is the day I approached from the river, stopped at the sign and the fence, was taking pictures and then my dog, Chiclet, barked. And I turned around and there were two sheriffs with their hands nearby their guns and clearly, in looking at video footage after the fact and audio recordings between the dispatchers and the plant and the guys in the car that came to arrest me – they were approaching with some grave concern. It’s pretty clear. They’re slow and methodical. And I am glad that the older of the two seemed to be the lead. AG: Clay, I have another question here. Were you dressed in camouflage and had your face all muddy and had you put a camouflage vest on Chiclet or were you wearing your street clothes when you went in? Clay: I was wearing my street clothes. I’m a member of the public approaching this facility with my camera to document where these dry casks are going to be. If I took those photographs from a vantage point that I knew was illegal, it would have no value in the court in Montpelier, in the court of the Public Service Board. So I wasn’t dressed in disguise or camouflage. I was in a big puffy down coat because it was chilly. And my dog, Chiclet, was with me, and she wasn’t in disguise, either. As part of charging me with criminal trespass, the State’s prosecutor must provide the defendant with the evidence they’re using to prosecute. And that evidence included surveillance camera video footage from – I don’t know, 5 different camera angles. And some were – I’m not sure of the technical term, but daylight video recording – what we all think of as having sunlight allows you to record. And some of the cameras were infrared. So it’s this kind of black-and-white image. So we’re in the courtroom; my attorney, Jean Keywell, has made a Motion to Dismiss, essentially based on lack of evidence. The State put on their case for two hours showing lots and lots of videotape from the day. The security supervisor who is the one that made the initial call to the sheriff, is the lead person for the company in the prosecution. He said – it took forever for the video to queue up – it was one of those embarrassing moments where the state prosecutor’s fussing with the computer trying to get it to show out the projector. It was a classic high-tech nightmare for anyone that does presentations. So by the time he gets it working, everybody in the courtroom is sitting on the edge of their seat, like, oh, what is this going to be. And he opens with the video and says now this is the first that the security staff was alerted to an intruder – a potential intruder. And the image on the screen, it’s a static image – day and night the camera is aimed on that one location, and it can tell if there’s something unusual coming into the field of view. And the first indication that there was an intruder or something out of the ordinary was my dog, Chiclet, a Chihuahua Corgi running along the fence line back and forth looking for mice or chipmunks. She loves chasing mice and chipmunks and she often finds those along straight lines like that – building, fence, whatever. And it was just comical that this grand scheme was foiled by my Chihuahua Corgi chasing mice. The whole situation is absurd in the sense that if there was a sign that said no trespass – well, when there was a sign that said No Trespassing Beyond This Point – I stopped. I didn’t go beyond that point. If there was a sign closer to the river that said No Trespassing, that’s as far as I would have gone. It’s absurd because if either security or the sheriff said, hey, you’re on private property, we’re asking you to leave, I would have gone. That’s Vermont law. Either post the land and tell people no trespassing or you tell them you’re not welcome here. Simple. Case done. Clay leaves, the state saves I don’t know how many thousands of dollars through this prosecution. CP: That’s also an excellent point, Clay. I mean I think any common person would agree on that in the most basic level. If you see a sign posted that says don’t go beyond this point – and you do – if charges are pressed against you, it makes sense. But if you don’t see that sign - if it’s a farm, if it’s a private road, if you don’t see that sign, it is something that I think the average person would assume they would just be asked to leave the land, not prosecuted. Clay: Yes, I think the average person can understand the basic concept of – if you see a sign that says No Trespassing and you don’t go beyond it, you’re probably okay, particularly if you’re approaching a site that expert witnesses for Entergy in previous testimony over a span of years, going back to the first dry cask storage case in I think 2004 or 5 – in that neighborhood –I’m approaching the site from public lands and crossed no barrier, no fence, passed no sign that said No Trespassing. So I think the common person would say, yeah, all right, tell the guy to leave and if he doesn’t leave, then there’s a problem. If he leaves, fine. He’s gone. AG: So Clay, let me ask a question. You took some pictures and – on a camera? Clay: Yup. They were not on a wifi connected, instant upload. They were on a kind of an older digital camera and the images were on a chip in the camera. AG: So then they had you destroy any evidence that would support your claim. Because as I understand it, the state had you destroy those photographs you took. Clay: It’s unclear who instructed me to delete the images. I deleted them under duress for sure. I was told that if they pressed charges, I would either need to delete the images or forfeit the camera. I didn’t trust that. I don’t remember clearly. When you look at the video footage, the people circled around the camera as I’m deleting the images is the security staff from VY. The sheriff never looked at the camera, never had any concern with it. AG: So Entergy had you destroy evidence that would support your claim and now is prosecuting you in court with - and now you can’t defend yourself because they had you destroy the evidence. Clay: That’s correct. And I’ve agreed to keep a 300-foot distance from their property. So I think I would really be pushing my luck to go back and try – however, in reviewing the case before our call today, I realized that I have not asked the state – and probably I wouldn’t do this until the case moves onto the next phase – is to ask the state to grant permission for me to go back to that location and take those photographs and provide them to the state. Or for the state – it seems like the judge would be able to grant me access to the route that I took to get to the point where I was arrested. MG: Clay, I think that’s a really serious concern for the state’s case that Entergy, who alleges the trespass, forced you to destroy the evidence that showed what you were doing, and now they’re pushing for prosecution, which to me is very vindictive based upon the fact that you have spent years with New England Coalition intervening on numerous cases. I know that I first met you in your work back in 2003. So I just find it appalling that they would use valuable state resources. It costs an enormous amount of money to put on a trial like this. I can only imagine what Entergy is spending on the case, but I do know that when Arnie Gundersen, my husband and Chief Engineer for Fairewinds was sued as a nuclear whistleblower and we were involved in that case, pretrial they spent between $50,000 and $70,000 a week against us. And we had one pro se attorney, Arnie, our son, working on the case, and I was working two jobs. And I see that right now the Coalition has launched a fundraising campaign in an attempt to pay the $4,000 in legal bills that you’ve already gotten. I think it’s sweet you’re calling it the Chiclet Legal Defense Fund in honor of Chiclet’s role in this, but I mean this is such an absurd use of power, such vindictiveness and a terrible mishandling at the state. I understand from Ray Shadis, New England Coalitions’ Technical Advisor, that neither you nor Chiclet set foot on posted land or crossed any fences. And Entergy VY’s insistence on prosecuting this matter in his words is not only legally out to lunch, it’s dishonest, petty and spiteful. And my addition to that quote is that it’s taking valuable resources from all Vermonters who need to access our courts. I was a mediator in Small Claims Court. I know what it takes to get into court. I know what the time costs. I know what the judge’s rates are and what cases expense charges. Who’s going to pay for this? Are they going to try and sandbag you – well, he trespassed so then Mr. Turnbull is responsible for all of these costs in a made-up case? And separately, from a security standpoint – and I want to ask Arnie to jump in here – Fairewinds have objected and Arnie and I have objected and talked considerably about what it means as an attraction to terrorists if the casks can be seen. Clay: The security person who called the sheriff and identified me as trespassing and has been Entergy’s prime witness, he’s worked at the plant for two years. He came from out of state. I question how well he knows the property boundaries. I wonder if he’s even walked the property boundary. I wonder if he’s even just walked the path that I took from the river up to the fence line. If Entergy’s security staff has only been there for two years, this guy’s a supervisor and I don’t believe he’s knows their property well. AG: You exposed a flaw in their security system and we now know that they had 5 cameras, some infrared, some normal light – that whenever a citizen asks about the security at a nuclear plant, they always say, oh, we can’t tell you, it’s top secret. But here we have a citizen who works for a nuclear power watchdog and is just doing his job and they’re willing to put all of their security system on public display to basically force you to admit that what you did is wrong. How can they release all that security data? As a terrorist, now you know where all five cameras are because you could triangulate the pictures. And given that, they’re exposing weaknesses in their own security system that it just amazes me should be made public in a farcical defense like the one they’re running. Clay: That’s an excellent point, Arnie. I couldn’t believe that they were showing video footage from their cameras and narrating this camera angle and what that camera is seeing and what the guy in the guard tower is seeing. I was dumbfounded. I was as dumbfounded to see their security secrets, if you will, put out there in front of the world – I was as surprised to see that as I was to walk up from the river and find myself in the belly of the beast. I was dumbfounded. I can take pictures, I’m still outside the boundary, and I’m this close – my God. This is amazing. I really would like to go back and take those same photographs again, but without Chiclet and myself walking out into the open, to stay within the tree line where I believe their cameras would not have seen us. CP: And there’s something about that exposure that you uncovered and that they themselves uncovered in showing those videos that’s astounding. And just to piggyback on what you said earlier about the security guards having only been there for two years and probably not walking the property, I see that as a huge decommissioning issue as well if you plan on decommissioning over the course of 60 years. You’re going to constantly have an influx of these security guards that don’t know. Maybe in 20 years, it’s a new group and they don’t do the same thing. It’s a constant issue when you think about this plant remaining indefinitely really with the waste storage. But also throughout the decommissioning process, if it’s that long, you’re going to have security staff turnover. So it’s an exposure of their blind spots that – it really lasts that 60 years. Clay: And when I was taking my pictures, Chiclet barked and alerted me to something unusual and I turned around and here’s the sheriffs approaching as they kind of like in the movies – I guess this is how people get arrested. I’ve never been arrested in my life. Slowly put your hands behind your head and slowly turn and walk up to the fence and as he’s frisking me, I said, hey, wait a minute, am I being arrested. Because I’ve seen enough on YouTube, ask if you’re being detained. Ask if you’re being arrested; if not, then I’m out of here. And he said I was being detained because they were conducting an investigation. I think it would have been appropriate for the sheriff to ask me why I was there or to say, they’re charging you with trespass, what’s your side of the story. Perhaps the sheriff would not have written a citation if he understood that there was a pretty good chance that the security staff was incorrect in making the call that I was trespassing. The security staff by all means, I think, has every right to ask the sheriff to come tell me or anyone else standing where I was, you’re not welcome here, leave. But I don’t think they have the right to say “Arrest that person” and not have that questioned by the sheriff. MG: Do I understand correctly that you’ve looked at some of the property maps? Clay: I have looked at the tax maps for the Town of Vernon and it shows that the land that I was standing on is owned by TransCanada, the energy company from Canada. The state came back with minutia buried in the text that they had granted an easement or right of way – something to that effect – MG: They’ve granted a right of way and an easement, but that’s a whole nuther legal wormhole. Clay: Well, it’s not clear. I’m not a land lawyer, but the State came with documents to our hearing to dismiss, armed with real documents from the Town Clerk in Vernon – I imagine it was Entergy provided that material to the sheriff. It’s hard for me to believe the sheriff would take their time to go down to Vernon and research tax maps and quit claim deed. It’s sad for me to think of the state prosecutors spending their time doing that. AG: This is really a David-and-Goliath story. And of course, Maggie and I fought a David-and-Goliath story so we can appreciate what you’re up against. The money on the other side of this argument has to be tens of thousands of dollars. And here you’ve got the Chiclet Legal Defense Fund trying to pay for your attorney. Doesn’t the State have better things to do than prosecute Chiclet and you? Clay: Well, I think that’s pretty well demonstrated that they would have better things to do. I believe Entergy has the opportunity to tell the state, eh, we don’t want to continue with the charges. MG: It’s criminal trespassing, so the state prosecutor could make the decision the state doesn’t want to spend its resources this way and doesn’t want to get involved. It’s really a concern that this is what our state is doing. You were asked to do this by your employer, this was a logical process because of the testimony their experts gave. This is a vile misuse of prosecutorial responsibility and state resources that’s disgusting to me. AG: You know, around the nation citizens groups have argued that the dry cask storage for spent nuclear fuel is not safe. I know I argued it in Vermont and people in California are presently arguing it. And it’s important to get it either off site or underground. That’s what they do in Europe and yet in America we have these things standing upright like a forest. With high-powered weaponry that’s available to a terrorist, that terrorist could cause a situation that could evacuate half of New England. So actually you’re doing a public service by identifying how easy it is to get incredibly near to spent fuel. And frankly, I think you deserve an award and not a criminal trespass investigation. Clay: Well, thank you, Arnie. Our case before the Public Service Board that I was gathering evidence for wasn’t about safety. However, putting up a screen, a wall, an urban berm, any number of things that would shield those casks from a direct line of sight, would have the advantage of aesthetically not having to look at those casks, and incidentally, would be a protective measure against projectiles being shot at the casks. You know, Arnie, maybe you know from your experience in the industry why they’re so adamant about not shielding these, not putting up a visual barrier. Is it to prove that they really believe there’s no chance these things are ever going to breach? AG: We at Fairewinds have been saying this for years: Follow the money. They’ve got the cheapest casks possible there. And rather than harden them and spend more, the NRC just says well, we’ve licensed them, there’s no need to go any further. So it’s just one more example of that adage that Fairewinds has been saying for years: Follow the money. MG: And they’d rather make a public spectacle using our tax dollars to prosecute you than do the right thing and berm that site or put a bermed wall up so that terrorists couldn’t access it and people wouldn’t see it. It boggles the mind. A prosecutor could have said this is absurd; we’re not pressing these charges. This man wants his record expunged and he didn’t do these things. It’s up to the prosecutor. And I want to know where’s the rest of the State Judiciary on this issue. Where’s our State’s Attorney? Who’s overseeing this? What the hell is going on. CP: I think they want to make an example of you, Clay. I think that they’re humiliated that potentially if you had those pictures that they could have been shown and I think now they’re in this state where they’re like we have all the money, we can press these charges, we can move it forward. And it’s almost like look, if you try to come on our land, if you try to check out what really can be seen, we’re going to press charges. It’s vindictive and petty and it also shows how distant they are from the community that they are in. MG: It’s a total abuse of power and money and it’s using our state judiciary and our courts to wield power and abuse it. I really want to thank you for coming on Fairewinds podcast and being with us and sharing this news, and doing a really valuable public service. Thank you, Clay Turnbull. Thank you very much. Clay: You’re very welcome. I’m glad that you can appreciate the work. For many of our members and the general public in the area, they support Clay and the Coalition’s position on principle without knowing all the intricacies. For people further abroad or the security folks at the airport when I go to get an airplane ticket, they don’t understand. They don’t see the benefit in pointing out these weaknesses in their security, although that wasn’t the intent. I’ve never had to go have a mug shot and fingerprinted for any reason and just on principle, I’m opposed to that. It was one of the reasons I wanted to oppose this from the very beginning. I’m not a criminal. It was a shame that I’m standing there in handcuffs with three security guys from Entergy and two deputies, and I can’t tell them some of the other weaknesses that I saw. Because they don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to hear a peep from me. Just arrest him. They called someone higher up who made the decision to prosecute. There’s an area where the soil has washed out from under a chain-link fence. It’s a very big hole. It’s big enough for a football player to climb in. Maybe when I am proven innocent, I’ll give them a call and tell them about it. So I do thank you for having me on the show. If folks want to make a donation to the Coalition, the website is newenglandcoalition.org and you can donate using PayPal or a credit card, or you can mail a check to us at P.O. Box 545 in Brattleboro, Vermont 05302. We are about halfway to our initial fundraising goal, and that will probably increase dramatically unless the judge – that’s what we’ve accrued to date. And if we go to trial, it’s going to – I’ll be back. Thank you again to everyone at Fairewinds. You folks do an incredible job. I think that people all over the globe are watching you for the information that they should know. So thank you for what you all do. MG: You’re welcome, Clay, and thank you for joining us. And to our listeners, we’ll keep you informed.
Sept. 15, 2016
Utility owner Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) announced in June 2016 that it would shut down the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant with its two atomic reactors by 2025 due to a joint proposal made by PG&E and several environmental and labor organizations. This action is neither the beginning nor the end to the decades long story of Diablo Canyon’s design, construction, and operation. PG&E’s promise to replace the nuclear power generated by Diablo Canyon’s two reactors with renewable energy and to no longer seek a 20-year license renewal for these atomic reactors still comes with significant costs. The two are reactors located on multiple California fault lines and now will continue to operate for nearly a decade more. In the second part to this Fairewinds Energy Education Podcast series, the Fairewinds Crew will share the troubled history of Diablo Canyon and speak with the leading activists in opposition to Diablo Canyon’s ominous 50-year presence along the California coast. The formidable San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace have acted as legal intervenors to the construction, licensing, and operation of Diablo Canyon since 1973. During Part 2 of our Diablo Canyon series entitled “A Mother’s Work is Never Done”, Fairewinds President Maggie Gundersen talks with Mothers for Peace Vice President Linda Seeley about what it means to be a legal intervenor and why this watchdog role is so important when it comes to atomic power reactors.Listen Transcript English LS: It’s just a game of Russian Roulette every day that plant is open now. MG: Hi, you’re listening to the Fairewinds Energy Education Podcast, hosted by the Fairewinds Crew. I’m Maggie Gundersen, Founder of Fairewinds, and I’d like to welcome you to our show today. Today I’m joined by Linda Seeley, who is a member of the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace organization that was founded in 1969 and began to be very active in San Luis Obispo County in California on risk awareness of nuclear power plants. The organization’s concerns include the dangers of nuclear power, nuclear weapons and waste on national and global levels. Additionally, Mothers for Peace also cares about peace, social justice and a safe environment. The group takes on all of these issues, working to make the world safer and more humane for generations to come. Since 1973, the focus has been on legal intervention regarding the dangers at the Diablo Canyon Atomic Reactor and controversy concerning the construction, licensing and operation of the facility. That’s four decades of making the world safer and more humane. If you don’t know the history about Diablo Canyon, please listen to “The Devil is in the Details, Part I – A Troubled History.” And you can find that on our Fairewinds.org website. Linda Seeley became a member of Mothers for Peace when she moved to San Luis Obispo in 1982. She’s active in the environmental community in several capacities, seeing the need for mutual support and communication among many groups who share the vision of a sustainable future for San Luis Obispo County, as you can tell from this clip from early 1984 in response to the NRC’s approved startup of Diablo Canyon on November 8, 1983: “How we can most effectively say to the NRC that we as people who live here in this community don’t want Diablo to open because we think, really believe, that it’s very unsafe for us. I’m sure all of you have seen the poster that says what to do in a case of a nuclear accident: Kiss your children goodbye.” Linda Seeley really pushed for safety from this atomic power reactor sitting on an earthquake fault near San Francisco Bay. Linda, thank you so much for joining us today. We know that you are a member of Mothers for Peace and we wanted you to fill us in about Diablo Canyon and also how Mothers for Peace began and why. LS: First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to be on your podcast, and I’ll try to speak for all the Mothers for Peace and not just for myself. We’ve been actually the legal interveners against the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant since 1973. Mothers for Peace was created in 1969 in opposition to the Vietnam War. That’s how we got our name. And then when two of our members in 1973 read the newspaper one morning and noticed that there was an advertisement in the classified ads from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announcing that there was a proposed nuclear plant that was going to be built on the beautiful coastline in San Luis Obispo County, they went what, eh, what? A nuclear power plant? They’d heard of nuclear power plants but they didn’t know much about them. But it was an opportunity to become a legal intervener. They didn’t know what a legal intervener was, but they thought hmm, sounds pretty important that somebody needs to be representing the public. And so they filled out the paperwork, submitted it and lo and behold, Mothers for Peace was approved to be the legal intervener. A legal intervener is a group or an individual that has the same standing as, in our case, PG&E, with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. So whenever there is an issue with the licensing or the safety at Diablo Canyon, the legal intervener, Mothers for Peace, is invited to the table. And so it’s a very important role to have, and unfortunately, quite a few nuclear plants do not have legal interveners on their behalf. So Diablo Canyon is lucky that Mothers for Peace decided to do it so long ago. I wouldn’t say Diablo Canyon is lucky; I’d say the people here – the plants and the animals, the fish and the air are lucky that we’re here. So we became the legal intervener and we were first our own lawyer and then we were taken under the wing of the Center for Law & Public Interest, which was a public interest law firm in Los Angeles and they guided us for I think about 9 years. We’ve had the same attorney, Diane Curran, from Washington, D.C., for the past 17 years. She’s the best, most wonderful attorney that we could ever hope for. And we have won in the federal courts under her great guidance. We’ve won in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals about the spent fuel, the dry cask storage at Diablo Canyon, we challenged in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that the dry casks were vulnerable to terrorist sabotage, and the 9th Circuit Court ruled in our favor and ordered PG&E to prepare an environmental impact study about the consequences of a terrorist attack on the dry cask storage. And they did, but it was a very inadequate document and we did have the opportunity at that time to challenge that document and go to the Supreme Court, but we realized that our resources couldn’t manage a Supreme Court challenge and so we left it at that victory, which was inadequately addressed, really. MG: The 2006 Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, decision – that is the one you’re talking about now? Correct? (LS: Yes it is) Now that Diablo Canyon is planning to shut down, is this a time that there could be new intervention on the dry casks? LS: You know, we have this end point in sight right now, 2025, to shut down the plant. And we are on high alert right now because since they have announced the closure, what we have learned recently is that attrition has already started at the plant. Because the younger operators and other highly specialized personnel at the plant, even though they’re given retention bonuses and so on, they’re looking out into their future, and if they’re 35 or 40 years old and looking into working for 25, 30 more years, they are wanting to have a future, and they know their future is finite here. So referring back to the dry cask storage, it’s not just the dry cask storage. There are many issues that are emerging now at this time. I learned from Arnie the term running to failure. And what that means is that most nuclear power plants, the way that they shut down is that there is some breakdown in some essential component of the plant, whether or not it’s a nuclear-related breakdown is not the point; but that there is some essential part of the plant that breaks down, causing it to run until it fails. And here we are now with an end point 9 years out for this plant. And Mothers for Peace’ primary concern here is that Pacific Gas & Electric, knowing that this plant is going to shut down, is going to cut corners in the maintenance and the replacement of parts that are needed in order to run the plant safely and effectively. And combined with this fact that attrition has already started, losing some of the younger, brightest people who are working out there, the fact that it’s an old plant, the fact that – Arnie, you’ll know what this is – the stater on unit 2’s steam generator is cobbled together, needs to be replaced, but has a price tag of between $137 million and $151 million to replace it, and they’ve been – PG&E has written a hardship letter to the NRC asking that they not have to replace the stater because of the economic hardship. Then we have all of the Fukushima retrofits that are coming up and that are going to be costly. So our feeling is that these last years are a very, very critical and dangerous time at Diablo Canyon. We haven’t yet seen the final seismic evaluations. We know that at least 13 earthquake faults are there and that most of them are connected to each other, and that two of those earthquake faults are major, active earthquake faults. Those have been proven and we don’t know how many others are active. It’s just a game of Russian Roulette every day that plant is open now. And so because of all of these factors that I have mentioned, we really feel that it needs to shut down sooner than 2025. Today would be a great day for it to shut down, frankly. Barring that, whenever it can happen is a good time. So we are working with some attorneys on a Public Utilities Commission case – MG: So Linda, what do you feel now about the status of Diablo Canyon now? LS: Well, every day that Diablo Canyon is on line, we’re playing a game of Russian Roulette because – there are many reasons for this. Number one, the components are old. A lot of them were built in the 60’s; the plant was designed in the 60’s, assembled in the early 70’s, went on line in the mid-80’s. The reactor vessel in Unit 1 is, I believe, the third most embrittled reactor vessel in the United States. You have an embrittled reactor vessel sitting at the intersection of 13 earthquake faults. And we’re only 40 miles from the San Andreas Fault at Diablo Canyon. Remember, the Fukushima earthquake that destroyed those three reactors and caused meltdowns – that earthquake was 50 miles from Fukushima. We’re 40 miles from the San Andreas Fault and there are news reports very frequently about how we’re expecting the big one on the San Andreas. We’ve got over 6 million pounds of highly irradiated nuclear fuel rods sitting out there, some of it in spent fuel pools and some of it in dry cask storage. Our population in our county has grown – oh, at least doubled since the plant was built. We have one road to evacuate on. It runs north and south, highway 101. If you evacuate for the south, you evacuate toward the prevailing winds that would carry the radiation downwind. If you evacuate north, you have to go over a huge mountain where – when in the summer time we have a county fair here. It’s an agricultural area. And during the county fair time every year, you can’t get – what’s called the Questa Grade – you can’t get across the Questa Grade. That’s with the County Fair. Can you imagine how it would be with 250,000 people trying to evacuate? We have a university here with 20,000 students – Cal Poly – which is a very well-known California school, very desirable California school. We have a junior college called Questa College, with 10,000 students. We have a prison called the California Men’s Colony with over 5,000 inmates. These are just right within 10 miles of Diablo Canyon. The evacuation possibilities are absolutely impossible, and yet there’s this charade – we live with this charade that it would be possible to evacuate here. We have these spent fuel pools and the dry casks that are sitting on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, very vulnerable to terrorism. And the environment here on the coast is one of – you know how it is on the coast of an ocean. We have high winds, we have rain, we have tons of moisture, lots and lots of minerals in the air, and the dry casks are in one-half-inch thick canisters. And in the summer of 2014, the Nuclear Energy Institute did an inspection of some of the canisters at Diablo Canyon and they found that there were salts that were deposited on the sides of some of – of one of the canisters – magnesium salts. And when you have a deposit of salts on stainless steel, it can cause etching. And when you have etching, when it’s exposed like this to all of this heat that comes from the canisters, plus the minerals, it can cause the conditions for cracking. And here we’re looking toward a future of storing all of the fuel in these half-inch-thick canisters; and yet the canisters are very susceptible to cracking. The last thing I’d like to say about this is that, as you know, we don’t have a repository for spent fuel in this country. We probably never will. And so spent fuel, highly radioactive, is probably going to be on this coastline for the foreseeable future. And we’re no different from any other nuclear plant. I know everybody’s experiencing the same problem with storing their radioactive waste. Those are the problems that I see today. MG: (17:08) Linda, I want to thank you for going through that part. It was chilling to me. Our daughter is an emergency room nurse, and she was a paramedic on the West Coast in Crescent City, where they’ve had two tsunamis – in Northern California. And one of our board members, Robert Manning, is a disaster planning specialist and former fire chief. And what you said is really chilling to think about how to evacuate - it’s so impossible. Arnie and I and the crew at Fairewinds have not seen one evacuation plan in the U.S. that works – not one. And that is horrible. And then when you talk about the dry cask storage rusting or deteriorating – the metal deteriorating – when we visited our daughter in Crescent City, which is right on the California coast, the salt water and just moisture in the air was so much that people who had put up metal doors – in a year, their entire front doors were just disintegrating. So I can visualize that, and as you described it, you really gave me chills. So it’s just a lot to try and – even for those of us in this industry and who are jaded by hearing some of these facts, I find what you said extremely chilling. LS: And another thing, Maggie, that I didn’t mention, is the schoolchildren. Not only the universities, but if there were an accident during the day, if there were an earthquake, we have one road. And then we have these little side roads. And there are bridges on all of these roads. And if the bridges crack and the emergency vehicles can’t get through to evacuate the schoolchildren, they will be staying in their schools. And we have worked trying to get our school system to distribute potassium iodide pills into the schools so that teachers could give them to the students if they were trapped in their classrooms. And so far, because PG&E is – this is kind of a company town, or I would say a company county – PG&E is the largest contributor to nonprofits in our county. They give huge amounts to the Sheriffs Department, to the school system – well, because of their property tax. So they’re very respected as an employer and as a benefactor of our community. And because – we feel that because the school systems are so much aligned with PG&E that they don’t want to frighten the parents. Because many – this is the crazy thing, too – this county has grown tremendously, as I’ve said. And a lot of people who have moved here don’t even know Diablo Canyon is here because it’s completely invisible. It’s on a coastline; you can’t see it from any point in the county. And there’s one sign on a small road that says Diablo Canyon Power Plant. It does not say the word nuclear. So people move here, they have school children, they do not know there’s a nuclear power plant here. And our schools do not want to start getting the parents scared. So they won’t distribute or won’t allow potassium iodide to be stored in the schools for the children to get if there were a release of radiation. And I think that’s unconscionable. I became involved with Mothers for Peace when I moved to San Luis Obispo because Diablo Canyon, as you know, was a pretty famous nuclear power plant and my former husband had been offered a job teaching at Cal Poly at the university here. We have three kids and when – and I had been keeping track of the protests at Diablo Canyon from 1979, I think, and shortly before he was offered the job at Cal Poly, they discovered that the Unit 2 earthquake struts had been installed backwards because the two units were supposed to be mirror images of the other and they had incorrectly built Unit 2 and they had to rip it down and build it all over again. And I said oh, there is no way that a nuclear power plant that was built backwards is going to be able to go online. There had been all these protests and everything. And so – because it was a concern before we moved here. So we decided to move here. And when we moved here, we rented a house up in a canyon and it turned out, lo and behold, that our nearest neighbor just a little bit across the canyon, was a member of Mothers for Peace. And the first day that we moved in, she brought cookies over to us. And we started talking and she said oh – you know, I was asking about what was going on in the town and she said I belong to a group that you might be interested in. And I said oh, yeah, I would be interested in that. And that’s how I joined. And then I was working. I am actually a nurse midwife. And so a couple of years after we moved here, I started working again and I always belonged to Mothers for Peace but my role became more peripheral. And then about 10 years ago, I picked up my involvement and it’s become all I do now, work against nuclear power. And I love it. We’re a local, all-volunteer based organization. We don’t have an office. We use each other’s homes for our meetings. We don’t have any paid staff. We do everything ourselves. Except we raise money to pay our lawyer. A watchdog group is usually a legal intervener, although I don’t think they always have to be. But what we do is we read the safety inspection reports. We’re on lists from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other organizations – state and federal organizations that have to do with regulating Diablo Canyon. We meet with the inspectors at Diablo Canyon and form personal relationships with them so that we feel comfortable calling them with questions. And we just try to basically stay on the heels of PG&E and make sure that they adhere to the rules that they’re supposed to adhere to, and that they comply with the orders of the NRC, which they don’t always do. Because the NRC – Nuclear Regulatory Commission – that is charged with regulating, is what we call a captured agency. They basically work for the industry that they’re supposed to be regulating. Diablo Canyon is situated on the central coast of California. It’s almost midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles – a little bit closer to Los Angeles. And the prevailing winds come out of the northwest. So Santa Barbara and Los Angeles are – they’re down winders from Diablo Canyon. And if you superimpose a map of the radiation, of the fallout from Fukushima over the California coast, which some of our allies have done, it’s pretty shocking to see the amount of radiation that goes not only inland to the main agricultural area of the whole United States, where more fruits and vegetables are grown than any other place in the United States, and down into these gigantic population centers in Southern California. Even though we’re a rather remote location the consequences of a meltdown at the two reactors at Diablo Canyon would be absolutely catastrophic, not only on our health but on the economy. California happens to be the 7th largest economy in the world and so destroying the economy of the 7th largest economy of the world seems foolish when it could be stopped. AG: There’s two national groups entered a settlement with Pacific Gas & Electric, the unions and the town, to close Diablo at the end of its 40-year license. And now the pro-nuclear zealots are coming out trying to fight the agreement that Pacific Gas & Electric has entered into. So that puts Mothers for Peace in a situation of agreeing with Pacific Gas & Electric. How does that make you feel? LS: Well, we don’t agree with Pacific Gas & Electric because they want to shut down the plant in 9 years. We want to shut it down tomorrow. And so we substantially agree with shutting it down, but obviously the devil is in the details. And so the Diablo is in these details. We are going to be involved in very soon a public utilities case is going to be starting to – Friends of the Earth National Resource Defense Council – NRDC – two unions, Electrical Workers and the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility – all came to this agreement, which is called the Joint Proposal. And it outlines how Diablo Canyon is going to be shut down over a nine-year period. The great part of it is that all of the power that’s needed for the replacement of the power that’s generated at Diablo Canyon will come from renewable resources. That’s what’s different about this shutdown agreement or any other shutdown of any other nuclear plant that’s ever happened before. And that’s great. However, we know that those renewable resources can be secured prior to 9 years. The main interest that PG&E has is in recouping their expenses. It’s a 1.5 billion-dollar asset and they are going to be receiving all of that compensation in this agreement that they’ve made. I’m sorry, it’s not an agreement; it’s called a Joint Proposal. So that Joint Proposal is being taken before the Public Utilities Commission because it’s a very complex document that has rate changes and payouts and all kinds of economic issues that have to be addressed by the Public Utilities Commission because the Public Utilities Commission is the one that can pass on these costs to the ratepayers. And so that is intrinsic in this agreement that they’ve reached. The thing about the Joint Proposal is that PG&E has the option of backing out at any time that they want. It’s not a binding agreement. It’s not a binding agreement until it’s approved by the Public Utilities Commission. So Mothers for Peace is going to retain a lawyer – a PUC lawyer – who will help us in these proceedings to push the PUC to get the plant shut down sooner. PG&E is already acquiring a lot of renewable resources in their portfolio. They’re buying them up as soon as they become available. And so the shutdown date, we believe, is negotiable. So we are going to negotiate for an earlier shutdown. We don’t know exactly how, but that’s our goal and we won’t give up on that goal. AG: (30:40) I don’t’ know if you knew it, but I did a report for Friends of the Earth that showed that they were supposed to inspect the nuclear reactor vessel in 2014 for its 10-year inspection and they got the NRC to waive that and push it out into 2025 so that there you have one of the most severely embrittled reactor vessels in the world and the NRC has waived any inspection on it until after it gets its 20-year license extension. So that’s certainly a risk to the people of San Luis Obispo. For the next 10 years, you’ve got an uninspected nuclear reactor out there. LS: I didn’t know that, Arnie. AG: Certainly Diablo and the NRC weren’t interested in publicizing it and they tried to sneak it through, and effectively, they did. The license has been amended and there is no inspection between now and 2025. LS: And there’s probably no way to address that now, because it’s done, right? MG: Shouldn’t they have been notified? AG: That’s right. There should have been a process back when they applied for that, but somewhere along the line, the vessel is not being inspected. The NRC gave them a 10-year waiver. MG: Linda, thank you so much for joining us today and for being a part of this really critical conversation about nuclear power risk, atomic reactors, the West Coast earthquake faults and Diablo Canyon. LS: Maggie, I appreciate so much your having invited me. I hope that people will pay attention to Diablo Canyon and will pay attention to all of the nuclear reactors that are still online and work as hard as they can to shut them all down. MG: We at Fairewinds Energy Education would like to thank you for joining us today. This is Maggie Gundersen, Founder of Fairewinds, and my special guest, Linda Seeley, from San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace. We at Fairewinds will keep you informed.
Aug. 18, 2016
The shutdown of Diablo Canyon and its two atomic reactors by 2025 is the result of a joint proposal among PG&E, environmental, and labor groups. This action is neither the beginning nor the end to the decades long story of Diablo Canyon’s design, construction, and operation. PG&E’s promise to replace the nuclear power generated by Diablo Canyon’s two reactors with renewable energy and to no longer seek a 20-year license renewal for these atomic reactors comes with a cost. The two reactors located on multiple California fault lines will continue to operate for nearly a decade more. In this Fairewinds Energy Education Podcast series, the Fairewinds Crew will share the troubled history of Diablo Canyon and speak with the leading activists in opposition to Diablo Canyon’s ominous 50-year presence along the California coast.Almost from the day it was proposed in the mid-1960’s, Diablo Canyon has encountered more problems than any other nuclear plant still operating.  During Part 1 of the Fairewinds Podcast series “Diablo Canyon: The Devil’s in the Details”, Fairewinds’ Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen exposes the plant’s long sequence of problems and shows that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) complicity is the only reason these two reactors continue to operate. Listen Transcript English AG: To put Diablo into historical perspective, back in the 60’s, when this plant was proposed and designed, the government was supporting a thousand nuclear plants nationwide. MG: Hi, you’re listening to the Fairewinds Energy Education podcast hosted by the Fairewinds crew. I’m Maggie Gundersen, and today we’re launching a special series on the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant located in California. There have been some recent changes at Diablo Canyon, so it’s been in the national news, and we’re receiving many, many questions from people all over the country and all over the world. So we’ve invited our Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen, to tell you about the back story regarding Diablo Canyon as we launch this series. Arnie, thanks for joining us today. AG: Hey, Maggie; hey, Fairewinds; hey, listeners. It’s nice to be here. Diablo Canyon goes way back in history. It was proposed in the 60’s back in an era when the United States thought they’d have a thousand nuclear plants. Right now we have a hundred. “Electricity is already produced in nuclear power stations all over the country. Scientists are working to learn ways to make the cost of electricity the same price or lower than electricity from coal-burning plants.” They were talking about building a nuclear plant every 50 miles up and down the California coast. Diablo is one of those reactors. After long licensing arguments with the people of the State of California, the construction actually began in 1968. That means major components like the nuclear reactor were built in the 1960’s. So shortly after construction was approved, Pacific Gas & Electric, the owner, suddenly discovered an awful lot of earthquake faults right offshore. Here’s what the chairman of Pacific Gas & Electric – that’s the company that owned Diablo Canyon – had to say about the menace that was created there: “The experts we dealt with that we were engaging said they did not think any further analysis offshore was necessary beyond what had been done on shore.” There’s a debate whether they knew about those earthquake faults before the license was approved and didn’t bring them up until afterward. You know, with the NRC, it’s easier to get forgiveness than it is approval. The NRC chairman at the time was very unhappy about the design of Diablo, but yet he licensed it anyway. Here’s what he had to say: “There have been lapses of many kinds. In design analyses resulting in built-in design errors; in poor construction practices; in falsified documents; in harassment of quality control personnel; in inadequate training of reactor operators.” So they got the license and were moving forward in the 70’s. Diablo Canyon is a two-unit nuclear reactor and it’s built by Westinghouse, not by General Electric like Fukushima. So it’s an entirely different reactor design. One of the reactors was supposed to be built to be the mirror image of the other and in fact, they used the same prints instead of different blueprints. So that meant that all the pipe restraints – all the things that hold the pipes up – were in the wrong locations. “A great embarrassment; no question about it. It’s the kind of error which has occurred other places. I didn’t think it would occur at our plant, but it did. And the immediate reaction, of course, why did it happen and what does it tell us about the rest of the work we did there.” That again was the chairman of Pacific Gas & Electric. They discovered that in the 70’s, but it took until 1985 before that plant finally got straightened out and put up online. There was a huge public protest about these backward drawings. Back in 1981, an attorney representing the State of California really succinctly put the problem into perspective. Here’s his comments: “The dispute in this proceeding is not between people who are pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear. The dispute in this proceeding centers on whether the Diablo plant does or does not pose an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of all Californians, and in particular, to the residents of this, San Luis Obispo County, who would be most immediately affected by a nuclear accident resulting from seismic activity on the Hosgri fault zone. The proceeding doesn’t place nuclear power on trial, but in a way it does place the nuclear regulatory process on trial. Before Three Mile Island, the NRC assured the public that the likelihood of a serious accident resulting in core damage occurring at a nuclear power plant was so small as to be almost non-existent. The accident at TMI not only destroyed that myth, but severely damaged the already-tarnished reputation of the NRC.” And again, the NRC supported Diablo and Pacific Gas & Electric and refused to allow a relicensing hearing at the time, confirming what you’ve heard from Fairewinds all along, that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is the handmaiden to the nuclear industry. At the time, the NRC commissioner was very unhappy about the pressure that the nuclear industry was applying to get these licenses approved. Here’s what he had to say about Diablo: “There’s been a great deal of pressure over the past few years on the Commission to avoid delays in issuing full-power licenses for plants. And I think this case manifests the results of those kinds of pressures on the Commission.” The first unit at Diablo had been scheduled to start up in ’73, but in fact it was 1985 before it went on line. And it had a 40-year license that expires in 2024. The second unit went on line a year later in ’86 and it’s got a 40-year license that allows it to run until 2025. If you count on your fingers from the 60’s to now, you’ve got six decades have gone by and more than 50 years since the first engineering was done and the first parts were ordered. And parts wear out. We all know that. So this is an aging power plant. One of the problems it faces moving forward is the cost to replace all these things that are wearing out, compared to the cost of renewables. One of the arguments that people that want to keep Diablo running has been, oh, this is a premature shutdown. No, it was designed for 40 years and the license is for 40 years and they’re going to shut it down at the end of the 40 years it was originally designed for. So this is not a premature shutdown by any means. When you built something 50 years ago and expect it to run beyond its design life – no. Rubber wears out. You see it all the time on refrigerators or your car or whatever. How many refrigerator gaskets last 40 years? They don’t. And of course, all the insulation on the wires; it’s the same thing. The biggest problem was that the nuclear reactor vessel was built in the 60’s when they used a lot of copper in the nuclear reactor. And copper turns out to be very sensitive to high levels of radiation. And the Diablo vessel is one of the most embrittled in the world. Now Fairewinds did a long video about nuclear embrittlement that you might want to go visit on the site, but basically because of the high copper content in Diablo, the nuclear reactor can shatter like glass. It’s interesting because here’s another case where the NRC was the handmaiden to Pacific Gas & Electric. They know this problem existed. They should have done a full inspection of the vessel in 2014, but they asked the NRC for an extension until 2025, after the 40-year license had expired. So they kicked the can down the road knowing they were going to experience problems. So Diablo Canyon was allowed to kick the can down the road and not inspect this entire nuclear reactor until after the 40 years had expired. That’s a little bit too late. So that’s one indication of a gravely aged component that has been allowed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue to run uninspected until 2025. You know, there’s a lot of other things that happened in the ensuing time span. First, Diablo pumps 2 billion gallons of hot water into the Pacific every day. And rules have changed and you’re not allowed to do that now. So Diablo is facing the need for a couple billion-dollar cooling tower to protect the aquatic organisms that are in the Pacific. The biggest problem still is the seismic problems. And they knew if they went for a license extension, there was going to be all sorts of opposition to the seismic problems. Pacific Gas & Electric was considering asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for an extra 20 years to run this plant, from 2024 out to 2044, and they knew there would be significant opposition to that decision, especially on the seismic concerns. We have to remember that Doctor Peck, the NRC’s own guy, felt that the licensing of Diablo should never have occurred with the seismic constraints the way they’re presently analyzed. So they had a series of really significant problems and had an uphill fight to get the reactor licensed for an extra 20 years. When Diablo was constructed, they only looked for faults on shore – earthquake faults on shore. But shortly after the permits were approved, an oil company was looking for offshore oil and discovered a serious fault that actually connects right into the San Andreas. And it was named Hosgri – H-o-s-g-r-i. And that’s the first syllables of the two scientists that discovered it. The more people looked, the more earthquake faults they discovered offshore, including something called the Shoreline Fault, which is incredibly close to the power plant, less than about four football fields away. There’s 13 that have finally been discovered, all of which are connected into the San Andreas. So it’s just a question, it’s a matter of time that when the San Andreas moves, these other ones will move, too, and the results could be devastating. If you built a power plant on the Pacific coast, you have to anticipate earthquakes. And this plant was built at the same time that Fukushima Daiichi was built and obviously the engineers didn’t do a very good job of anticipating earthquakes or tsunamis. The west coast has a long history of tsunamis as well as earthquakes. The last thing I’d like to talk about is the fact that, to keep a plant running after it gets to 40 years is like restoring an antique car or something like that. It costs billions and billions of dollars. With renewables dropping in price, Rocky Mountain Research Institute with Amory Lovins has determined that just throwing all this money into the plant to keep it running didn’t make sense and you’re better off spending that money on renewables. Amory Lovins has been a contributor on our Fairewinds site. Here’s what Amory had to say about comparing nuclear and coal units to renewables: “And when we’re told you need the coal and nuclear plants to keep the lights on because they’re 24/7, while solar and wind power are variable and thus supposedly unreliable, this is completely fallacious.” So to wrap this first podcast up, I was in high school when the public in California was protesting the design of Diablo. I was in college when Diablo was being built, and I got out of college the same year that Diablo Canyon should have started up. Because of engineering screw-ups, they finally started up in 1985. So this plant has a long history of controversy. To put Diablo into historical perspective, back in the 60’s when this plant was proposed and designed, the government was supporting a thousand nuclear plants nationwide and one every 50 miles up and down the west coast of America. So this is the end of that legacy; the closure of Diablo Canyon is still eight years in the future, and all those risks that I talked about are still there. But there is a date certain to close the plant now and that nuclear legacy. We’ll be picking up the pieces from Atoms for Peace for another 60 years after this plant is shut down because the dismantlement will not occur very quickly. MG: Thank you for joining us today and listening to the Fairewinds Energy Education Podcast. This podcast is the first part in a series on Diablo Canyon and its forthcoming closure. We will also discuss the deal between Pacific Gas & Electric and large national environmental organizations to begin the shutdown process and what the closure of Diablo Canyon means when it’s compared to San Onofre. How will this atomic power be replaced? Why are renewables the right way to go? Thank you for joining us. We’ll keep you informed.
June 15, 2016
Fairewinds Science Advisor Dr. Leslie Kanat returns as a guest on Fairewinds podcast to dig deeper into seismic issues and nuclear power. Can humans cause earthquakes? Join the Fairewinds Crew and Dr. Kanat to find out! Before its triple meltdown, the nuclear power industry claimed that the Fukushima Daiichi atomic reactors were earthquake proof – what the nuke proponents call ‘seismically qualified’. Fukushima Daiichi owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), conducted what atomic utility owners call a “Maximum Credible Assessment (MCA)” (or what the Fairewinds Crew calls the “Maximum Cost Affordable”). According to the nuclear industry, the MCA assesses the maximum magnitude of an earthquake or natural disaster based on industry best guesses in relation to anticipated costs for repair construction budgets. Therefore, when a nuclear plant owner like Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) claims that its Diablo Canyon atomic reactors are earthquake proof… that’s not exactly true. What these atomic power producers are really claiming is that they have constructed an atomic reactor that should be able to withstand the worst possible earthquake that corporations believe is affordable. The aftershock earthquake that hit Fukushima Daiichi was a magnitude 6.6 that originated from a magnitude 9 earthquake offshore. As we continue to witness the ongoing tragedy created by the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi, we also witness an atomic reactor deemed earthquake proof and ‘seismically qualified’ by the Maximum Credible Assessment suffering a major disaster and meltdown due to an earthquake less than the magnitude limit that the atomic reactor was built to withstand.  Listen Transcript English LK: Our inability to make decisions and take into account the future makes a lot of our choices very risky. MG: Hi, you’re listening to the Fairewinds Energy Education podcast hosted by the Fairewinds crew. I’m Maggie Gundersen, and welcome to the show. Recently, we did a show about seismology and we had geologist Dr. Les Kanat on with us and Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen. And we’ve had so many questions from our listening audience that we wanted to bring you one more portion of our discussion. Some of the questions people have asked have been about the human aspect of seismic issues. For example, can humans in our activity – bulldozers, building things, going down to bedrock, and fracking – can they cause earthquakes. So I’m opening the floor to Les and Arnie, and they’re going to talk to you about what this issue is and what does it mean to nuclear power plants. LK: We have really good evidence that human activity has been the cause of seismic events. One recent example was in 2011, the National Football League had a playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints. And one of the players, whose name is Lynch, ran a 67-yard touchdown during the playoff game that basically was the winning touchdown for that game. The fans, all 66,000 fans – were jumping so vigorously that it registered a magnitude 1.5 earthquake on the seismometers not too far away. So that’s one way in which we can cause earthquakes. There are other, more devastating examples of that. For example, on 9-11, when the first plane impacted the first tower, that event shook the ground enough that 34 kilometers north of the World Trade Center – about 20 miles north – that impact registered. The second impact also registered on the seismometers, as did the collapse of the buildings. So, for example, the first collapse registered as a 2.1 magnitude event. That was 34 kilometers north of where the seismometer was – 34 kilometers north of the building itself. The second tower, when it collapsed, was equivalent to a 2.3. So human create seismic events by jumping around, by destruction events like taking down buildings. But also we create earthquakes when we really mean to make the world a safer place. So out in the Rocky Mountain arsenal in the 1960’s, we used to inject millions of gallons of contaminated liquids into deep-well injection sites. We figured that by taking contaminated liquids, putting them deep into the earth – meaning miles – that we would be safe and not have to worry about the contaminants. So when we look at a graph that looks at the relationship between the number of gallons – an order of millions of gallons a month that we’re pumping down into the ground, and the earthquake frequency in that area, 1962 and 1963 were averaging about 6 to 8 million gallons a month. And the number of seismic events increased significantly. For the year 1963, we stopped injecting fluids; seismicity ceased. And then back in ’65, we started injecting 8 to 10 million gallons a month, and the number of earthquakes rose precipitously. So we’ve known for a long time that by injecting water into the ground, we can increase seismic events. That recognition had the idea that we should inject liquids along the San Andreas Fault so we could trigger these small events and therefore miss the big one. So for several years, maybe even a decade, we injected lots of water into the ground and we did trigger lots of small events. But it wasn’t enough to offset any major seismic event, so we stopped doing that. Since we’ve been drilling oil (sic) we’ve always fracked the wells, we would drill a well to try and extract oil, the rocks weren’t permeable enough, so we would fracture the well, either by explosions, dropping explosives down the well, or by putting a lot of water pressure down the well to hydrofracture the well. So we’ve been doing this for a long time. And only recently, we’ve started fracking the rocks to extract gases. So it’s not surprising that we see lots of seismic activities around places where we’re fracking. AG: (5:15) Yeah, I guess I could add one more to that list. There are cases where dams have been built and the combination of the weight of the water that wasn’t there before and the fact that that waters moves into cracks in the ground have caused earthquakes as well. Whatever humans do on the surface seems to get translated down below that. LK: If we look at just the earthquakes in Oklahoma, as we’ve started fracking, in 2009, basically, and prior to that, there were very few earthquakes and all below magnitude 3. In 2010, we had about a thousand earthquakes. That kept increasing. In 2013, we had about 3,000 earthquakes. 2015 is about 6,000 earthquakes every year. So the number of earthquakes – and now we’re even getting magnitude 3 earthquakes in Oklahoma – large earthquakes – because we keep injecting water to fracture the rocks, to break them apart. And again, when rocks break, that’s an earthquake. So we are inducing earthquakes in order to extract gases. Because by fracturing the rock, we create avenues for gases to escape and for us to capture them. AG: I have a question, Les. Is the water acting as a lubricant? Like putting oil on the surface and allowing the rocks to slide by each other? LK: With fracking, there are a couple of things going on. That would be one of the aspects. But with fracking, the water is also corrosive, to help dissolve some of the rocks. There are lots of chemicals that we put into the fracking waters. And we also inject sediment – sand-sized grains – to be able to keep those fractures open. So it’s not just clear water we’re pumping down there. AG: I can’t believe that we actually tried to pump fluid into the San Andreas Fault. That’s like trying to slide a plate out from underneath a pit bull or something like that, while it’s sleeping. That doesn’t seem to me to be a very prudent way of helping the San Andreas Fault relieve its faults. LK: Well, if you would have told the geologists that a decade ago, you could have saved us a lot of money. AG: We’ve had one other question by people, and that’s could the earthquake in Japan have been caused by a nuclear weapon. And in fact, how do we detect nuclear weapons anywhere. It turns out that the shape of a pulse from a nuclear weapon is different than the shape of a pulse from a normal earthquake. So if you’re a geologist and you see a spike on your charts, you can tell whether it’s an explosion or whether it’s a natural phenomenon. LK: When you say the shape of the pulse, I think you’re meaning the signature that’s recorded by the seismometers. They are distinct between earthquakes – even types of earthquakes. Are they results of extension or compression? Are they results of explosions? So we know when and where and how big earthquakes are and the same is true for all underground nuclear tests. So during the period when we had a lot of underground nuclear testing around the world, seismologists were in high demand because we wanted to know who is testing and where they’re testing and how big these events are. Because a nuclear weapon releases a certain amount of energy and because earthquakes release a certain amount of energy, we can relate nuclear events to what would be an equivalent magnitude on the Richter scale. It’s all about energy and time. And I think what we don’t realize as a society is that although geologists’ greatest contribution to society is the recognition of deep time – that is, that the earth is the result of billions of years of evolution – that’s a pretty big idea to grasp – we still don’t make decisions thinking about the long term. And we think about what might happen tomorrow or next year or maybe five years at the most. So our inability to make decisions that take into account the future makes a lot of our choices very risky. I think Yogi Berra said it right, that it’s really hard to make predictions, especially about the future. MG: I agree with you, Les. That’s really pertinent to nuclear power. Because at Fukushima Daiichi, there were these stone monuments all along the coast that said “Do not build below this level” because of tsunamis. These stone pillars were more than 1,000 years old and they forewarned of the issue of tsunamis along the Japan coastline. So we forget how time is. We forget that time is eons. LK: Or we think it hasn’t happened in 1,000 years; therefore, I’m safe. We can do this. MG: On that note, we’ll close this session and we’ll keep you informed. Thanks for listening.
May 24, 2016
Missing bolts and “nuclear reactor” are words one generally does not want in the same sentence. However, when more than one quarter of the bolts inside an atomic reactor core go missing, the risk and concern multiply.  Listen to this breaking news Fairewinds Energy Education podcast of a formal press conference hosted by Friends of the Earth regarding its Emergency Petition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Prohibit Restart of Indian Point Unit 2 and Inspect Indian Point Unit 3.In this press conference you’ll hear Damon Moglen, Sr. Strategic Advisor with Friends of the Earth, Attorney Richard Ayers, Founder of the the Ayers Law Group, Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer with Fairewinds Associates, and David Freeman, former chair of the NY Power Authority, the prior owner of Indian Point Unit 3, and an advisor to Friends of the Earth.Listen ReportsFiled with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Friends of the Earth's Emergency Petition to Prohibit Restart of Indian Point Unit 2 and Inspect Indian Point Unit 3, May 24, 2016, Friends of the Earth download the report The Mystery of the Missing Bolts: New York City's Stricken Indian Nuclear Plant, May 24, 2016, Friends of the Earth and Fairewinds Associates download the report Transcript English MG: Hi, I’m Maggie Gundersen, founder of Fairewinds Energy Education. And today you’re listening to a breaking news Fairewinds podcast of a formal press conference hosted by Friends of the Earth. Welcome to this breaking news event. In this press conference, you’ll hear Damon Moglen (:34), senior strategic advisor with Friends of the Earth, Attorney Richard Ayres, founder of the Ayres Law Group, and Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer with Fairewinds Associates, and David Freeman, former Chair of the New York Power Authority, the prior owner of Indian Point Unit 3, and an advisor to Friends of the Earth. Emcee: Good day, everyone and welcome to today’s Friends of the Earth Indian Point telephonic press conference. At this time, all participants are in listening mode. Later on, you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions during the question-and-answer session. You may register to ask a question at any time by pressing the star and 1 on your touchtone phone. You may withdraw yourself from the queue by pressing the pound key. Please note this call may be recorded. I’ll be standing by if you need any assistance. It’s now my pleasure to turn today’s program over to Mr. Damon Moglen. Please go ahead, sir. DM: Thank you. Good morning. Thank you for attending this Friends of the Earth telepress conference on the dramatic bolt failure at the Indian Point nuclear reactors outside of New York City. This is Damon Moglen. I’m the Senior Strategic Advisor for Friends of the Earth, and I coordinate the organization’s campaigns on nuclear power issues. I have worked on issues relating to nuclear power and nuclear proliferation for more than 30 years. Let me introduce the speakers you will be hearing from today. First off will be our attorney, Richard Ayres of the Ayres Legal Group, who has filed today on our behalf an emergency petition with the Commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Richard Ayres is among the nation’s most knowledgeable and well-respected environmental attorneys. Since 1970, he has helped shape and implement many of the country’s core environmental policies, including the Clean Air Act. Mr. Ayres’ work has included representing clients before federal courts, including the Supreme Court, the NRC, the EPA, the U.S. Congress and state agencies and courts. Our second speaker will be the nuclear engineer, Arnie Gundersen, of Fairewinds Associates, who is the lead technical author of the report we are releasing today. Arnie Gundersen has more than 40 years of nuclear power engineering experience. He attended the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he earned his bachelors degree, while also becoming the recipient of a prestigious Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship for his masters degree in nuclear engineering. Arnie holds a nuclear safety patent, was a licensed reactor operator, and is a former nuclear industry senior vice president. During his nuclear power industry career, Arnie also managed and coordinated projects at 70 nuclear power plants in the United States. Our last speaker will be S. David Freeman, the former CEO of the New York Power Authority – NYPA – and a man who had personal responsibility for the oversight of Unit 3 reactor at Indian Point. Dave now serves as a senior advisor for Friends of the Earth. Mr. Freeman has more than four decades of experience directing federal, regional and local energy policies. He was appointed chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority by Jimmy Carter in 1977. Subsequently, Dave served for two decades as general manager of several large public utilities or power agencies, including the New York Power Authority in the mid-1990’s, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, and the Sacramental Municipal Utility District. Dave is a renowned expert on clean energy efficiency and the risks of nuclear power. He holds a BS in civil engineering from Georgia Tech and an LLD from the University of Tennessee. I want to get to our speakers in a moment, but would like to say a few words about why we are here today. The situation we bring to you is actually very simple. A complicated and potentially quite dangerous machine is broken. The question is whether or not we will find out why and how it broke before the reactor is returned to operation. Will profits take precedence over safety? Let me emphasis the bolt failure at Indian Point involving degradation or loss of more than 25 percent of the bolts which are a critical part of the reactor unit 2’s core cooling system, is a very serious problem. In fact, we believe the failure of these bolts is orders of magnitude beyond that seen in any other reactor in the world. It’s unprecedented. Failure of these bolts in the plates they hold, which channel cooling water to the reactor core could lead in an emergency to a failure of the cooling system and a meltdown of the reactor core, as occurred at Fukushima. This would send a plume of radioactivity somewhere out over the nearly 20 million people who live within 50 miles of the Entergy reactors. If the wind were blowing in that direction, the plume could be over Times Square in 90 minutes. There would be no time for evacuation; in fact, as we New Yorkers all know, if there was a disaster at Indian Point, there would be no way to evacuate the millions of people trapped under the radiation in New York City and West Chester. We believe that the bolt problem must be treated as a top safety priority by the nuclear regulatory authority. But the staff has not acted and has instead, at least so far, left it to Entergy to propose and start making repairs even before they have completed a full analysis of the problem on which to base the repairs. Because Entergy says they intend to bring Indian Point back on line in June, we believe it is critically important that the NRC intervene and take charge. They need to assure that a full root cause analysis is done, and that it forms the basis of any repairs that are made and that the NRC certifies that the plant is safe to run. We are also asking the Agency immediately instruct Entergy to bring reactor unit 3 off line so that the twin reactor can be immediately inspected to ascertain if it has the same problem. Friends of the Earth started in 1969 and began as an organization working on nuclear safety. Never in our more than 45 years have we filed such an emergency petition with the NRC. We believe that this is a major safety issue and we demand that the federal safety regulators intervene. Let me now turn to our attorney, Mr. Richard Ayres. RA: Good morning, everyone. I’m Richard Ayres. This morning, my firm filed on behalf of Friends of the Earth, a petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for emergency action to assure that the two reactors at Indian Point, New York, are safe to operate. This filing is not taken lightly. A release of radiation at Indian Point, as you’ve heard, could affect nearly 20 million people and could potentially render our nation’s largest city uninhabitable. The purpose of the petition filed by Friends of the Earth is to prevent a hasty restart of Indian Point 2 until the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sure it’s safe to operate. Under the Atomic Energy Act, the NRC has the task of protecting the health and safety of the people of the New York City area. The safety of the plant is in question because it has been learned from new inspection techniques that the bolts that hold internal baffles together in unit 2 are failing at a rate never before experienced. An inspection by Entergy, the owner and operator, shows that more than one-fourth of the baffled former bolts have become compromised and/or failed. No other nuclear unit has ever experienced more than a 10 percent failure rate. The effects of these failures are potentially catastrophic and will be described further by Mr. Gundersen. In the case of Indian Point, located within 50 miles of tens of millions of people, there is no room for error. We believe the increased risk demands that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission step in to assure safety. Why? Because Entergy, the private company that owns and operates Indian Point, cannot be counted on to protect the health and welfare of New Yorkers. Entergy had to be forced to investigate the bolt failures by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (9:09). Entergy continues to plan to restart unit 2 in June whether or not it’s completed a root cause analysis to find out why the bolts are failing. Entergy also plans to continue running unit 3 for another year before finding out how many bolts have failed in that unit. Entergy is a private company, not a utility regulated by New York State. Its only corporate interest is making money for its shareholders. The duty to make energy a good citizen falls entirely on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. To protect the public interest, therefore, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must step in to assure that both units are safe to operate. To date, the Commission has simply not become involved. In its petition, the Friends of the Earth asked the Commission to take two major actions on an emergency basis. First, we asked the Commission to issue an emergency order preventing Entergy from restarting unit 2 until the NRC is satisfied that it knows the root cause of the bolt failures, and until the NRC determines that unit 2 is safe to operate. Second, we asked the Commission to issue an additional emergency order to prevent continued operation of unit 3 until it has been inspected, the root cause of any bolt degradation is determined, and the NRC is satisfied the unit is safe to operate. Now the Commission unquestionably has the authority to take these steps. It has granted emergency relief in response to such petitions on a number of occasions in the past. Examples are at pages 13 and 14 of our petition. Likewise, the Commission has on several occasions in recent years required licensees to provide the NRC with analysis and await Commission approval before operating troubled plants. Examples of that are on pages 12 and 13. We ask and expect the Commission to consider these emergency requests on an expedited basis. Emcee: Thank you, Mr. Ayres. Our next speaker will be Arnie Gundersen. Arnie. AG: (11:42) Hi. Arnie Gundersen, the Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates up in Burlington, Vermont. If you’re taking notes, it’s Gundersen – has an “e” – s-e-n – and Fairewinds has an “e” in the middle of it. Unfortunately, during my 44-year career, I’ve witnessed five major atomic reactor meltdowns, beginning with Three Mile Island and including Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi. And since the beginning of the 21st Century, I’ve witnessed two near calamities. The first was in 2002 at Davis Bessie in Ohio; and the second is happening right now with the mishap at Indian Point Unit 2 with the failure of 227 damaged and missing bolts that are essential to the safe operation of that atomic reactor core. As Dick said, more than a quarter of these critical bolts in the core are missing. This is the largest number of failed bolts ever found in any atomic reactor anywhere in the world. Both Indian Point 2 and its almost identical sister reactor produce slightly more than 1,100 megawatts of electric power each. To adequately visualize what this means, let’s look at the picture provided to you on page 4 of the technical handout. Trapped inside that 12-foot-high by 12-foot-wide reactor core is the energy equal to 4-1/2 million horsepower. Envision almost 4-1/2 million horses stampeding across a prairie and you’ll realize how much power must be controlled within each atomic reactor core. The core baffle that is held in place by slightly more than 800 bolts surrounds the atomic fuel. 227 of those bolts are seriously damaged or missing entirely. The core baffle acts like a cattle chute and it channels a quarter of a million gallons of water at 550 degrees. That’s the energy equivalent of 4-1/2 million horses in a uniform direction that’s absolutely critical to the safe operation to maintain control of the Indian Point reactor. The failure of more than a quarter of the bolts means that the baffle directing these 440 million (sic) stampeding horses – 4.4 million stampeding horses – is severely weakened and in jeopardy of failing to cool the atoms colliding inside. The near failure of the baffle means that a nuclear nightmare was just narrowly avoided. If the baffle had failed – see picture on page 5 of the handout – cooling water could have bypassed the atomic reactor core, leaving the core with no method to cool it and causing a meltdown. Simply put, it’s impossible to cool the nuclear fuel if the baffle plate fails. In 1966, the loose parts from the Fermi I nuclear reactor caused a piece of sheet metal to break loose and plug the nuclear reactor fuel, creating a partial meltdown, during which someone in the control room uttered, “We almost lost Detroit.” The failure of the baffle plate on Indian Point 2 would create a much worse disaster, and New York City is only 26 miles away. In 2012, Friends of the Earth retained Fairewinds Associates to evaluate radiation leaks of the steam generators tubes at the San Onofre nuclear reactors. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission had already assigned a special 14-person augmented inspection team and issued a confirmatory action letter requiring NRC approval of the restart of the San Onofre after a root cause analysis was completed. Due to the near miss at Indian Point unit 2, which is 100 to 1,000 times more dangerous than that which existed at San Onofre, Friends of the Earth is requesting this emergency petition to the NRC to both keep Indian Point 2 and 3 shut down until the ultimate root cause analysis has been completed. Well, what is an ultimate root cause analysis? Simply put, it’s a thorough, time-consuming analysis that examines every possible cause of bolt damage and destruction. Replacing the damaged bolts prior to an ultimate root cause analysis may put significant stress on the reactor, causing a meltdown in the future. Focusing on Indian Point’s immediate return to power production limits dedicated scientific inquiry and endangers the health of millions of people living nearby. By insisting that Indian Point 2 replace its bolts prior to analyzing the ultimate root cause of the bolt failures and by allowing Indian Point 3 to continue operating, speaks to a failed safety culture within Entergy. According to the NRC database, currently the three worst performing atomic reactors in the U.S. are owned by Entergy. And now we add to that list Entergy’s Indian Point Unit 2. Entergy is rushing to fix an unknown failure so as to supply electricity during the lucrative summer peak market. And its almost identical sister plant continues to operate without any safety evaluation or risk assessment. After examining the evidence available to me, it’s my professional enduring opinion that both Indian Point atomic reactors should be shut down and remain so until an ultimate root cause evaluation is completed and the defects are repaired – if a repair is even possible. Quite simply, the lack of evaluation possibility for Manhattan and the surrounding New York area aren’t worth the risk for Entergy’s corporate profits. Thanks. Emcee: Thank you, Arnie. Our next and final speaker is S. David Freeman. Dave. DF: I view this situation from a somewhat different perspective than my fellow colleagues here. I had the personal responsibility in late ’93, ’94 and ’95 for the operation of Indian Point 3. And I kept that plant shut down for 2-1/2 years, not because the reactors were broken as they are now, but because employees were not following the rules of the NRC with sufficient correctness to satisfy us. Now there was a big difference. I was the head of a nonprofit organization – the New York Power Authority – and I did not have the pressure of stockholders and making profits. And so we were able to put safety first and we did so. And what is so alarming about the situation that we have right here is that the company that is in charge of the plant now is not even regulated. In California, at least the utilities that operate the nuclear plant have a cost-plus (?19:21) deal with the regulator. And they could – if the plant didn’t run, they still got their money. If they made investments in safety, they made a return on it. Here we have a company that has a single-minded objective: making money. And so they don’t have a conflict of interest. They have a serious interest in running this plant this summer, because if they don’t run it, they don’t get any money. And having been in the position of CEO, the people in that plant, they will come to you and tell you it’s safe – you know why? – because they really believe it’s safe. Because they work there. It’s almost like somebody that smokes cigarettes and doesn’t believe they’re going to get cancer. There’s just such a pressure on the people involved to say it’s okay because of their job. That’s the reason we have a Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is to protect the public against the monetary incentives of a company like this that just wants to run the plant and doesn’t have the public safety as their first priority. And that is why it is absolutely crucial that the NRC take charge here and that it is the NRC that decided – and that it permits experts like Mr. Gundersen and others to present evidence. Right now, this whole thing is hidden behind a nuclear curtain where nobody really knows what’s going on except the private company who’s just desperately trying to get the plant back up. I would also want to comment that having run that plant, we knew that there was no evacuation plan. There isn’t one. You can’t get the 6 to 10 million people in that area out of there in an accident. It’s just not possible. The other point that needs to be made is this place is running outside of its license. Its license expired for one unit 3 years ago; another one a year ago. Nobody in their right mind would dream of building a nuclear power plant 25, 35 miles from New York City. Their license has expired. A Nuclear Regulatory Commission asserting the public interest would deny them a license extension. This plant needs to be shut down in the name of common sense. Emcee: All right. Thank you, Mr. Freeman. I’d like to now turn to questions and answers. Roxanna, the operator, is going to be facilitating that process. Roxanna, please. Roxanna: At this time, if you’d like to ask a question, please press the star and 1 on your touchtone telephone. You may withdraw your question at any time by pressing the pound key. Once again, to ask a question please press the star and one on your touchtone telephone. And we’ll pause for a brief moment to allow questions to queue. And we’ll take our first question from Jennifer Pelz (22:31) with the Associated Press. Please go ahead. JP: Hi, everybody. I wondered what the process is for going forward with this petition. Is there a timeframe by which the Commission has to respond? Or is it not quite as firm as that? RA: This is Dick Ayres answering that question. Yes. There is no requirement as to the timetable for a response. The reason we’ve asked for emergency consideration is that we believe this needs to be considered right away and we, of course, are also saying that the Commission needs to give us a response before the plant would be restarted. So that would probably place a 30-to-40-day limit on how soon the Commission would have to respond. DF: If I could just add this thought – a failure of the Commission to respond is a denial of our request. This is an emergency and if the plant is allowed to restart without Commission action, the Commission has effectively denied our request, and I think that we will very seriously consider what other legal action we wish to take. Emcee: That second speaker was Mr. Freeman. All right, let’s go to the next question, please. Roxanna: And we’ll take our next question from John Beers with AFP (24:14). Please go ahead. JB: Hi there. I haven’t had a chance to go through all the documents yet, but thank you for holding the call. What has been the reaction so far of other people like, for example, the governor of New York or the attorney general to what you’re saying about this problem at Indian Point? DF: (24:42) This is Dave Freeman. The governor of New York has been on record asking that the plant be shut down ever since he was Attorney General, and including recently when he’s governor. So he has been very vigorous in asking the NRC to take action and the company to shut the plant down, and many others in the state have been making the same request for a number of years. There’s opposition to granting them another 20-year license extension that’s undertaken – led by the Attorney General and many NGO’s in the state. Frankly, the opposition to Indian Point goes all the way back to 1994. I encountered it when I was running the plant and for that reason, kept the plant down for 2-1/2 years. JB: So the NRC just doesn’t see eye to eye with all these regulators – all these others? DF: They have not been urged to do so as vigorously as we did this morning, and we have every reason and hope that they’re going to respond to our emergency petition and do their job. JB: Where would the power come from if it’s not – say you get your wish and Indian Point is – the reactor that’s down is not brought back and the reactor that’s up is brought down – where does the power come from over the summer? DF: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an opinion on April 20th, 2015, in which they prescribed that the New York independent system operated from the grid must maintain operating reserves of 2,620 megawatts and 1,310 of those megawatts have to be in the southeast New York area. So there is ample reserve in the system to date. As the CEO of a utility, I can just tell you that you always have to have enough reserves on hand if your large unit breaks down. And Indian Point is a large unit. So there’s no concern about power shortages. If there were, then the NYPA (?27:17) would be engaged in a massive conservation effort right now. They have ample opportunity to do – they take bids or load management bids – this is a sophisticated organization that has the power supply underway and Indian Point is not operating now, but the reserves are there. That’s the answer. And if they weren’t, we’d be having an energy efficiency and conservation program like we did in California when we had a shortage, and it worked. DM: That speaker was Dave Freeman. This is Damon Moglen. I’d just like to add that I would encourage folks to take a look at a very important report that was commissioned by our colleagues at NRDC and Riverkeeper by Synax, which was published a couple of years ago, that goes into full detail about these surplus issues. And this is an important issue. And I’d also encourage you to take a look at that report. AG: (28:21) Hey, Damon, may I add one thing? This is Arnie Gundersen. Indian Point 3 claims that it’s unlikely it’ll have this problem. If it shuts down now in May, it’s probably less than 30 days it could determine if it has the problem or not. If it’s clean, it could be up and running again in time for this suggested peak in July and August. If it is damaged, I’d suggest that it’s much better to be shut down rather than putting damaged – putting stress on those baffle plates. So the time to shut Indian Point down from a load standpoint is now. Let’s look. Emcee: Right. And that was Arnie Gundersen. Can I ask for the next question? Roxanna: And we have a follow-up question from Jennifer Pelz of the Associated Press. Please go a head. JP: Thank you. I’m looking at the NRC blog post to which you refer in your legal papers and which concludes with the guy saying that the NRC will ensure the condition is fully understood and addressed prior to the plant returning to service. I take it you all don’t credit that. Why not? DM: This is Damon Moglen. And I’ll take a first shot at answering that. Maybe Dick Ayres may want to add. But the bottom line is this. That blog post, which is in and of itself is kind of remarkable that the NRC is taking actions through a blog and not through any regulatory action, is I think rather misleading in that none of the kind of actual public regulatory actions that normally the NRC should be taking in a case like this one – sending in an augmented inspection team, issuing a confirmatory action letter which takes charge of the situation – none of that has been done. So what you have there is a blog post from a public relations officer at the NRC which ends with an empty reassurance that everything is okay. And no, Jennifer, I don’t think that’s enough. I don’t think that’s enough to calm concerns of the millions of people in New York who are worried about this reactor. I don’t know if Dick wants to add anything further about what we may be asking for. RA: I’ll just add one thing, which is what we’re asking for basically is for the NRC to use the authority it has by statute to step in and make sure the plant is safe. At this point, the Commission has done really nothing to accomplish that, and obviously a blog post does not carry the force of law which the Commission has. And because it has that force, it can require the plant to be kept closed until it’s safe; it can put conditions on how it’s operated. It basically can do almost anything to make sure that the people that live within a distance of that plant are safe. DM: Jennifer, did you have a follow-up or can we ask for another question? Okay. Why don’t we go to the next question. Roxanna: Once again, if you’d like to ask question, it is star and 1 on your touchtone telephone and we’ll pause a brief moment to allow questions to queue. Once again, if you’d like to ask a question, it is star and 1 on your touchtone telephone. It appears we have no further questions at this time. DM: All right. Great. Thank you all for being on this call. There are contact numbers if you want to ask any follow-up questions to any of our speakers. On behalf of Friends of the Earth, I’d like to thank you for attending this important telepress conference and for covering this extremely important safety issue. Roxanna: This does conclude today’s conference. You may disconnect at any time and have a wonderful day. MG: Thanks for listening to the Fairewinds Energy Education podcast. We will keep you informed.
May 19, 2016
Before its triple meltdown, the nuclear power industry claimed that the Fukushima Daiichi atomic reactors were earthquake proof – what the nuke proponents call ‘seismically qualified’. Fukushima Daiichi owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), conducted what atomic utility owners call a “Maximum Credible Assessment (MCA)” (or what the Fairewinds Crew calls the “Maximum Cost Affordable”). According to the nuclear industry, the MCA assesses the maximum magnitude of an earthquake or natural disaster based on industry best guesses in relation to anticipated costs for repair construction budgets.Therefore, when a nuclear plant owner like Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) claims that its Diablo Canyon atomic reactors are earthquake proof… that’s not exactly true. What these atomic power producers are really claiming is that they have constructed an atomic reactor that should be able to withstand the worst possible earthquake that corporations believe is affordable. The aftershock earthquake that hit Fukushima Daiichi was a magnitude 6.6 that originated from a magnitude 9 earthquake offshore. As we continue to witness the ongoing tragedy created by the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi, we also witness an atomic reactor deemed earthquake proof and ‘seismically qualified’ by the Maximum Credible Assessment suffering a major disaster and meltdown due to an earthquake less than the magnitude limit that the atomic reactor was built to withstand. In this podcast, the Fairewinds Crew discusses seismicity risks and atomic power with Fairewinds Science Advisor Dr. Leslie Kanat, a double Fulbright scholar and professor of geology at Johnson State College. Dr. Kanat explains the difference between fault and subduction zones, why earthquakes are near impossible to predict, and how history can and does repeat itself.  Listen Transcript English MG: Hi, you’re listening to the Fairewinds Energy Education podcast hosted by the Fairewinds crew. I’m Maggie Gundersen, and welcome to our show. Today we have Dr. Les Kanat (:13), a special guest. He’s on sabbatical with us this term from Johnson State and he’s a geology professor with 25 years of experience as a geologist. We also have members of Fairewinds crew – Caroline Philips, Program Administrator, and Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds Chief Engineer. Today we want to specifically talk to you about seismic issues across the country and what that means for nuclear power plants. We also want to talk about the atomic reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, and the seismic impact on them. What does it mean for a nuclear plant to face an earthquake? What happens? And what causes earthquakes? Can we predict them? Let’s talk to our guest, Dr. Les Kanat, and let’s talk to our Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen. Les, let’s start with earthquakes. Weather management has come really far and we get all these great predictions and we see radar bringing weather in. What about predicting earthquakes? Can we do that? LK: With weather, we can see what’s coming. We earthquakes, we can’t. Of all the natural disasters, our worse predictions have to do with earthquakes. In effect, we cannot predict earthquakes at all. We have a number of stations throughout the world looking at all earthquake precursors in order to predict an earthquake; but we’re unable to do that. There are changes in the strain in the rocks, which can be measured from satellites. Sometimes animals act unusually. Sometimes we think there might be some helium releases, certain gases from the ground. There are things called earthquake lights known as brontides (?2:03), strange lights in the sky over marshes before earthquakes – fantastic videos of these – but none are able to predict an earthquake. Out in California for the last 15 years, there’s bee a lot of research going on in order to predict earthquakes, and still to this day, we’re unable to do that. MG: I’ve read California has one of the most advanced earthquake monitoring systems in the U.S. Now I understand from what you’ve said that somehow that allowed them to give an early warning system, but that’s definitely not possible. LK: Correct. There’s no early warning system. Now in Japan, what they have is some of their seismometers that are out in the ocean, when they detect an even, the travel times for the seismic energy to reach the country is on the order of seconds. So they have a few seconds of warning, but that’s only after the even occurred. So in certain places, the seismometers have been set; they’re linked to the trains and elevators in certain buildings where it shuts them down a couple of seconds before the seismic energy reaches the towns. But that’s not predicting; it’s still after the fact. MG: Well, with that statement, let’s talk to Arnie for a minute about Fukushima Daiichi. We’ve heard how bad the earthquake was out in the ocean, but that was not enough time to shut down the nuclear plant. Let’s ask Arnie why. AG: (3:32) Yeah, what happened was the earthquake was over 100 miles offshore, and it was a Richter 9, which was – in my lifetime, I think there’s only been about 4 or 5 Richter 9’s: Nome, Alaska, in Indonesia, this one, a couple of others. When the Richter 9 earthquake hit out in the ocean, the seismic wave, like Les said, took a couple of seconds to get to the plant. And when the plant started to shake, the power plant shut down. The control rods were shot into the nuclear core and the chain reaction stopped. If that was all there was, the plant would have gone into a normal shutdown. The earthquake waves destroyed all the transmission towers so the power plant had no other way of getting electricity except for turning on its emergency diesels. They worked for about half an hour and continued to cool the plant until the tsunami hit. And the tsunami was caused by the earthquake but doesn’t travel anywhere near as fast as an earthquake wave. LK: Question for you, Arnie: Do all nuclear power plants have that same switching ability that when they sense vibrations in the grounds, the control rods are automatically inserted? AG: What happened, for instance, down in Virginia at North Ana, when the earthquake happened, the nuclear core moved a little bit and they detected the change in neutron population. In other words, there was too many neutrons on one side of the nuclear reactor and not enough on the other, and the nuclear reactor automatically shut down. LK: That is true, then, for all. So in addition to a couple of rail systems in Japan and a couple of elevators in Japan, the only other thing that’s set to shut down automatically from a seismic event, might be a nuclear power plant. AG: Well, a nuclear plant doesn’t shut down. The difference is those trains get an early warning that the wave is coming. The nuclear plant didn’t have that. When the wave hit, it shut down, but the trains have a couple of second delay. They know the wave is coming so the brakes go on. And that doesn’t happen in a nuclear plant. CP: Well, let’s go back to the United States to California. You just discussed what happened at Fukushima Daiichi. My question for Les is 9 is a huge number on the Richter scale. What sort of earthquake caliber are we looking at for a plant like Diablo Canyon? LK: The U.S. Geological Survey over the years creates seismic hazard maps for the entire country. Recently, they’ve been updated. And these hazard maps make suggestions as to the likelihood of a certain magnitude of an event occurring at a certain location. The reason why it’s not a prediction is we don’t know when it’s going to happen, but we know in a location, the probability of even of a certain size happening. So when the re-evaluation of seismic hazards in the U.S. occurred, maybe a few years ago, in almost every case, the hazards were worse than what we originally thought. And I believe for Diablo Canyon – and Arnie can correct me – it used to be that they thought the event could be what is known as a 7.1 magnitude event, but now it’s been upgraded to indicate that it’s possible for a 7.5 magnitude event to occur in that location. So we often hear about Richter magnitude scales – we hear 7.1 and 6.0 – and it’s kind of hard to get a handle on what that means, so let me explain it a little bit. Back in the 1930’s, Richter came up with the Richter magnitude scale. And what he noticed was that if the ground moved one centimeter and was 100 kilometers away from where the earthquake occurred, that was called a magnitude 4 event. So that was the original scale. If you’re 100 kilometers away from the epicenter and the ground moved one centimeter, that’s a magnitude 4. If the ground moved 10 times that much, for example, 10 centimeters, that’d be a magnitude 5. And if it moved 100 centimeters, it’d be a magnitude 6. So the ground motion increases by a factor of 10 for each increase in Richter magnitude. But the story is more involved than that, because it’s more than just distance. Depending on the rock types, different rocks respond differently to the same amount of energy released. So we’ve converted what was originally the Richter scale into what is now called a Moment Magnitude Scale. Yet when we report out to the press, we convert it back to numbers that people are familiar with. So a magnitude 4 might move the land 1 centimeter and a magnitude 5 might move it 10 centimeters. But it takes 32 times the amount of energy as an increase from magnitude 4 to magnitude 5. So although the ground motion goes up by a factor of 10, the amount of energy release goes up by a factor of 32. So going back to Diablo Canyon, you hear 7.1 or 7.5, you think it’s not that big of a deal, because it’s in the tenths place in the Richter scale. But recognizing that we’re really talking about the amount of energy released, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake releases the equivalent of about 670,000 tons of TNT. 7.1 is 673,000 tons of TNT; yet a 7.5 releases 2.7 million tons of TNT – it’s about 4 times more energy is releases in a 7.5 than we have in 7.1. You can think about it this way: If you get 25 miles to a gallon because you get a certain amount of energy in a gallon of gasoline, you’d get 100 miles per gallon, because you’re getting four times the amount of energy out of that same event. So the question is, is the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant really built to withstand four times more energy release than previously thought when it was constructed? CP: And to add to that, I know, Arnie, that operators at PG&E have claimed that they’ve upgraded the plant to withstand a 7.5. We have an audio to listen to what Gerald Strickland, the nuclear projects director at Diablo Canyon and what he said on the issue: GS: “Considering how robust the structures and facilities are constructed here at Diablo Canyon, in the event of a major earthquake, this is the place that I would want to be.” CP: (10:07) So Arnie, is this accurate? Their claim that they have made the plant able to withstand a 7.5 earthquake? AG: You know, when you get in one of these nuclear power plants, they’re so big. And a hubris sets in and you feel like you’re in control. And an engineer at Chernobyl I think really expressed it best. And here’s his direct quote: “We knew with certainty – with arrogant certainty – that we were in control of the power we were playing with. This was the day we learned we were wrong.” And that same mentality affects the people at Pacific Gas & Electric in Diablo Canyon. And it did at Fukushima, too. You look at how big these buildings are and you say, oh, this can withstand anything. But the reason they’re big is because they have enormous forces inside them that have to be constrained. And when we realize that there’s 4 or 5 million horses running around inside a nuclear core that’s 12 feet by 12 feet by 12 feet, then you get an idea of why these plants are as robust as they are. Because the energy you’re dealing with is so enormous that it’s dangerous. So we all look at how rugged these buildings are and it lulls you into a false security. MG: With that in mind, I’d like you and Les to talk about the New Madrid fault and what happened at the North Ana Nuclear Plant when there was a major earthquake there. So Arnie, if you could just say what happened and then Les can go in and talk about the fault and what all of that means. And there is a whole slew of earthquake zones on the east coast as well as on the west coast, and we never consider them as an issue. AG: Yeah, you know, living on the east coast here in Vermont, you think that earthquakes are a California problem. But in fact, the earthquake near the North Ana nuclear power plant was an east coast earthquake. It also is known for damaging the Washington Monument. But what happened was that the ground moved underneath the power plant by about 4 inches. And you can see that because there’s actually a picture of a fuel canister and it’s on concrete. And the concrete pad shows where it was and where it is. Now the press reported that the canister moved four inches. But that’s not what happened. Newton’s first law says that it’s the earth moved under the canister and the canister didn’t move. So the earth moved four inches at North Ana. MG: Can you talk more about that, Les, and the earth moving that way and what that means? LK: When there’s a seismic event, the land can move in a direction. It can move horizontally or it can move vertically. But the land also shakes. And the shaking can be from 15 seconds to a few minutes for very large earthquakes. And anything that sits on the ground when it’s shaking might move. So the land itself might not move four inches, but maybe the fuel casks in shaking sort of slid across the surface of the storage pad. So for the event that you just referred to, I don’t know how much the land moved in that area. But to have movements on the order of meters is common for very large earthquakes. And on the order of centimeters, it’s certainly possible that the land moved, but I don’t know what happened there, what accounted for the movement of the casks in that area. AG: (13:56) Well, there’s a four-inch mark next to the fuel canisters showing something moved four inches. But that was a little earthquake in comparison to Fukushima and in comparison to what can happen at Diablo Canyon. At Fukushima, the entire seacoast dropped three feet. So sea level, whatever it used to be – things that were three feet above sea level are now at sea level. The entire coast of Japan sunk by three feet in that earthquake. That’s an absolutely incredible number; and it’s likely at Diablo, too. LK: In the New Madrid area out in Tennessee, in that region, the land has moved on the order of several meters. That’s a lot of movement from events. In the 1800’s, there were three significant earthquakes in the New Madrid zone: a 7.5 on December 16, 1811, which is the one mostly reported; but that was follows by one on January 23rd of 1812 of a 7.3; and the following month of another 7.5 in that area. And those events are associated with subsidence, that is land moving down on the order of five meters, yet the average is about 1-1/2 to 2 meters. So certainly, the land can move horizontally or vertically quite significant amounts from seismic events on the order of 7’s in this case. AG: On top of that, there’s a difference between the soil in the east and the soil in the west. When the earthquake hit at North Ana, Maggie felt it upstairs in our house in Vermont, because the soil conditions are such that it can carry further. Whereas a West Coast quake, there seems to be more cracks in the soil and things don’t travel as far. LK: You say soil, where maybe rock might be a – bedrock might be a better way to think about it. The seismic waves move deeper than the soil horizon. Different rocks have different strengths and therefore respond to the seismic energy differently. Here’s an example of what I mean by the rocks responding differently to the same amount of energy released by a seismic event. So one of the earthquakes out in California devastated the Nimitz Freeway in California. It was this two-layer freeway and the freeway only collapsed where it was built over the mud. The amount of ground motion that was measured over the bedrock, also known as ledge, was a lot less than that which was recorded over the mud. So the mud shook a lot more. And as we have seismometers on different rock types, we could see that the same event will result in a different amount of ground motion dependent upon not only the distance from the seismic event, but also the rocks on which the seismometer is mounted. So the collapse of that double layer of freeway only occurred over the muds, and the engineers in California knew that they were building that part of the freeway over rocks that were going to move a lot more than other parts. And it’s an example of, how much money do you want to put into a structure to protect it from what you perceive might be the worst-case scenario. In this case, it wasn’t enough. AG: (17:34) It amazes me how many guesses there are along the way when you’re designing for this. First, you’ve got to guess at the magnitude of the earthquake. How much energy is coming out of the ground. Then you’ve got to guess at where that is occurring. Is it one location or 10 miles away? Then you have to transmit that energy as a wave through the ground to get to the nuclear power plant. And then you’ve got to say, well, how does that affect the foundation of the plan. Then you’ve got to take all that energy up into the plant, and there’s another series of factors called damping coefficients, that affect how the building moves. What Diablo Canyon did when the earthquake – they determined it was much worse than what they originally thought it was, is they didn’t change the plan. They just changed numbers. They changed the damping coefficients, and they said well, instead of a 2, we’re going to make it a 6. And it was an arbitrary change in damping coefficients. So the claim that the plant is any stronger is wrong. They just changed the numbers. LK: Right. So there are two issues here. One is different rocks transmit different amounts of energy, but it’s also true that, from what you’re saying, that the nuclear power companies reevaluate how strong their structures are to meet the codes, as opposed to re-building the plant itself. AG: And they’re still doing it. This isn’t – when Diablo was built – it was designed in the 60’s and they started building it in the 70’s and then they realized they built it backward, literally. They built it backwards because the drawings were the mirror image of what they should have been. It was 1985 before it finally got done. But even now they’re still playing games with the seismic numbers. Diablo just had new steam generators installed, and rather than notify the NRC that the new steam generators really weren’t as seismically qualified as the old ones, they installed them and then went back and changed the numbers to make it work. LK: So it’s a risky game they’re playing. How many more years will Diablo Canyon be functioning, do you think? AG: Well, it’s 40-year license runs out in 2024. LK: And then they get a 20-year extension like all other nuclear power plants. AG: Well, they’re applying for a 20-year extension, but there’s really an awful lot of opposition in California. The seismic community in California, led by an NRC former inspector, Doctor Peck, have pecked holes in all of these calculations and shown that there’s not a lot to support the conclusions that Diablo Canyon came to. So if they decide to ask for another 20 more years, I think it could be a real contentious hearing. LK: (20:28) Again, we can’t predict seismic events. We know they’re going to happen. We know where they’re going to happen. We don’t know when. So they’re playing a risky game at Diablo Canyon by changing their calculations to show their compliance with the next tensile (?20:45) seismic events. AG: It’s sort of like being in Vermont and let’s say winter’s approaching. You know you’re going to get a snowstorm sometime, but you don’t know when and you don’t know how much snow. Well, the same thing with an earthquake. You know there’s going to be an earthquake out there sometime; but you don’t know when and you don’t know how much energy. LK: Right. And earthquakes are inevitable. I think about earthquakes the same way I think about hurricanes and volcanoes in the sense, when viewed through the lens of energy transfer, earthquakes, volcanoes and hurricanes – they’re all rapid, local releases of energy. And you can think about that as earth’s safety net. It can’t keep building up all these energy. It’s got to be released. So they’re going to happen. CP: We’ve been discussing structures of nuclear power plants and how they’re supposedly able to withstand enormous earthquakes. Let’s listen to what Gerald Strickland, the Nuclear Projects Director of Diablo Canyon has to say about that. GS: “Through our long-term seismic program, we’ve continued to learn additional knowledge on how earthquakes behave around the world, and we continue to apply those lessons learned.” AG: You know he’s wrong, and the data show he’s wrong. There’s a report on the Fairewinds website from a couple of months ago that we wrote about the seismic issues at Diablo Canyon. If anybody wants to read it, it’s about 40 pages. There’s been 12 nuclear reactors that have had earthquakes happen under them in the last decade. The one here in Virginia – the worst one was Kashiwazaki Kariwa (22:25) on the Sea of Japan; and then of course there was Daiichi. So there’s four units at Daiichi that we have measurements from, seven at Kashiwazaki Kariwa, which was the biggest nuclear complex in the world at the time. And North Ana gives you 12 nuclear plants that have experienced an earthquake. In each of those, the earthquake forces on the buildings were higher than engineers expected. So the one-in-10,000 year event has happened 12 times in the last 10 years. So what does that say about our ability to predict the really big one? The Kashiwazaki Kariwa was shut down for four years and there was over 2,000 seismic restraints that were destroyed. North Ana had cracks but no seismic constraints. And we do know there’s a lot of structural damages as a result of the quake at Daiichi. So to claim that we know what the big one will really be, I think the last 12 power plants worth of earthquakes show we can’t anticipate the big one. LK: We can’t anticipate the big one. I agree. It is inevitable. But we take risks every day in our lives. And the question is, why do we take risks. Why do we take risks with nuclear power plants? Why do we take risks with building highways and hospitals in seismic zones? We want energy. People who are in the energy business want to make money. What would be an appropriate way for people to assess risk and still continue with their business as usual? So we take changes and they’re not always good ones, because we have a short-sighted nature. We don’t look far enough into the future. MG: (24:02) One of the things we’re seeing at a number of utilities and energy companies around the country is they’re not assessing risk. They’re padding the data considerably. And then now as solar and wind are taking such a lead in our economy, certain utilities – for example, Florida Power & Light, Progress Energy in Florida also, and Pacific Gas & Electric are blocking their rate payers, their clients from getting solar or wind power. They’re determined that they want to keep the nuclear power paradigm and have atomic reactors, which people can go on our website and see some of the data we’ve put up about the costs of doing that, and we’ll also be releasing a study about that in the fall. The atomic power industry is refusing to let go of a technology that’s outdated, that’s extremely risky, as we can see from the horrible radiation releases around the world. On top of that, it’s not cost effective. No one has a solution for the waste and cost of managing nuclear power waste and decommissioning is prohibitive all around the world. CP: Maggie, you mentioned waste. Right now, Hanford has gotten a lot of attention with their nuclear waste leakage. It is located near the Cascadian subduction zone. I’d love it if Les would discuss the difference between subduction zones and faults, and this additional risk to this already leaking nuclear waste problem. LK: Earthquakes occur along faults, most of the earthquakes. That means that when the rocks break, they release energy in the form of seismic waves and we call that seismic energy. There are many types of faults but most of the faults occur along what are known as plate boundaries. If you think of the earth as an apple and take an Exact-O knife and inscribe 20-odd shaped pieces on the apple skin, those 20 pieces would be the 20 major plates that represent the earth. Take that apple skin and start moving it along the apple itself. Some of the pieces of apple skin will move apart. That type of fault is known as a diversion plate boundary. Some of the apple skin will move next to each other, side by side; for example, the San Andreas fault system. That’s a transcurrent plate boundary. And some of the apple skin might move together – a compressional plate boundary, also known as a subduction zone. So in the case of the Cascade Mountain range, which is in Washington and Oregon and Northern California, what we see out there is a series of volcanoes and earthquakes. The volcanoes and earthquakes in the Cascade Mountain range are a result of type of fault where the two plates are coming together, and one plate gets pushed beneath the other in what is called a subduction zone. So the Cascadia subduction zone is the name of a subduction zone in the western part of the U.S. What’s happening out there is, as the plate – the ocean plate just off the coast of U.S., is being pushed under the North American plate, it moves in a stick/slip sort of fashion. So the stresses build up to the point where finally the rocks move, and that movement along a fault results in an earthquake. Subduction zone earthquakes generally produce the largest earthquakes. That was true in Japan recently with Fukushima – a subduction zone earthquake. The question was related to what is a fault. Again, a fault is where one rock unit slides past another. And when it moves, that’s the earthquake. In the Cascadia subduction zone, the lower part of the plate is moving at a more continuous rate, producing small earthquakes. But the upper part, which is more brittle because it’s a lower temperature under less pressure, is sticking. So we’re concerned about large events in the Cascadia subduction zone because of this strain that’s building up over the years. We’ve seen in the past couple hundred years examples of 7’s, 8’s and 9’s magnitude earthquakes out in the Pacific Northwest; and hence it got that name of the Cascadia subduction zone because of all the significant earthquakes and volcanoes along a plate boundary. Just as an aside, not all seashores are plate boundaries. The eastern seaboard of the United States is not a plate boundary. You have to go down to the mid-Atlantic Ocean. Just go on Google and zoom into the mid-Atlantic Ocean and you’ll see a ridge that separates the Atlantic Ocean as the plates are moving apart about the rate at which your fingernails grow. But the west coast of the United States happens to coincide with a plate boundary. And that’s why the West Coast has continuous earthquakes and volcanoes, because it is a plate boundary. CP: (28:59) The Columbia Generating Station is located even closer to the Cascadia subduction zone and it is a Fukushima-like boiling water reactor as well. AG: They claim that the Hanford site is America’s Fukushima. It’s already leaking and the ground is not shaking. So if a big one were to hit, the Hanford reservation – all those tanks out there would likely begin to release more radiation than was ever released at Fukushima. These tanks have bomb waste from programs that started in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, and it’s going to be another hundred years before we clean it up. So one hopes that if the big one hits, those tanks maintain their integrity. If history is any indication, that’s a false hope. MG: Well, I’d like to thank all of you for coming on today and doing this podcast. I’ve jotted down many, many more questions. So I think that we’ll definitely have to have you both back on, Les and Arnie, to talk about more seismic issues, how it impacts nuclear power plants, and 20-year license extensions. We appreciate what you’ve said. So to our listeners, send in your questions and we will have these people back again and bring up this topic again. And we’ll keep you informed.
April 18, 2016
Supporters of atomic power, who are not scientists, have been able to broadcast their opinions to the public with hellacious titles such as Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: Putting Indian Point Hysteria in Perspective by attorney and lobbyist Jerry Kremer for the Huffington Post. In an effort to combat misinformation and keep you informed, Fairewinds reached out to international radiation expert Dr. Ian Fairlie to clear up the false assurances and scientific denial spread by the nuclear industry and its chums.Tritium, the radioactive isotope and bi-product of nuclear power generation, is making headlines with notable leaks at 75% of all the reactors in the United States, including Indian Point in New York, and Turkey Point in Florida. Speaking with renowned British scientist, Dr. Ian Fairlie, the Fairewinds Crew confirms the magnitude and true risk of tritium to the human body in its three various forms: tritiated water, tritiated air, and organically bound tritium.Dr. Fairlie is an independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment. He has a degree in radiation biology from Bart’s Hospital in London and did his doctoral studies at Imperial College in London and Princeton University, concerning the radiological hazards of nuclear fuel reprocessing. Ian was formerly with the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs specializing in radiation risks from nuclear power stations. From 2000 to 2004, he was head of the Secretariat to the UK Government’s CERRIE Committee examining radiation risk of internal emitters. Since retiring from government service, he has acted as consultant to the European ParliamentListen Transcript English MG: Hi, you’re listening to the Fairewinds Energy Education podcast hosted by the Fairewinds crew. I’m Maggie Gundersen, and welcome to the show. You’ve probably heard of Tritium, the radioactive isotope and byproduct of nuclear power generation, as it continues to make headlines with notable leaks at 75 percent of all reactors in the United States, including Indian point in New York and Turkey Point in Florida. Tritium is also an enormous problem at Fukushima Daiichi, due to the huge quantities of water used to cool the reactors during meltdown. Today the Fairewinds crew will be joined by renowned British scientist, Dr. Ian Fairlie, to discuss tritium and its impact on the environment and human health. Doctor Fairlie is an independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment. He has a degree in Radiation Biology from Bart Hospital in London, and completed his doctor studies at Imperial College in London and at Princeton University concerning the radiological hazards of nuclear fuel reprocessing. Dr. Fairlie was formerly with the United Kingdoms Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, specializing in radiation risk from atomic reactors. From 2000 to 2004, he was head of the Secretariat to the UK government’s SIRI committee, examining radiation risks of eternal emitters. Since retiring from government service, he has acted as a consultant to the European Parliament, local and regional governments, environmental NGO’s and private individuals. Dr. Ian Fairlie, welcome to the show. IF: It’s my pleasure. MG: I’m joined today by Arnie Gundersen, our Chief Engineer at Fairewinds and our Program Administrator Caroline Philips. Ian, we’ve asked you to come on and join us because tritium has suddenly become a big issue in the United States, both with plants that are being decommissioned and have tritium leaks and spills that have to be cleaned up, and also because of the recent leaks discovered at Indian Point nuclear facility and in Biscayne Bay near Turkey Point in Florida. On top of that TEPCO is planning to dump millions of gallons of tritiated water into the Pacific Ocean. Can you please talk to us about the issue of tritium? IF: Yeah, sure. Tritium is the radioactive isotope of hydrogen. It is emitted from or created during all nuclear fissions. It is ubiquitous near a power station. It’s either emitted into the air or dumped into the ground or discharged into water courses. The thing about tritium is it’s a major headache for nuclear companies. It’s created, for example, during nuclear fusion, during nuclear fission; not only is it an activation product, but it’s a fission product as well. So whenever you talk about or think about nuclear power, you should always think about tritium. It’s an inevitable byproduct of all nuclear reactors. CP: And can you repeat again the issue with tritium, if I understand it correctly, is that it has hydrogen properties. So that means that it would bind with oxygen, H2O as water – can you just sort of reiterate that relationship? IF: Yeah, sure. The most common form of tritium is tritiated water, whether in a liquid form or in vapor form. Everybody knows that water is H2O. Well, tritiated water, one of those H’s – or sometimes both – is radioactive. You have effectively radioactive water. Now in my view, we should be more worried about this because we all consist of water – 2/3 of the atoms in our body or I should say molecules in our body, are water molecules. So that if we are suddenly exposed to radioactive water, it’s a danger to us. Health authorities throughout the world should recognize that radioactive water is more hazardous than we think. CP: Water, you said, composes up to – did you say 80 percent of – IF: Two thirds of us. CP: Two thirds of us. And water is, of course, also evaporated into our air. It’s also part of our condensation with fog and rain. So if we have tritiated water, of course, tritiated air I imagine is also an issue. Correct? IF: Oh, absolutely. CP: And the relationship between tritiated air and nuclear power – I think that’s less discussed. We’ve heard a lot recently in the news about tritiated water found in groundwater, tritiated water – Fukushima in the Pacific Ocean; tritiated water in the Biscayne Bay. What about the tritiated air elements? IF: Well, water vapor is ubiquitous. It’s in the air all the time. Indeed, when it’s raining, there’s a huge amount of water vapor in the air – 100 percent. Although we can’t see it, hear it or feel it, nevertheless, water vapor is very important. AG: This is one of the big cover-ups in the nuclear industry, because a nuclear plant routinely gives off about 5,000 gallons a day of water vapor up the stack. That’s from leaks inside the plant and evaporation from the fuel pool. So they’re evaporating off as air – as gases into air – 5,000 gallons of tritiated water a day. There’s a case at Indian Point where puddles on site were found to be highly tritiated. And the term is called rainout – when a nuclear plant drops tritium on itself or on the surrounding community. And nobody ever looks for the stuff. IF: Yes, that’s very true. Well, the reason why is because one of the characteristics of tritium is it’s very difficult to pick up. To be able to monitor it or measure it, you’re going to need to take a swab and transport the swab to a laboratory and carry out liquid scintillation techniques, which takes about 24 hours to measure. So it’s very difficult to get a handle on tritium. It’s true that there are some portable electronic devices but they are extremely expensive. Indeed, I don’t know of anyone, either in the United States or in Europe amongst the environmental groups or NGO’s, who’s got one. Many people have got portable Geiger counters, but they are ineffective when it comes to tritium. So we’re dealing with tritium with either one or both hands behind our back because we can’t get a handle on it. And so that is a real difficulty for environmental groups trying to understand or get to grips with tritium, as I put it. Now what I’d like to mention to your listeners is this: that when tritium is emitted or discharged from the nuclear power, it’s rapidly transported through the environment to us, people. And people can either breathe it in or they can eat food which is contaminated with it, or drink contaminated water. Or if the tritium lands on your skin, it’s absorbed through the skin quite easily. So that means that we as human beings readily are exposed to tritium and we can quickly get large concentrations inside of us. MG: So Ian, that really makes me wonder what that means. The NRC – the Nuclear Regulatory Commission here in the U.S., tells everyone that tritium is not a problem, especially around Miami and Indian Point because it’s in the water and nobody’s drinking that water. It’s either in the Bay or it’s in groundwater; and therefore, it doesn’t matter. But I’ve looked at a lot of the data and they’re not considering breathing it in. They’re not considering it on skin. And they’re not considering it in bioaccumulation processes and ending up in the food chain. IF: That’s very true, Maggie. It’s the same here in Europe that nuclear regulators don’t really consider tritium to be a big problem. But it is. Not many nuclear regulators have actually got the equipment to measure tritium. It’s quite a difficult problem. Now you very obliquely mentioned the difficulty with organically bound tritium or with tritium which is bound up within us. This is a big problem. You see, what happens is that when we’re exposed to tritium, it builds up in our bodies. That means – because there are many metabolic reactions, chemical reactions, which go on in the body, the body takes up radioactive hydrogen and combines it with carbon or organically bound tritium. Now this is rarely taken into account by nuclear agencies but it’s awful because tritium which is bound to carbon stays in the body much longer and organically bound tritium is much more hazardous than tritiated water. Where you’ve got tritiated water, you’re going to always have organically bound tritium CP: Can you tell us more about when you intake tritium into the body in this organically bound tritium, and it stays in the body – what does that do? What does that entail for crossing placental barriers? What does that entail for looking at internal organs, looking at the proteins you make and DNA? IF: The main thing is that tritium is a radio nuclide which means that when it decays, it has a half life of 12 years, so it stays around for a long time. When tritium disintegrates or decays, then what happens is it emits a beta particle. Beta particles are one of four common kinds of radiation. Alpha particles, beta particles, X-rays and gamma rays. When tritium disintegrates inside the body, it emits a beta particle. Beta particles have wide ranges of energy – high energy ones and low energy ones. Tritium’s beta particle is a low energy one and it measure on average of 5.7 KEV. Now some people think that means that we don’t have to worry about tritium. No, wrong. We do have to worry about tritium because although it has low energy, it’s right next to DNA– when it is mixed to DNA, it certainly can irradiate DNA. In other words, it’s spot specific. And if you’ve got high concentrations of tritium near DNA, you’re in trouble. A better way of putting it – instead of saying low energy, or weak, as some people put it – no, it’s not – it’s better to say it’s low-range. CP: When you say low range, can you sort of tell us a little bit more about what that means with low-range – IF: It means that the range of the beta particle emitted by the tritium is low. It doesn’t travel very far. But inside the cell, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to travel very far. It’s right there. A good comparison is that the average diameter of a DNA molecule is about half a micron. And that happens to coincide with the range of a beta particle from tritium, which is about 0.6 microns. CP: It’s a little bit of a perfect fit. IF: Unfortunately, yes. Yeah. In other words, most people would say that tritium is a weak emitter. Well, they’re wrong. What they’re doing is they’re being misleading because once tritium is inside you, it doesn’t matter that its range is low. It’s certainly low enough for getting into DNA. IF: By the way, could I also correct a misconception that many people have about – when you use the phrase radioactive water, people think ah, it’s something inside the water that’s radioactive. No. It’s the water itself that’s radioactive. That makes a big difference because you can filter out some impurities if the water is just contaminated, say, with cesium or strontium or water. But you can’t – because the water itself is actually radioactive, you can’t filter that out. AG: You know, Ian, the nuclear industry says well, it’s just like water – water stays in you about 10 days or whatever, so it doesn’t hang around long. And you talked earlier about the organically bound tritium and how it does hang around. Could you just repeat that so everybody understands there’s a distinction here? IF: Yes, there is. It’s true that somebody said that the biological half life of tritium – tritiated water in humans – is about 10 days. But the biological half life of organically bound tritium, that is when the tritium is bound to carbon – is more like a couple of years. In other words, parts of it are emitted fairly quickly, within say 40, 50, 60 days. But part of it stays around for a long time. For humans, we think it’s about roughly between 2-1/2 to 3 years. So this is a real problem. What it means in practice is that the dose that you get from organically bound tritium is about five times greater than the dose you get from the tritiated water. I’ll repeat that – five times more hazardous. AG: So the dose is greater, and also the fact that it hangs around is like having a landmine in your cells. IF: Yeah. You got it. The thing is – the fact that it hangs around is the reason why you get a bigger dose. MG: That’s really disconcerting. That’s really so opposite to what the industry is telling us. What I’d like to know is, you mentioned earlier that radiation biologists know how bad tritium is and how it impacts the body so negatively. Why isn’t anyone acknowledging this? Why aren’t our governments protecting us? What does the International Council of Radiation Protection say? IF: I’ve studied tritium for a long time, and what I’ve noticed is that in many studies, particularly radiation biology studies, the scientists actually come right out in their conclusion and say they’re worried about this. In two of my older studies – I used to collect them – and there were about 20 or 30 quotations by famous scientists who would say we’re worried about this, this is a dangerous aspect and we should do more about it. We get these expressions of concern. But on the other hand, many of the scientists who work for the nuclear industry or who work for agencies like UNSCAR or ICRP or IAEA, even WHO – they tend to downplay the dangers of tritium. It’s a serious issue and it’s a difficult one. It really is. There have been a number of studies, a number of reports, which have tried to highlight this, and there’s a very famous one in 2006, maybe 2007, by the British government. They published a report called The Hazards of Tritium, and it was the report of a group called the Advisory Group on Ionizing Radiation – AGIR – and indeed, if your listeners were to go to Google and type in hazards of tritium and then add the initials – the acronym AGIR – they’ll find it. And this is a long report, about 100 pages, which goes into the matter in quite a lot of detail. And it’s quite clear, it’s saying that the hazards of tritium are greater than currently acknowledged. The problem is that this report hasn’t really been acted upon by international bodies. When I go to conferences, Maggie, I meet up with a number of my colleagues, and they all know the tritium problem. They smile at me and they nod their head. They know it, but governments don’t want to know it. MG: Do you think that governments don’t want to know it because so much of the military is involved with tritium, especially in the U.S. and UK, and weapons that use depleted uranium, so there’s things that impact around the world. IF: Yes, Maggie. But what it is is that tritium is a vital ingredient of nuclear weapons. It is what we call a trigger, and it enhances the yield of the nuclear weapon. So tritium is always having to be used to top up nuclear weapons. Because it’s got a half life of 12 years, that means after 12 years, you have to get rid of the tritium inside the nuclear weapon and replace it with fresh tritium. So it’s a vital ingredient. The military connection is direct and acute. Indeed, as I said earlier, whenever you mention the word nuclear, tritium is involved. It’s involved in nuclear fission, it’s involved with nuclear weapons and it’s involved in nuclear fusion. So it’s a real headache for authorities which are involved in the production of nuclear weapons or nuclear power companies as well. Tritium is a bogey word for the nuclear industry. AG: You know, we and our friends who listen to us from Canada actually have a bigger problem up there with tritium than we do down here, because the Canadian design, the CANDU reactors use tritium as their moderator to reduce the neutron speed. They routinely release a lot more tritium than we do. IF: Yes, that’s very true, Arnie. What happens is the heavy water reactors that you’re referring to – the CANDU reactors – they used deuterium both as a coolant and as a moderate, because it’s a very efficient moderator. It means they can use natural uranium as a fuel. That’s the reason why they do that. The problem is that it’s very easy to activate deuterium up to tritium and the end results is that both the moderator and current in heavy water reactors are incredibly tritiated. The concentrations of tritium in the emissions and discharges are about at least a factor of 10 and up to a factor of 100 times greater per megawatt generated in Canadian reactors compared with American PWR’s or VWR’s. That’s very true. There is a real problem with the Canadian reactors as to amounts of tritium. CP: (23:49) Arnie mentioned CANDU reactors. I have a question about fusion reactors. We receive a lot of emails with people asking us about fusion and thorium reactors. What kind of tritium emitters are fusion reactors? IF: Humongous emitters. They use tritium as a fuel. Basically, what you’re trying to do is cram together tritium deuterium in very high temperature and pressures so that it’ll fuse and create a burst of energy. But not – not – I have to say that most of the development of fusion is always 30 years ahead that they’re going to succeed in doing it. They’ve not really done it – CP: Just give us 30 more years. IF: Yeah. It’s very true. MG: We comment that that is the Little Orphan Annie syndrome of the sun’ll come out tomorrow, it’s always a day away. IF: Exactly. Well, in a way, thank goodness, because these fusion plants, if they ever – ever actually started working, then the people nearby would be deluged with tritium water vapor because the amounts which would be emitted daily would be just incredible. Now let me explain to you why, just very briefly. One of the difficulties, one of the characteristics of tritium – of elemental tritium, hydrogen – H3 – with the 3 at the top – is that it goes through anything. It’s very difficult to keep tritium isolated or keep it together in a place. For example, it’s almost impossible to store hydrogen in conventional tanks. For example, if you go to a hospital, you will see oxygen tanks. You will see helium tanks or propane tanks. But you never see hydrogen tanks. And the reason is simple. You put the hydrogen inside a tank and within a day, it’s all gone. Why? Because it oozes out through the steel – through stainless steel. Why? Because it’s very small. Indeed, that’s the reason why we don’t have hydrogen cars – because of the storage problem with hydrogen. But tritium, of course, its chemical form is hydrogen. That means that if you are dealing with humongous amounts of tritium, it oozes out through the pipe work, through the pumps, through the valves, through the flanges, through the whole system. Indeed, if you can get a system whereby you can keep 95 percent throughout a whole year, you’re doing extremely well. But the problem is that even if you got it up to 99 percent, which is incredibly difficult – but even if you got it up to 99 percent, so because of the high levels, high concentrations involved –huge levels – it means your emissions are still very, very high. CP: (27:01) Right. This is very sobering. I’m thinking about specifically Indian Point. Indian Point is within, I believe it’s like 26 miles of downtown Manhattan. And as we’ve discussed, we have tritiated water, we have tritiated air, we have organically bound tritium. All of these factors, when you also tell me how pervasive tritium is, how difficult it is to contain, how easily it binds, it’s scary. I have a lot of friends and family in New York City, and I’m thinking if you have a lot of evaporation from the Hudson, if you have a foggy day, if you have farmers markets with organically bound tritiated food, if it’s as pervasive as you’re talking about, there’s a potential for a huge populace to be contaminated and we have no clue. IF: Correct. And indeed, I’m sorry to say, it’s worse than that. Because these emissions and discharges, the annual figures that we’ve got, certainly here in Europe, for discharge from nuclear power stations – the emissions from nuclear power stations, actually happen about 60 percent of the annual figure for water in one particular day – one particular morning or one particular afternoon. Because they have to open up the reactors to refuel them. Take the old fuel out and put the new fuel in. And that happens on average about once a year, but the actual emissions - annual emissions – almost all of that happens during that one episode. I call that a spike. And for years and years and years, ever since the beginning of nuclear power industry, we didn’t know about them. We were never told that. And it was only when an NGO called IPPNW – which stands for International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War demanded that we get this information from a green/red government – green party, socialist party government in Germany, that we actually got the data. And for the very first time we saw half hourly data from a nuclear power station called Gundremmingen in Southern Germany and Bavaria. And we saw for the first time these spikes. And what we did is we summed up the amounts during the spikes and we realized that was like 70 percent of their annual emissions. And then we began to realize that this had big dosametric implications. It meant that instead of calculating just from an annual amount spread out over a year, we actually did it where 70 percent came out within an afternoon, then the doses were at least 20 times higher, or in some estimates, 100 times higher. AG: The nuclear industry likes to hide behind the average over a year; whereas what they’ve been effectively doing is masking that spike. IF: Yes. Exactly. And the thing is that nobody knew about it. Nobody. Until a couple of years ago – I think in 2012 –that we actually brought the data as a result of – well, basically what happened was that the German Lande government – L-a-n-d-e – demanded when they came to power – it was a green/red coalition – they demanded that from the Gundremmingen power station, which the Lande actually partly owned, and they also demanded from the regulator, which is a Lande regulator – they wanted the data – half hourly emissions data throughout the whole year for their power station. And initially, they refused, and said they didn’t have it – we didn’t have it. And it took them about 6 months to actually get the data from – and I hear through the grapevine that it was only when they threatened to sack the nuclear regulator that they actually got the data. So in other words, they were hiding it. They were really reluctant about giving the data – very, very reluctant. And well, and when we got the data, we saw what was happening. So for the very first time, we found out – by the way, Gundremmingen is a PWR – we found out – well, actually – the thing is, this is generic to all kinds of reactors. They have to open up the reactor to get out the old fuel and put new fuel in. Some people have said no, no, no, this is not correct, there is such a thing as online refueling. Well, this did actually occur a long time ago back in the late 70’s and 80’s, when the reactors, PWR’s in particular, were built. But they found out that the online refueling never worked. Same thing, by the way, with the CANDU’s. The online refueling never worked. And they had to close the reactor down, take the old fuel out and put the new fuel in. Now what happens is that when they are just about to do that, they depressurize the reactors. They open up the valves. The hot gases under the high pressures come gushing out – you can actually hear it, with the water reactors. And it’s that is what we should worry about. Because it contains very large amounts of the various gases, and – and here’s the killer punch – a major gas which is emitted is water vapor. Tritiated water vapor. And also H3 – hydrogen gas – which is the elemental form of tritium. Now that comes gushing out under high temperatures and pressures and it forms a plume. And the plume will follow the prevailing weather patterns where the wind is blowing. And if it happens to be blowing south down the Hudson River, then you’re right – New York City would get it. Now I’m not trying to scare people about this. I’m just pointing out this is what happens, and it is a risk, many people in New York getting high levels of tritium drifting downwards, down the Hudson Valley, into Manhattan. By the way, it’s not just tritiated water vapor which comes out – elemental hydrogen that comes out – elemental tritium – but also a variety of noble gases. And the two most important are krypton-85 and xenon-133. Krypton-85 has got a half life of 8 years and xenon-133 is about 5.3 days. By the way, those two isotopes – krypton and xenon – which were emitted at Three Mile Island in 1979, and at Three Mile Island, tritium must have been emitted as well. AG: You know, the nuclear industry knew this. They just didn’t tell you and other independent scientists. IF: You got it. AG: When I was in the industry, we knew that during outages our releases were much higher, and the rules are written such that they don’t have to report it hour by hour, but they report it once a year, so you get to wash that peak out. One other piece of this is Maggie and I were involved on a case down in Florida at St. Lucie, and we looked at 20 years worse of release data, and it didn’t make sense. From year to year, it didn’t make sense. Isotopes released one year were not the next year and relative ratios were all over the place. And we concluded that nobody knew what was coming out of that plant and that they were just writing down numbers, sending them to the NRC and no one at the NRC had a questioning attitude, either, about what those releases really meant. So even when they report the data, I don’t really trust the accuracy of what’s going out the roof. You know, you’re right, when they depressurize that water, all of the noble gases and all of the tritium that’s in solution comes out as a big burp. And then you’ve got a month of hot nuclear fuel in a fuel pool and the fuel pool evaporates off about 5,000 gallons a day. Just like a hot pot on your stove will gradually evaporate out; so does a fuel pool. Now they make up those 5,000 gallons a day every day, but that just goes out in the ventilation and up the stack. And that’s tritiated water, again at a peak, right at the refueling outage. So for that month around the time the plant’s being refueled, that’s when the pool is hottest, that’s when the evaporative losses from the pool are largest, and that’s when the tritium releases are the highest. IF: Yes, that’s a good point and I hadn’t thought about that, Arnie. Yes, you’re right, of course. MG: Well, Ian, one of the reasons we wanted to talk about this this week is also we had read a Huffington Post article which is called “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics: Putting Indian Point Hysteria in Perspective.” And the article is written by a lobbyist called Jerry Kramer. He’s Chairman of the Empire Government Strategies Group. And he calls the New York Times article about Three Mile Island and Indian Point, saying that Indian Point is New York City’s Three Mile Island as damn lies about statistics. And he goes on to say that let’s start with the claim that the plant has harmed us by exposing residents to tritium. Tritium is a form of the two in H2O known as water. And he goes on and on to say it’s around us in infinitesimal amounts. And then he goes into the yada yada stuff that the nuke industry always does, of radiation exists naturally in the food we eat. If you like potatoes or bananas or tomatoes or other foods rich in potassium, you’re ingesting an isotope called K40 and just like tritium, it emits a tiny amount of radiation. But never does he talk about that it’s manmade, never does he talk about that he’s head of a group that involves Entergy, that wants to get the plant relicensed. And he says no one is going to drink that groundwater, of course, but having the perspective is important. Indian Point is unequivocally safe. And he just goes on and on to claim how he’s got the answer to this. And it’s more outright industry lie and shenanigans. IF: Yes. On some of my blogs on my website, I’ve pointed that many journalists who are in the pay of the nuclear industry write material which is – how should I say – at best it’s misleading and at worst it’s outright wrong. The thing is that these journalists have almost no experience and no qualifications, no education in working with radiation or working with radioactivity. If the newspaper editors have – in my view, they have a responsibility to try and get some things right here, and accepting material from paid journals – who are paid by the industry – is wrong. They shouldn’t do it. They have a responsibility to try and get it right. Unfortunately, most newspaper editors have got zero knowledge about this area and they just accept whatever has been fed to them, which is a real pity. One of the things that really annoys me is that these journalists – the confidence with which they write is directly proportional to their ignorance. MG: And I would say that’s very true in this case, except that this man masquerading as a journalist is a lawyer and founder of a trade organization and lobbying organization for the industry. So that makes it even worse. I think that we’re reaching a point to wrap this, and I want to ask Caroline and Arnie if they have any additional questions. Or if you have any additional points that you want to stress. IF: Yes. One question that you might have asked me is this. Is there a hazard chart for radio nuclides? For example, the chart would say – list all the radio nuclides and say how dangerous they are. MG: So let me ask you that. Is there a hazard chart of radio nuclides and their danger that we could share with our listeners and viewers? IF: Effectively, no, there isn’t. IAEA puts out a very basic one, four levels. But unfortunately, they’re wrong, because they put tritium down at a low level. However, there is some scientists in Germany – what they said is we should have such a chart. And if we did have a chart, then these – we should have a list of the things which make the nuclides dangerous. And what this guy did, this guy called Kirkler – what he did was he listed 10 characteristics of the dangerous radio nuclide. For example, solubility. For example, ease of transport through the air. For example, large amounts emitted. For example, binding with organic tissues – etc., etc. etc. He had 10 characteristics. And tritium ticked every single one of them. So by his standards, tritium was a really important radio nuclide. So this is how I’d like to finish it with you and your listeners is that those people who are truly independent scientists know that tritium is a very dangerous radio nuclide and we should be far more concerned about it than the nuclear industry puts out. MG: Thank you, Ian, so much. Because that confirms our concerns and what we as an organization did not have the expertise in. So thank you for talking to us all the way from the UK, and answering these questions for our listeners. We appreciated this opportunity to have you on with us. IF: My pleasure, Maggie. And all the very best to the crew at Fairewinds. Okay? MG: thank you very much. And we’ll keep you informed. Français Maggie Gundersen : Bonjour. Mon nom est Maggie Gundersen et j’ai le plaisir de vous présenter le podcast de Fairewinds Energy Education que l’équipe de Fairewinds a organisé. Vous avez sans doute entendu parler du tritium, cet isotope radioactif de l’hydrogène et sous-produit de la production d’énergie nucléaire. C’est un sujet d’inquiétude majeur, car on constate des fuites sur 75% des réacteurs aux US (Indian Point près de New York, Turkey Point en Floride). Et c’est aussi un problème considérable à Fukushima Daiichi, à cause des énormes quantités d’eau utilisées pour refroidir les réacteurs. Nous allons donc parler du tritium et de son impact sur l’environnement et la santé. Les participants à cette table ronde sont : le Dr Ian Fairlie - consultant indépendant spécialiste des questions de contamination radioactive de l'environnement. Il a un Diplôme de biologie des rayonnements (Bart Hospital à Londres), un Doctorat portant sur les risques radiologiques du retraitement combustible nucléaire (Imperial College, Londres et université de Princeton). Il a travaillé pour le ministère britannique de l’environnement, de l’alimentation et des affaires rurales en tant que spécialiste des risques liés aux radiations émises par les réacteurs nucléaires. De 2000 à 2004, il a dirigé le secrétariat du comité britannique SIRI pour une étude portant sur l’examen des risques liés aux « émetteurs éternels » de radiations. Après avoir quitté ses fonctions, il a travaillé en tant que consultant pour le Parlement européen, pour des pouvoirs locaux et régionaux, pour des O.N.G. s’intéressant à l’environnement et dans le secteur privé. Bienvenue, Docteur Fairlie Ian FAIRLIE : Ravi d’être parmi vous MG : Participent aussi à cette table ronde Arnie Gundersen – ingénieur en chef et Caroline Phillips - administrateur de programme, travaillant toutes deux chez Fairewinds. Le tritium est subitement devenu un sujet d’intérêt majeur aux États-Unis pour différentes raisons : fuites et débordements lors du décommissionnement de centrales nucléaires et découverte récente de fuites sur différents sites américains (Indian Point et Biscayne Bay en Floride). De plus, la Tepco prévoit de rejeter des millions de mètres cubes d’eau tritiée dans l’océan Pacifique. Que pouvez-vous nous en dire ? Ian FAIRLIE : Bien sûr. Le tritium est l’isotope radioactif de l’hydrogène, et toute fission nucléaire génère du tritium qui est rejeté dans l’air, dans le sol ou dans les cours d’eau sous forme liquide ou de vapeur. On en trouve partout aux environs d’une centrale. Le tritium est un problème majeur pour l’industrie du nucléaire, car ça n’est pas seulement un produit d’activation, mais aussi un produit de fission nucléaire. Donc on ne peut pas parler d’énergie nucléaire sans immédiatement penser à son sous-produit incontournable : le tritium. CP : j’ai cru comprendre que le tritium a les propriétés de l’hydrogène, et peut donc se lier à l’oxygène et à l’eau (H2O). Pouvez-vous nous redire comment les choses se passent? Ian FAIRLIE: oui, bien sûr. La forme la plus commune du tritium est l’eau tritiée, sous forme liquide ou de vapeur. Tout le monde connaît la formule de l’eau : H2O. Dans le cas de l’eau tritiée, un des H est radioactif, voire même les 2. Or cela devrait nous inquiéter, car les 2/3 des atomes de notre corps sont des molécules d’eau. Une exposition à de l’eau radioactive est donc beaucoup plus dangereuse pour notre santé qu’on ne veut bien le penser, ce que devraient reconnaître les autorités de santé du monde entier. CP : vous dites que notre corps est composé d’eau pour 80 % … ? Ian FAIRLIE: …les 2/3… CP : …2/3 de notre corps. Mais n’oublions pas que l’eau s’évapore dans l’air. Et puis il y a la condensation, le brouillard et la pluie. Le problème de l’air tritié doit bien se poser lui aussi, comme pour l’eau ? Ian FAIRLIE : bien sûr CP : Mais le lien entre les centrales nucléaires et l’air tritié, on en parle beaucoup moins. La presse parle beaucoup ces temps-ci de la présence d’eau tritiée dans les nappes phréatiques (Fukushima et le Pacifique, la baie de Biscayne). Et l’air tritié, alors ? IF : Vous savez, la vapeur d’eau, on en trouve partout dans l’air, tout le temps. Bien sûr quand il pleut, il y a 100% de vapeur d’eau dans l’air. Elle est très importante, même si on ne peut ni la voir, ni l’entendre, ni la sentir. Arnie Gundersen : c’est là qu’intervient une des plus grandes opérations de poudre aux yeux jamais organisées par le nucléaire. En effet, une centrale nucléaire décharge par ses cheminées environ 5000 gallons (presque 19000 litres) par jour à cause de fuites ou par évaporation de la piscine. Ce sont donc 19 000 l d’eau tritiée qui s’évaporent donc dans l’air tous les jours. Sur le site de la centrale d’Indian Point on a même trouvé des flaques fortement tritiées. Le terme "rainout" est utilisé quand une fuite aérienne de tritium venant de la centrale intervient en même temps que la pluie, causant des retombées de tritium sur la centrale elle-même ou sur la communauté environnante. Et ça n’intéresse personne… Ian FAIRLIE : Exact. Pourquoi ? Parce qu’une des caractéristiques du tritium est qu’il est très difficile à mesurer. Pour cela, il faut faire un prélèvement, l’envoyer un laboratoire et utiliser des techniques de mesure par scintillation liquide, ce qui prend environ 24 heures. Il existe bien des appareils de mesure électroniques portables, mais ils sont extrêmement coûteux et je ne connais personne parmi les O.N.G. ou les défenseurs de l’environnement qui puisse les financer, que ce soit aux États-Unis ou en Europe. On dispose généralement de compteurs Geiger, mais ils ne sont d’aucune utilité pour la mesure du tritium. On est assez démunis. Et les défenseurs de l’environnement ont du mal à « se coltiner » avec le problème du tritium. Je voudrais ajouter ceci : le tritium qui est rejeté par les centrales nucléaires nous est rapidement transmis par notre environnement. Nous le respirons, nous mangeons des aliments et buvons de l’eau contaminés. Le tritium est rapidement absorbé par les pores de notre peau. Tout cela veut dire que l’être humain est facilement exposé au tritium et peut rapidement en absorber de fortes concentrations. MG : j’essaie de comprendre. La NRC (commission de réglementation nucléaire des États-Unis) proclame urbi et orbi que le tritium n’est pas un problème, surtout dans la région de Miami et de la centrale d’Indian Point, parce qu’il se trouve dans de l’eau que personne ne boit. Mais si on regarde de plus près les données sur lesquelles leurs experts se fondent, on voit qu’ils ne prennent en compte ni l’air inhalé, ni le contact cutané, ni les processus de bio accumulation et leurs répercussions sur la chaîne bioalimentaire. Ian FAIRLIE : c’est exact, Maggie. En Europe non plus, le tritium n’est pas considéré – à tort - comme un danger majeur par les régulateurs nucléaires. Ils ne disposent que rarement d’équipements de mesure du tritium, ce qui rend leur tâche très difficile. Vous venez de faire allusion au tritium organiquement lié (TOL). Le problème est le suivant : en cas d’exposition au tritium, ce dernier s’accumule dans le corps humain. Suite à de nombreuses réactions métaboliques et chimiques, le corps humain absorbe l’hydrogène radioactif et le combine avec du carbone en TOL. Or ce paramètre est rarement pris en compte dans les agences nucléaires, ce qui est effrayant car le tritium lié au carbone reste beaucoup plus longtemps dans le corps humain, et le TOL est beaucoup plus dangereux que l’eau initiée. La présence d’eau tritiée entraîne toujours celle de tritium organiquement lié. CP : pouvez-vous nous parler plus en détail des conséquences de l’absorption de TOL sur le corps humain ? Sur les barrières placentaires, les organes internes, la formation de protéines et le DNA ? Ian FAIRLIE : le tritium est un radionucléide, et sa demi-vie est longue, puisqu’elle est de 12 ans. Lorsqu’il se désintègre, le tritium émet une particule bêta (il y a 4 types de rayonnements : Alpha, bêta, rayons X, rayons gamma) dont l’énergie est qualifiée de faible : 5,7 keV en moyenne (l’énergie des particules beta est très variable). Certains en déduisent qu’il n’y a donc pas à s’en inquiéter, ce qui est totalement faux. La faible puissance de cette particule bêta ne l’empêche pas de représenter un danger d’irradiation lorsque le tritium est localisé près de ou à l’intérieur de l’ADN. Et je pense que plutôt que de parler de particule à faible énergie, il faudrait parler de particule à faible portée. CP : que voulez-vous dire exactement ? Ian FAIRLIE : je veux dire que c’est la portée de la particule bêta, la distance qu’elle parcourt, qui est faible. Mais une fois qu’elle est dans la cellule, cette particule n’a pas besoin d’aller bien loin pour être dangereuse, donc peu importe sa portée. Pour comparaison, sachez que le diamètre moyen d’une molécule d’ADN est de 0,5 microns. Et comme par hasard, cela coïncide avec la portée d’une particule bêta émise par le tritium, à savoir 0,6 microns. CP : on peut dire que ça coïncide parfaitement… Ian FAIRLIE : oui, malheureusement. Vous voyez donc que tous ceux qui parlent de la faiblesse d’émission du tritium ont tort et font circuler une information trompeuse. Une fois à l’intérieur du corps humain, même une particule de faible portée peut endommager l’ADN qui ne sera jamais hors d’atteinte!!! Ian FAIRLIE : d’ailleurs, permettez-moi de corriger une autre idée reçue. Très souvent, quand on parle d'« eau radioactive », les gens pensent qu’il y a quelque chose de radioactif dans l’eau. Ils se trompent : c’est l’eau elle-même qui est radioactive. Et ce n’est pas du tout la même chose. Si de l’eau est contaminée par une impureté, comme du césium ou du strontium, on peut la filtrer. Mais dans le cas du tritium ce n’est pas possible car c’est l’eau elle-même qui est radioactive. AG : Ian, l’industrie nucléaire prétend que « c’est juste comme de l’eau », que cette eau ne reste dans notre corps qu’une dizaine de jours, que ça ne dure pas longtemps. Tout à l’heure, vous nous avez parlé d’un long séjour du TOL dans le corps. Pouvez-vous nous aider à mieux comprendre la distinction qu’il faut faire ? Ian FAIRLIE : oui bien sûr. On a dit que la demi-vie biologique de l’eau tritiée dans le corps humain est d’une dizaine de jours, c’est vrai. Mais la demi-vie biologique du tritium organiquement lié - lorsque le tritium est lié au carbone – est plutôt de quelques années. En d’autres termes, une partie du tritium disparaît au bout de 40,50 ou 60 jours ; mais une autre partie du tritium reste beaucoup plus longtemps. Pour l’être humain, nous pensons que cette durée est d’environ 2 ans et demi à 3 ans, ce qui est un vrai problème. Car cela veut dire que la dose émise par du tritium organiquement lié est 5 fois plus importante que celles de l’eau tritiée, je dis bien 5 fois plus dangereuse. AG : la dose est plus forte, elle reste plus longtemps : c’est une vraie bombe à retardement dans le corps humain... Ian FAIRLIE : tout à fait. Et si la dose est plus forte, c’est précisément parce qu’elle reste plus longtemps. MG : on y perd son latin… c’est tout le contraire de ce que nous dit l’industrie nucléaire. J’aimerais comprendre : vous nous avez dit que les biologistes nucléaires sont parfaitement conscients de la dangerosité du tritium pour le corps humain. Pourquoi est-ce qu’ils ne le disent pas ? Pourquoi les gouvernements ne prennent-ils pas des mesures de protection ? Que fait la commission internationale de protection radiologique ? Ian FAIRLIE : Au cours de mes longues études sur le tritium, j’ai pu constater que de nombreuses études biologiques portant sur les rayonnements ont donné des résultats très clairs : les biologistes sont inquiets et le disent (voir une bonne vingtaine de citations dans 2 de mes précédentes études insistant sur sa dangerosité et demandant que des mesures soient prises). Mais au contraire, bon nombre de scientifiques qui travaillent pour l’industrie du nucléaire ou pour des agences comme l’UNSCAR, l’ICRP, l’AIEA ou même l’OMS ont tendance à sous-évaluer les dangers du tritium. Parmi les nombreuses études sur ce sujet, je voudrais en citer une du gouvernement britannique en 2006 ou 2007. C’est un rapport très connu dont le titre est « les risques liés au tritium » préparé par AGIR - groupe consultatif sur les rayonnements ionisants. C’est un long rapport détaillé d’une centaine de pages que vous trouverez facilement sur Google en tapant « risques tritium » et l’acronyme AGIR. Il y est dit clairement que les risques liés au tritium sont plus élevés qu’on ne le prétend aujourd’hui. Mais le problème est qu’aucune suite n’y a été donnée. Les collègues que je peux rencontrer en conférence en sont conscients : ils me sourient gentiment et opinent du chef, mais ils savent que les gouvernements ne veulent surtout pas savoir. MG : est-ce à cause de l’utilisation du tritium dans le domaine militaire, surtout aux États-Unis et en Grande-Bretagne, à cause de l’utilisation d’uranium appauvri pour la fabrication d’armes et à cause de l’impact de tout cela à l’échelle mondiale ? Ian FAIRLIE : oui, Maggie. Le tritium est un ingrédient capital pour la fabrication d’armes nucléaires. C’est ce qu’on appelle un « trigger », un déclencheur qui augmente leur rendement. On utilise toujours le tritium pour le complément de remplissage des armements nucléaires. Au bout de 12 ans il faut se débarrasser du tritium arrivé en fin de demi-vie et le remplacer par du tritium frais. C’est donc un ingrédient capital à connotation militaire directe. Je l’ai déjà dit, il n’y a pas de nucléaire sans tritium, que ce soit pour la production d’énergie ou d’armements, la fission ou la fusion. Et ça n’est pas sans poser de problèmes aux autorités responsables. On peut dire que le tritium est « le poil à gratter » de l’industrie nucléaire. AG : le problème se pose de façon encore plus aiguë au Canada où nous avons des auditeurs, parce que par conception, les réacteurs CANDU utilisent le tritium comme modérateur pour ralentir la vitesse des neutrons. Ce qui donne lieu à beaucoup plus de rejets de tritium que chez nous. Ian FAIRLIE : c’est tout à fait exact. En fait, ces réacteurs à eau lourde pressurisée (CANDU) utilisent le deutérium à la fois comme réfrigérant et comme modérateur, car c’est un modérateur très efficace. Grâce à lui, ils peuvent utiliser l’uranium naturel comme combustible. Mais le problème est que l’activation du deutérium vers le tritium se fait très facilement, le résultat étant que dans ces réacteurs à eau lourde, le modérateur et le réfrigérant sont incroyablement tritiés. Les concentrations de tritium que l’on trouve dans les émissions et les rejets d’un réacteur canadien sont plus importantes que celles réacteurs américains (réacteurs PWR ou VWR à eau bouillante) d’un facteur variant entre 10 et 100 par mégawatt généré. Un vrai problème pour les réacteurs canadiens. CP : (23 :49) Arnie nous a parlé des réacteurs CANDU, parlez-nous des émissions en tritium des réacteurs à fusion et au thorium. On nous pose beaucoup de questions à ce propos. Ian FAIRLIE : ces émissions sont gigantesques car les réacteurs à fusion utilisent le tritium comme combustible. En fait, l’idée est de faire fusionner le tritium et le deutérium à des températures et des pressions très élevées pour créer une bouffée d’énergie. Mais il faut avouer qu’on n’en est pas encore là : entre le développement et la mise en œuvre, il y a toujours une trentaine d’années d’écart… CP : ce qui nous laisse une trentaine d’années devant nous… Ian FAIRLIE : c’est exact MG : cela rappelle de dicton du barbier qui affiche « demain on rase gratis »… Ian FAIRLIE : tout à fait. Heureusement, d’ailleurs, parce que si jamais les réacteurs à fusion fonctionnent, les niveaux quotidiens d’émission seront tellement incroyables que la population avoisinante sera noyée sous la vapeur d’eau de tritium. Pourquoi ? Parce qu’une des caractéristiques du tritium élément – l’hydrogène H3 - est que rien ne l’arrête : il est très difficile de l’isoler. Il est presque impossible de stocker de l’hydrogène dans des conteneurs standard. Lorsque vous allez à l’hôpital, par exemple, vous voyez des réservoirs d’oxygène, d’hélium ou de propane. Mais jamais de réservoirs d’hydrogène. La raison en est simple : si vous mettez de l’hydrogène dans un réservoir, il aura disparu au bout de 24 heures parce qu’il s’échappe même à travers de l’acier inoxydable. C’est la raison pour laquelle il n’y a pas de voitures à hydrogène : il est trop difficile à stocker. On comprend donc que lorsqu’il y a d’énormes émissions de tritium–dont la formule chimique est l’hydrogène– ce dernier va suinter à travers les canalisations, les pompes, les vannes et tout le système. Parvenir à en garder 95 % sur un an serait déjà un excellent résultat. Mais les quantités en cause sont si grandes que même si on en gardait 99 %, le niveau des fuites resterait énorme. CP : (27 :01) voilà qui n’est pas très réjouissant. Mais parlons de la centrale d’Indian Point, qui est située à une quarantaine de kilomètres de Manhattan. Vous nous avez parlé des dangers de l’eau tritiée, de l’air tritié, du tritium organiquement lié, et aussi de la difficulté à stocker le tritium, de la façon dont il s’infiltre partout et se lie facilement : tout cela est effrayant ! Et je me dis que si le fleuve Hudson s’évapore beaucoup, s’il y a du brouillard, si les agriculteurs mettent sur le marché des aliments contaminés par le TOL … la population de New York - où j’ai de la famille et beaucoup d’amis - court un grand danger Ian FAIRLIE : c’est exact, et c’est même pire que ça. Vous savez, on nous donne (en tous cas en Europe) des chiffres annuels de rejets pour les centrales nucléaires ; mais en réalité, 60 % de ces émissions ont lieu un jour donné, un matin ou une après-midi précis. Pourquoi ? Parce qu’il faut refaire le plein du réacteur en moyenne une fois par an, l’ouvrir, vidanger l’ancien combustible et le remplacer par du nouveau. Et c’est précisément à ce moment-là qu’intervient la presque totalité des émissions annuelles, au moment de ce que j’appelle un « pic ». C’est une information qu’on nous a cachée depuis le début du nucléaire. Il a fallu qu’une ONG, l’IPPNW (association internationale de médecins pour la prévention de la guerre nucléaire), intervienne fermement auprès du gouvernement de coalition écologiste/socialiste en Allemagne pour qu’on obtienne les premières données semi-horaires pour la centrale allemande de Gundremmingen en Bavière. Et nous avons constaté que la valeur de ces pics - dont nous prenions connaissance pour la première fois - représentait 70 % des émissions annuelles. Cette constatation a des conséquences dosimétriques énormes, puisque 70 % des rejets considérés comme annuels sont intervenus en une demi-journée, ce qui veut dire que les taux d’émission réels étaient multipliés par 20, voire selon certaines estimations par 100. AG : en réalité, l’industrie nucléaire masque l’existence de ces pics en se cachant derrière des moyennes annuelles. Ian FAIRLIE : exactement. Et absolument personne n’était au courant jusque tout récemment, (en 2012 je crois), lorsque le nouveau gouvernement de coalition « vert/rouge » s’est tourné vers les responsables de la centrale de Gundremmingen et vers le régulateur local (le Land étant partiellement propriétaire de la centrale) en exigeant des données semi-horaires pour la totalité de l’année. Ils essuyèrent d’abord un refus, sous prétexte que les données n’étaient pas disponibles. Il leur a fallu 6 mois pour les obtenir, et je crois même savoir qu’il a fallu menacer de faire renvoyer le régulateur pour obtenir un résultat. On ne voulait donc clairement pas les communiquer. Or les choses se passent toujours de la même façon, que ce soit à Gundremmingen ou dans toute autre centrale du même type (REP) : il faut ouvrir le réacteur, vidanger l’ancien combustible et le remplacer par du nouveau. Certains prétendent que c’est faux parce qu’on peut les réapprovisionner « en ligne », mais cette méthode n’a été utilisée que dans les années 70 et 80, au moment de la construction de ces réacteurs (REP en particulier, mais cela vaut aussi pour les réacteurs CANDU). On s’est vite rendu compte que cette méthode ne fonctionnait pas et qu’il fallait mettre le réacteur hors service, le vider de l’ancien combustible et le remplacer par du nouveau. Pour ce faire, il faut dépressuriser les réacteurs et ouvrir les vannes. Et c’est bien là ce qui doit nous inquiéter, car des gaz chauds sous haute pression giclent littéralement vers l’extérieur (on peut même en entendre le bruit dans les réacteurs à eau). Il s’agit de différentes sortes de gaz en très grande quantité, et parmi eux – et c’est le pire de tout – il y a de la vapeur d’eau, donc de la vapeur d’eau tritiée. Et aussi du gaz hydrogène H3 - qui est la forme élémentaire du tritium. Ces gaz s’échappant sous pression et à haute température vont former un panache qui va suivre le cours des vents, au gré de la météo. Si donc le vent rabat les gaz vers le fleuve Hudson vous avez raison : ils atteindront New York. Je n’essaie pas d’effrayer la population, je signale simplement le risque que de grosses quantités de tritium descendent la vallée du fleuve Hudson jusqu’à Manhattan. Et pas seulement de la vapeur d’eau tritiée, mais aussi une variété de gaz nobles, notamment du krypton 85 et du xénon 133, dont la durée de vie respective est de 8 ans pour l’un et de 5,3 jours pour l’autre. Notons d’ailleurs qu’il y a eu émission de krypton et de xénon à Three Mile Island en 1979, et donc probablement aussi émission de tritium. AG : or l’industrie nucléaire le savait parfaitement, et s’est bien gardée de le faire savoir aux scientifiques indépendants comme vous. Ian FAIRLIE : vous avez tout compris Arnie Gundersen : lorsque je travaillais dans l’industrie, nous savions que les émissions étaient beaucoup plus importantes pendant les interruptions de fonctionnement. Et le règlement était fait de telle façon qu’il n’était pas nécessaire de faire des rapports horaires, mais plutôt des rapports annuels, ce qui permettait d’écréter les pics. Autre chose : Maggie et moi avons exploité 20 ans de données fournies par une centrale située à Sainte Lucie, en Floride. Les résultats affichés étaient totalement incohérents : on ne retrouvait pas les mêmes isotopes d’une année sur l’autre, et les ratios relatifs ne voulaient rien dire. Nous en avons conclu qu’ils se contentaient d’inscrire des chiffres et de les envoyer au NRC, ce dernier ne se posant aucune question sur leur signification. Donc je ne leur fais aucune confiance, même s’ils donnent des chiffres sur leurs prétendus rejets. Et vous avez raison de dire qu’au moment de la dépressurisation, tous les gaz nobles et tout le tritium en solution s’évacuent brutalement… comme un énorme rot !!! Et ça n’est pas tout, car dans la piscine du  réacteur vous avez la valeur d’un mois de combustible nucléaire et cette piscine dégage presque 20 000 litres de vapeur par jour dans l’atmosphère par la ventilation et la cheminée, un peu comme le contenu d’une cocotte qui s’évapore doucement sur le coin de la cuisinière ; et ça précisément au moment de la mise hors service du réacteur, donc au moment du pic dont vous parliez tout à l’heure. C’est donc pendant la période où on ferme la centrale pour la réapprovisionner en combustible que la piscine est la plus chaude, qu’il y a donc le plus d’évaporation et qu’il y a le plus fort dégagement de tritium Ian FAIRLIE : oui, vous avez raison, je n’y avais pas pensé. MG : Ian, si nous avons voulu aborder ce sujet aujourd’hui, c’est aussi à cause d’un article du Huffington Post dont le titre est « mensonges, sales mensonges et statistiques : remettons en perspective l’hystérie relative à Indian Point ». Son auteur, Jerry Kremer, est lobbyiste et président du groupe « Empire Government Srategies ». Il prétend que l’article du New York Times qualifiant la centrale d’Indian Point de « Three mile Island » newyorkaise n’est qu’une interprétation mensongère des statistiques. Commençons, dit-il, par la prétendue exposition des new-yorkais au tritium. Il affirme que le tritium, qu’on ne trouve qu’en quantité infinitésimale dans notre environnement, n’est qu’une forme du H2 que l’on trouve dans la formule H2O (c’est-à-dire de l’eau). Il continue son baratin, qui est aussi celui de l’industrie nucléaire, en disant que les radiations sont présentes de façon naturelle dans ce nous mangeons, que si nous mangeons des pommes de terre, des bananes, des tomates ou tout aliment riche en potassium, nous ingérons aussi un isotope appelé K40 qui – exactement comme le tritium dit-il – émet de très faibles rayonnements. Mais il omet mentionner l’origine anthropique de ces émissions, et de préciser qu’il préside un groupe auquel participe Entergy, une société qui voudrait voir renouveler la licence de la centrale d’Indian Point. Personne ne va boire cette eau, dit-il, il faut remettre les choses en perspective ; cette centrale ne pose pour lui aucun problème de sécurité et il prétend pouvoir le démontrer. Tout cela bien sûr n’étant que baratin et mensonge de la part de l’industrie. Ian FAIRLIE : oui, sur mon site Internet et sur mes blogs, j’ai souvent parlé de ce qu’écrivent les journalistes qui sont payés par l’industrie nucléaire, et j’explique que dans le meilleur des cas leurs articles sont trompeurs, voire même totalement faux. La plupart d’entre eux n’ont aucune expérience, aucune qualification, aucune formation en matière de rayonnements ou de radioactivité. Les rédacteurs en chef de ces journaux devraient avoir une attitude responsable et ne pas accepter sans broncher - comme ils le font malheureusement la plupart du temps - les articles de journalistes payés par l’industrie dont l’ignorance n’a souvent d’égal que l’arrogance, ou inversement…. MG : c’est tout à fait vrai dans le cas qui nous intéresse, celui de Jerry Kremer, sauf que c’est encore pire car ce prétendu journaliste est avocat et lobbyiste, fondateur d’un groupe d’intérêts pour l’industrie. Mais l’heure est venue de nous quitter : y a-t-il d’autres questions, ou d’autres points à souligner ? Ian FAIRLIE : oui, une question que vous auriez pu me poser est de savoir s’il existe une liste comparative de la dangerosité des radionucléides ? MG : eh bien je vous pose la question : cette liste existe-t-elle ? Ian FAIRLIE : la réponse est non. Celle de l’AIEA est sommaire (4 niveaux seulement), et malheureusement fausse puisque le tritium y figure en bas de liste. Certains scientifiques allemands considèrent malgré tout que cette liste doit être établie. L’un d’entre eux - son nom est Kirker - a fait la liste de 10 caractéristiques dangereuses des radionucléides. Par exemple la solubilité, la facilité de déplacement dans l’air, le volume des rejets, la liaison avec des tissus organiques, etc., etc. Il a donc établi une liste de 10 caractéristiques et le tritium correspond à chacune d’entre elles, ce qui fait de lui un radionucléide extrêmement important selon le classement de ce chercheur. En conclusion, je dirai ceci : il faut savoir que les scientifiques indépendants sont tout à fait conscients de la dangerosité du tritium et considèrent qu’il faut s’en préoccuper bien plus que l’industrie nucléaire ne le prétend. Maggie Gundersen : merci beaucoup. Voilà qui confirme ce que nous soupçonnions sans pouvoir l’affirmer faute de compétence. Merci d’avoir fait ce long voyage depuis le Royaume-Uni pour répondre à nos questions. Ian FAIRLIE : je vous en prie. Tous mes vœux de succès pour l’équipe de Fairewinds. MG : merci, on vous tient au courant. Related MaterialTritium Hazard Report: Pollution and Radiation Risk from Canadian Nuclear Facilities, June 2007, Ian Fairlie  download the report  
March 30, 2016
Several weeks ago, the Crew at Fairewinds Energy Education told you about The NRC’s Magnificent Seven – electrical engineers employed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) who are putting their careers on the line to protect all of us. The courageous employees found a critical flaw in atomic power plants, which the NRC chose to ignore.  These people took the only action open to them, as private citizens they legally filed a 2.206 petition seeking action from the NRC to either enforce existing regulations for atomic power plants or shut them down.Invited guest David Lochbaum from the Union of Concerned Scientists and Maggie and Arnie Gundersen discuss the brave seven who submitted the "put up or shut down" petition in this most recent Fairewinds podcast.In the words David Lochbaum, taken from his All Things Nuclear blog post on the subject:“If employees of the NRC do not trust the NRC to have acted to protect members of the public and have to petition their employer to protect the public, why should any member of the public trust the NRC to have its back (other than to have its back covered with a target)?”Listen Transcript English MG: Hi, you’re listening to Fairewinds Energy Education’s podcast hosted by the Fairewinds crew. I’m Maggie Gundersen, and I’m here to welcome you to the show. Today I’m joined by Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer for Fairewinds, and our special guest, Dave Lockbaum, Director of UCS, Union of Concerned Scientists Nuclear Safety project. Dave and Arnie, it’s great to have you here today. DL: Thank you, Maggie. (AG: Hey, Dave) MG: So Dave, today we want to talk to you about NRC7, the story you did in the beginning of March petitioning the NRC over safety. We understand that there are some significant problems that 7 nuclear engineers at the NRC brought to the NRC, and was there since 2012 – since the problems were discovered at Byron Station. And nothing has been done to rectify those problems country wide. Could you talk a little bit about that issue, beginning with Byron? DL: Definitely. In January of 2012, Byron had an electrical short out in a switchyard. That’s the connection between the power plant and its offsite power grid. That electrical short should have caused the normal power supply to be disconnected and a more reliable power supply – the onsite emergency diesel generators – to be connected to emergency equipment at the plant. But due to a design problem, that didn’t happen. Instead, the degraded power supply continued to be fed to normal and emergency equipment at the plant. The problem with that was that the lower voltage or the degraded power could have caused motors for primary safety systems and their backups to be disabled. As a result of that, the NRC determined – asked every other plant owner, if they had this similar kind of design vulnerability. And the answer they got from every plant in the country except for Seabrook in New Hampshire was that we have that same problem. Even the new plants being constructed in South Carolina and Georgia have that same design problem. So the NRC took an event at one plant, did some homework and found out that it was a generic problem affecting basically every plant in the country. The industry developed a fix for it, and what was missing was action by the NRC to compel owners to go out and fix this widespread problem. MG: What would have happened if this had happened at other plants? What would have been the risk to the public? DL: Well, the risk that was calculated by the NRC for that kind of problem at Byron, if it were to occur again, was that the chance of reactor meltdown goes up by over 100. Normally, the chance of a meltdown at an average plant is 1 in a million years. This was a hundred times more likely to lead to that if it were to occur. It doesn’t mean that if you have this open phase condition at your plant that you’re moments away from meltdown, but it does mean if you have this condition, that outcome is much more likely to occur. MG: (3:39) So Dave, in the article that I read that you wrote, you said that the reactor risk at Byron and at any plant that would have this issue for the open phase condition is one meltdown every 10,000 years. Correct? DL: That’s correct. Yes. MG: So what I’d like to know from you and from Arnie – and part of the reason I wanted to have this discussion – is what is the risk for a nuclear meltdown overall? You said one in a million years? DL: It’s in that ballpark. Individual plants vary, but that’s typically the range you see; whereas this event at Byron was at least a hundred times greater chance under that bad outcome. MG: Okay. Here’s what I can’t understand. We’ve had five serious meltdowns in 35 years worldwide, beginning with Three Mile Island March 28, 1979. So how does that factor in to their calculations? Obviously, it’s certainly not one in a million years. DL: It’s very creative math that’s practiced in order to yield that one in a million. Math is a good tool in the right hands and it’s a bad tool in the wrong hands. For example, math would tell you if you had a room filled with ten women and ten men, that the average person in the room has one testicle and one ovary; but reality would say you didn’t nail anybody in that room. So math in the wrong hands can lead to bad outcomes. The one-in-a-million years is a very optimistic number calculated by the nuclear industry. And as you noted, the reality as we cross the world, we have one reactor meltdown about every 5, 6,000 years. So there’s a disconnect between reality and the math that the NRC and the industry are using. MG: Well, the way I see the math – and let’s simplify it a little bit for everyone around the country and worldwide who’s listening to us – in the last 35 years, we’ve had 5 meltdowns. To me that’s one every 7 years. DL: Good point. When I said one-in-a-million years, it’s reactor years. So in this country we have approximately 100 reactors operating. So in a year, we accumulate 100 reactor years of experience. So I left out the reactor years in that term. The math is still wrong, but it’s not quite as wrong as it would be otherwise. AG: You know, when I was over in Japan, somebody said just a great one-sentence quote. They said, “If you accept nuclear power, you accept that there’s a chance of a nuclear accident.” And we seem to not do that. As a country, our leaders just don’t believe that one in a million can ever really happen. DL: It’s kind of like the nuclear Titanic; that an accident in a nuclear power plant is unthinkable, just as the Titanic was thought to be unsinkable. AG: (6:34) Yeah. So how did this problem get resolved at Byron and nationally? DL: It’s still a work in progress. The petitioners are seeking to end the stalemate and have the Nuclear Regulatory Commission compel other owners to implement the fix that has already been installed in Byron. AG: I’ve got to back you up there, Dave. Because there’s this thing called IE – industry experience – and every plant is supposed to go through the information notices and look at problems and say, whoa, that definitely applies to me; I should do something about it. So there’s an individual initiative expected here when a problem happens at one plant. Did that industry experience get filtered through the nuclear industry? DL: Yes, but it didn’t lead to the fixes being implemented, for a couple of reasons. One I can understand. It wasn’t until July of 2015 that the NRC published it’s answer key (?7:28) on what it would find as an acceptable fix that came through a revision or addition to the Standard Review Plan near 0800 (?7:38). Some owners would want to wait until they saw what the NRC would find acceptable before they spent the money for a fix that might otherwise be deemed unacceptable. MG: I don’t quite understand, because this notice – original notice – was in 2012. And didn’t Byron find a fix in 2012? And didn’t they offer that hardware fix to the whole industry? DL: They did. And Exelon implemented that fix at all of their plants except for Oyster Creek, which is going to be shutting down at the end of this decade. But all other plants they’ve already implemented that fix. Part of the problem is that the other owners are also waiting for enforcement discretion. If they voluntarily implement the fix, that will be an implicit concession that they’ve been outside federal regulations for decades. So part of what the industry is waiting for is immunity from past sins so they can go ahead and implement this fix. AG: So enforcement discretion is sort of like a get-out-of-jail free card in Monopoly? DL: It’s very much like that, yes. It removes all liability from plant owners for busting federal violations. AG: Okay, so moving right along here, NRC staff then got involved and thought that there was a problem and pushed the NRC to do something about it. MG: You said something like – let me quote from your article: “As a result, the NRC staff concluded that the plants may not be in compliance with existing regulations.” May not. “The NRC recommended that the NRC take action to require all owners to fix the design vulnerabilities at their plants.” So this is another design error. It’s been more than four years that it’s been recognized. And it’s been sitting there and still no action? DL: (9:31) That’s the way the situation is, but it’s not an isolated case. Fukushima was more than five years ago and we’re still waiting for those fixes. The Browns Ferry fire was more than 40 years ago and Browns Ferry still doesn’t meet those regulations. So it’s not an isolated case of problems that are known and solutions that are not yet implemented. MG: So for the NRC, what’s the big difference? I mean they’ve waited 40 years on one plant. So why wait – why have fixes made in only four years? Is that what you’re saying? DL: Well, it took awhile. The NRC reacted to the 2012 event by asking all other plant owners whether they had the same problem or not. So basically, they were trying to get their arms around the scope of the problem. They had that answer by February of 2013. They got the NRC’s permission to go ahead and work towards solving the problem, which led to the answer key that was made public in July of last year. That’s when the staff felt management let them down by not taking the next step. We know the problem, we know who it affects; we have the answer key developed. Let’s go out and require plants to make this fix. That’s when those seven felt that the NRC was dragging their feet. So they sought some way to speed things up a bit. MG: Well, I really want to talk about what happened on February 29th, 2016, when those seven NRC staff members submitted a petition to the NRC. Could you walk us through that a little more thoroughly? DL: There is a measure on the NRC’s regulations called the 2.206 petition process that allows any member of the public to petition the NRC seeking enforcement action. In this case, the seven NRC engineers, acting as private citizens and not as NRC employees, submitted a petition under 2.206 asking the NRC to compel this fix to be implemented at all plants. Or if that’s not done, require all plants to be shut down immediately. That second measure is typically thrown in as just a carrot-and-stick thing to make the first option look more reasonable. But they basically – those seven had felt that they exhausted all internal options for getting this problem solved and felt that some outside pressure was needed to get a safety regulator to regulate safety. That’s really a very bad indication that the safety culture within this agency, the NRC, is not what it should be. MG: So Dave, you were a nuclear whistleblower in what year? DL: 1992. MG: And Arnie was a nuclear whistleblower in 1990. So in all that time, nothing has changed. The culture is still the same. DL: (12:19) When I took this job in 1996, because of my experience and Arnie’s experience and some others that we knew, I knew that this position, I’d get calls from plant workers who felt that they’d not gotten the right response when they raised safety issues. What I didn’t expect was that I’d get more calls from NRC staffers than I get from the industry combined. I get more calls from the NRC staff than all of the plants operating in the United States combined. So the NRC often talks about chilling effects at Millstone and elsewhere; yet they’ve got the largest refrigerator in town. MG: Oh, that takes my breath away. Because we get a lot of whistleblower calls and a lot of questions from all over the world. But we don’t get them from NRC people. DL: There’s hardly a week goes by that I don’t get a call or an email – I’ve had two today and it’s Monday. MG: Oh, my gosh. When I think about the NRC, I think about what we went through with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and an office of inspection, to which OI said that there was nothing to Arnie’s concerns or allegations and nothing had happened. And Senator John Glenn and Senator Lieberman asked for an Inspector General investigation, and that report was scathing and there were several follow ups which showed that NRC staff covered up the entire fraudulent thing. So the first report was released in 1992 and we lost everything. We lost our home, our pension, savings because of NRC games with our life and their culture of never telling the truth. AG: You know, it’s interesting how people have to go to extraordinary lengths to get a problem acknowledged. Now here’s these seven guys from the NRC writing a petition at night on a kitchen table so that they could do it as private citizens. And Maggie was a reporter back in ’92 and being a reporter, got us some publicity, which then led to the Inspector General becoming involved. How many thousands of people don’t rise to that level; don’t file a 2.206 petition as seven citizens or in our case, get Senator John Glenn involved? For every one or two that makes it over the top of the wall, there’s dozens of bodies that you’re climbing over to get to the top. DL: That’s what concerns me. I’m heartened by the fact that these seven chose to put their careers on the line to get a safety issue – some attention to a safety issue. But I agree with you that I’m concerned about those who don’t want to risk their career. And I don’t fault them at all. This system is not at all sympathetic to people who raise safety issues. But I worry about those who don’t. Many of the materials I get are in plain brown envelopes with no return address. So hopefully, those are people who have a conscience and are looking for some way to get attention, addressed without putting a target on their backs. MG: (15:35) I’d like to acknowledge the courage of these seven. It takes a lot of courage to do this, to put your career and your income and your family in such jeopardy. And we all know what that means firsthand. DL: Again, I understand their remaining silent because the system just churns people out. I’ve heard people call it ethical cleansing. If you have ethics, you get cleansed out of the industry. But I do respect the courage of people. That’s part of what motivation for doing the blog was hopefully putting some attention on the issue will give them some protection against action – retaliatory action the NRC might take. MG: I hope so. I sincerely hope so. Because I remember a few years ago, some whistleblowers came forward about the dams near the Oconee plant. And they were harassed, weren’t they? And drummed out? DL: They’re still with the NRC. Larry Chrissone (?16:31) and Richard Perkins did go public with their concerns – Larry very vocally. And he was investigated now three times by the NRC’s Inspector General for alleged wrongdoing. After one investigation, they said he could voluntarily resign or they’d turn their efforts over to the Department of Justice for prosecution. He refused to resign because he’d done nothing wrong. They did turn it over to the Department of Justice, who declined to prosecute. And I have a copy of the letter that the Department of Justice sent back to NRC. And their reason for not prosecuting Larry was because he didn’t violate any statutes. So at least DOJ won’t prosecute you for doing nothing wrong. It didn’t bother the NRC. The other person was Dr. Michael Peck, who was the Senior Reactor Inspector for the NRC out at Diablo Canyon. He raised some issues about seismic protection near that plant and was subjected to Inspector General. He’s now had three – apparently he and Larry are in a race for the most Inspector General investigations. He said the handwriting on the wall. At the one meeting they told him, we have 32 investigators and plenty of time. We’ll find you doing something wrong eventually. So he saw the writing on the wall and actually applied for a different position with the NRC. He now is the BWR (?17:47) reactor technology instructor here at the training center here in Chattanooga. He took my old job. But people within the NRC – it’s a safety regulator – their job is to regulate safety and worry about safety issues. And yet, if you do so, the response by the agency is to investigate you for raising safety issues. And instead of getting awards, they fear for their jobs. And there’s just something wrong about that. And I don’t know how long – every three years, the NRC’s Inspector General surveys the NRC workforce. And for the third survey in a row, the biggest problem is that the workforce doesn’t believe that senior management wants to hear safety issues, or that they’re afraid to raise safety issues. We did a blog in the last year or so comparing the numbers from the NRC survey to the numbers from safety culture (?18:35) surveys conducted at Millstone and Davis Bessie when those plants were in the midst of their problems. The numbers are about the same. The NRC did not allow Millstone or Davis Bessie to restart until those safety culture problems were addressed. The NRC solution to their problems is just to do another survey three years from now and hope they change. They don’t really do anything to fix their internal safety culture problems. It’s do as I say, not as I do. AG: (19:03) Hey Dave, do you think part of the problem in the back of the NRC’s mind is that nukes are barely competitive right now, and if they push any harder, they’ll cause other nukes to shut down? DL: I think that’s a contribution. I don’t think any one answer explains a workforce of about 3,800 people. I think a larger factor, in the discussions I’ve had with workers and managers, is that they just don’t believe that a bad accident can happen. We were talking earlier about people just don’t believe meltdowns are possible. And I think the fact that these plants don’t meet fire protection regulations, the don’t meet seismic protection at Diablo Canyon, they don’t meet open phase anywhere but Exelon’s plants, is not a problem because we’re not going to have fires or earthquakes or shorts. We’re protected against those kind of accidents unless they happen (sic 19:54). AG: You know, that’s exactly what the DIET report said. The DIET is the parliament in Japan. And they said the problem underlying all the other problems at Fukushima Daiichi was that management just didn’t believe that the plans were not robust. And when you’re in these things, they’re so huge and so impressive and nobody ever asks the question, why are they so huge. And the reason is that in a nuclear core that’s maybe 12 x 12 x 12, there’s 4 million horses running around. So it’s hard to keep 4 million horses in a 12 x 12 x 12-foot space. But when one of them trips, it can make for a helluva pileup. And we don’t look at the robustness as a sign of the amount of horses that need to be restrained. This hubris runs through you and you feel like you’re unconquerable. DL: Also, I think related that the robustness tends to be a trap. People look at the concrete walls and the six-inch-thick reactor vessel and so on and think, well, the fact that this widget is impaired or degraded, that’s okay because I have six other widgets that are ready to stand in the place. Nobody looks at the common cause or the fact that multiple things can happen. These plants aren’t one step away, but when you start having a bunch of preexisting failures, you shorten the path that must then be filled in, to cause that bad day. MG: I want to find out why the findings at Oconee - north of Oconee in the dams – was so important. And I want you and Arnie to talk about how the loss of a dam and the flooding, what that would mean. Those would cause Fukushima-type meltdowns. And then I want to talk about Peck and his seismic data has been more than substantiated. It’s many times. And there are three new faults that have been uncovered. So can you both talk about that technically? DL: In June of 2010, nine months before Fukushima, the NRC issued a confirmatory action letter to the owner of the three reactors at Oconee in South Carolina. The NRC wanted – demanded – that that owner fix some flooding protection issues at Oconee and some associated problems with the Jocassee Dam about 20 miles upriver that could cause its failure. The NRC based that mandate on evaluations that if that dam were to fail, it would flood the Oconee site to 14 feet, which is about the depth that Fukushima was flooded to. And if that site was flooded to that depth or not even – anything above 7 feet – there was a 100 percent chance that all three reactors would melt down. These are the NRC’s numbers. And they very seldom underestimate a risk. So that risk, that fear is what prompted the NRC to issue that mandate in June of 2010. Those flooding protection problems at Oconee were reinforced by the problem at Fukushima nine months later. But ironically, the flooding at Fukushima, the meltdowns, slowed down the fixes at Oconee, and they’re still not fixed. If it hadn’t have been for Fukushima, the fixes that were supposed to be resolved by now. But somehow the actual event slowed down the potential event. The problems at Diablo Canyon were discovered most recently in 2008 when they found a shoreline fault about 300 yards away from the plant. Dr. Michael Peck was the NRC Senior Resident Inspector at the time. He looked at that newly discovered fault and the ground motion that it could cause at nearby Diablo Canyon, and pointed out that it didn’t meet the seismic protection. The homework had not been done to show that it could withstand that earthquake. His reward for having pointed that out was to be harassed by his agency. We issued a report looking at other times that U.S. nuclear facilities had been found to be unprotected against seismic events going back 40 years. In all prior cases, the NRC had now allowed the plant or the facility to operate until that seismic protection shortcomings were resolved. At Diablo Canyon, they’re letting the plant run. And it’s not clear to me why they departed from a longstanding policy of protecting American lives. AG: I can remember back in the 70’s when Stone & Webster had a seismic calculational error, and the NRC shut down all the Stone & Webster affected plants for nine months until they rectified the analysis. When Peter Bradford – he was commissioner when they had the accident at Three Mile Island – Bradford and the other commissioner shut down the Babcock Wilcox Reactors for months until they got to the bottom of it. But here after Fukushima, we don’t do that with the Mark I reactors and like you said, at Diablo, we don’t do it with the seismic problems, either. DL: I looked into the Davis Bessie case in 2002, where the workers discovered the football-sized hole in a reactor vessel head. The NRC Inspector General interviewed the NRC senior managers, because the staff at the NRC had prepared an order that would have required Davis Bessie to shut down. The NRC staff applied five criteria for whether a plant is safe or not and determined that Davis Bessie did not meet four of the five, and probably didn’t meet the fifth one. And that, not meeting four and probably not meeting the fifth, was the basis for the shutdown order. NRC senior managers set aside the order and allowed the plant to continue running. When those senior managers were interviewed by the Inspector General afterwards and they said well, in hindsight, do you think you made a mistake, they all said no, I’d have done the exact same thing because I require absolute evidence that a plant is unsafe before I can order it to be shut down. And you’ll never build a stronger case than four out of five not meeting safety requirements. It’s just not – I wonder what it would take for the NRC senior managers to shut down a plant absent people dying at the moment. I don’t know what other signs of absolute evidence will ever cause them to take the action that the NRC took in March of ’79 or even more recently in March of ’87 when they shut down the two reactors at Peach Bottom due to the sleeping operators. Since then, nothing seems to bother – problems at Oconee, problems at Diablo Canyon – the NRC doesn’t consider them to be unsafe. MG: (26:41) I think that’s what really makes us afraid here at Fairewinds. We have contact from people all over the world. Arnie just came back from a month-long tour in Japan. And our listeners and viewers have seen our “Fukushima at Five” video and heard our Japan tour podcasts and know what he saw on the ground when he was there, the refugees that he met with and he spoke with. And what this ongoing tragedy means for the people of Japan and for generations of people because of the exposures, the high, high exposures they’re getting that are being denied by the Japanese government. And we look at that and we just can’t imagine. This industry, the nuclear industry, is not making cotton candy. It’s not making peanut butter. Look at the people who died in the peanut butter debacle. And look at what’s happened in Flint, Michigan. We have to get moving in a different direction. These are old, old plants that are very, very vulnerable. AG: You said that if I had it to do over again, I’d do the same thing. That reminds me there was one person at the NRC who was responsible for botching the inspection that I discovered – the problems that I discovered at my employer in 1990 – his name was John White. So this is 1990 is when he knowingly and deliberately botched an inspection to screw me. So Maggie ran into him at a public meeting in 2012. He’s still at the NRC; he got a couple promotions along the way. And Maggie confronted him. And I’m going to pass it over to Maggie so she can, in her own words, tell you what he had to say. MG: I was at one of those NRC dog and pony shows here in Vermont where they had all their people out. And he was sent there as the director of tritium issues for the region. I questioned him and I had the Inspector General report in my hand that said he was at fault for the fraudulent initial inspection. And he looked me right in the eye, and I have a filmmaker who has it on film, and he said, “If I had the chance to do it, I would do it all over the same way again.” DL: It’s one of the reasons why the NRC keeps getting voted the best place to work for in the federal government, is that whether you make mistakes or not, you continue to get paid and promoted. That’s like a license to steal. MG: (29:21) Well, on that note, I’m going to close that with that. And thank you, both Arnie and Dave, for all that you’re doing as you both travel and speak all over trying to help people – keep the public safe. So thank you very much and I want that takeaway. David if you could close with that one more time, I want that to be our listener’s take away. DL: The NRC keeps getting voted as the best place to work in the federal government. And I think the experience is that we’re seeing is that you can make mistakes and still get promoted and paid is like a license to steal. MG:I won't agree with you on that and I’ll close on that note. And thank you so much for joining us. DL: Thanks, Maggie and Arnie.
March 18, 2016
In the final installment of Fairewinds’ Japan Speaking Tour Series, Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen reflects on his trip to Japan and, with the Fairewinds Crew, discusses how Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s atomic agenda is in direct conflict with the nuclear safety concerns of the Japanese people.Prime Minister Abe continues to push for reactor restart despite the recent Otsu District Court injunction to halt the operation of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture. This is the second judiciary injunction of the Takahama reactors due to insufficient safety standards set by Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA).Five years into the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi, it is apparent to district courts that the NRA has yet to pinpoint the cause of the atomic catastrophe. The NRA’s new safety standards do not even cover evacuation plans for atomic power plants, an obvious problem post- Fukushima Daiichi. Listen as the Fairewinds Crew uncovers the truth behind the Abe administration’s new “nuclear safety myth”. Editorials and References:Crippled Fukushima Reactors Are Still a Danger, 5 Years after the accident – Scientific AmericanFukushima's ground zero: No place for man or robot -ReutersSpeeches and Statements by the Prime Minister - Prime Minister of Japan and His CabinetPrime Minister Abe Sound BiteDespite utilities’ attempts, nuclear safety myth can never be revived - AJW by The Asahi ShimbunFukushima Keeps Fighting Radioactive Tide 5 Years After DisasterThe Mothers Who Set Up a Radiation Lab – BBC NewsTranscript English MG: Hi, you’re listening to the Fairewinds Energy Education podcast hosted by the Fairewinds crew. I’m Maggie Gundersen, and today I’m joined by Caroline Philips, Fairewinds Program Administrator, Toby Aronson, our Media Producer, and Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen,. Welcome to the show. Today is our final installment of Japan’s speaking tour. We, the Fairewinds’ crew, will hear Arnie’s reflections on his trip to Japan and discuss comments by Japan’s Prime Minister Abe, recent articles about the ongoing tragedy at Fukushima Daiichi, and Japanese court orders to halt operating nuclear reactors. Arnie, could you begin by talking to us about your reflections on the trip. AG: Hi, everybody. It’s nice to be in the same room instead of half a world away. Yeah, I’ve been reflecting a lot over the last week and a half about what the trip meant to me personally and what I learned and what Fairewinds learned and what we all can learn from that experience. The first thing is, people are nice everywhere. The people I met on the trip and who hosted me were just wonderful human beings, and terribly concerned about their country and concerned about their children, and welcomed Fairewinds with open heart. It was really, really special to see so much outpouring of grace and, in fact, love. It was really wonderful. The second thing is the inhumanity of the Japanese government, the Japanese utilities and the Japanese banks toward their own population. I’m just appalled at how the power structure in Japan is ignoring what its people want and basically ramming nukes down the throat of their population. TA: Let’s cut to a quote directly from Prime Minister Abe, speaking before the Olympics Committee in 2013, and let’s listen to what he says about where the country is at at that time. “Japan has its narrative. The narrative is from devastation to revitalization. It is about disasters we endured – the earthquake, the tsunami and nuclear failure. But it is also about the revitalization, the bridge between the two was compassion, courage and calmness.” The English was potentially a little unclear, so I’ll just read the quote quick. And it says “Japan has its narrative. The narrative is from devastation to revitalization. It is about the disasters we have endured, the tsunami and nuclear failure. But it is also about the revitalization, the bridge between the two was compassion, courage and calmness.” Arnie, can you kind of clue us into what Abe is saying here? AG:Yeah, I think there’s another quote that sort of goes along with that. It was all about getting the Olympic games back a year or two after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. His other quote was to the Olympic Committee: “Some may have concerns about Fukushima. Let me assure you, the situation is under control.” You know, and as I look at all the news stories that came out in this last week with the fifth anniversary of the disaster, Abe was wrong. And we all knew he was wrong. The situation wasn’t in control in 2012, 2013 – and here we are in 2016 and the situation still isn’t in control. CP: (3:56) It’s five years after Fukushima and there’ve been a lot of commentary and a lot of various news articles talking about Fukushima and quoting Abe. Recently he said, according to ABC News, “Our country is a resource-poor nation, and in order to secure energy supply while considering economic efficiency and climate change problems, nuclear power is indispensable,” Prime Minister Abe said. And this comment he made is coming a day after Japanese courts ordered the shutdown of two nuclear reactors that were previously declared safe under post-disaster safety rules. So it seems clear that Abe is pushing for this nuclear restart, doesn’t want a change of policy, but it sounds like from that, Arnie, that even within the Japanese court system, there is – and there’s good reason for pause, there’s good reason to look at these nuclear reactors and say, hey, wait a minute, is this really ready to go. What is your take on that, having just been in Japan? AG: Yeah, you know, the deck is stacked against the Japanese people. The banks control the DIET, which is their parliament, as do the ten big utilities. And they want to get their asset performing again. Their assets are 40-some-odd nukes that are permanently shut down right now. So they want their money flowing. And the only way to get their money flowing is to get the electricity flowing. You know, you talk about global warming and how to prevent it, and Fukushima showed us that you can (1) destroy the fabric of a country overnight; and (2) you can lose all your nuclear generation for as long as five years with one disaster. I think that really drives the issue back to renewables. Japan’s not resource poor. I mean they’ve got lots of wind; they’ve got lots of sun. And they’ve got geothermal. So I think a concerted effort by the Japanese over the last five years could have weaned themselves from this nuclear bind that Abe has put them into. MG: I remember, Arnie, that that was something that you and Mark Pendergrast, an author from Colchester, Vermont, who wrote Mirror, Mirror and Japan’s Tipping Point discussed, because right after the disaster and the triple meltdown, it was clear that Japan had a chance to move on to wave action, to move on to wind, to move on to solar. And they were being encouraged around the world. What’s interesting to me is that Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who is a physicist by training, decided to make this change for Germany because the risk of nuclear power is too great. I know that in your private meetings with former Prime Minister Naoto Kan – he made mention about his change from being pro-nuclear to becoming against nuclear power because the risk for health impact and financial devastation is way too great. Can you speak to that? AG: Yeah. One of the stories out this week was Naoto Kan was being briefed, and he talked about he had the head of what we would call the Nuclear Regulatory Commission – the METI – in to discuss what was going on at Fukushima. And this is the head regulator of the nuclear industry, and he didn’t know anything. And he admitted to Abe that he wasn’t an engineer, that he was an economics major. Economics has been driving the nuclear industry in Japan before the disaster at Daiichi, and since Prime Minister Abe has been elected, he’s stacking the deck again with regulators with a pro-nuclear bent. It’s frustrating to see essentially every woman in the country and more than half the men disagreeing with their own government, and still making no progress. Let me just read a couple of headlines. These are just the headlines. We have these things posted on the site. So remember back in 2013, Abe saying, “Let me assure you the situation is under control.” Well, last week, Reuters said, “Fukushima ground zero: no place for man or robot.” Scientific American: “Crippled Fukushima reactors are still a danger five years after.” And The New York Times: “Fukushima keeps fighting radioactive tide five years after disaster.” I mean these are not left-wing news stories. Our mainstream media has finally come over to realize that what Abe said to get the Olympics back in 2012 was a marketing ploy, and in fact, the situation in Fukushima is not safe now and it wasn’t safe then. TA: (9:12) Just another question regarding the media sources. You mentioned that we have Scientific American, New York Times, ABC News at the fifth year mark here coming out and saying that this is still an issue, whether it’s from cancers to contamination to people displacement, this is still a huge problem. As far as media in Japan goes, from your trip over there, what sense do you get from the message and the sort of rhetoric people are being fed by media sources in Japan? AG: I think they still feel pressure under that State Secrets Act. Nobody wants to push too hard against the Abe administration. As a matter of fact, one of Abe’s prime key ministers came out and said twice now that if the media is not good to the administration – basically, if the media doesn’t say what the administration wants them to say, they’re going to pull their licenses. So the pressure is on the media in Japan to whistle the tune that the Abe administration wants them to whistle. CP: In line with that, I mentioned earlier that there was a district court order to stop the restart of two reactors in Japan that have been very questioned, highly questioned by the public – the Kenji Electric Power Companies, Takahama Nuclear Power Plant in the Fukui Prefecture – I think it’s reactors 3 and 4, I believe. And in line with this, this district court pointed out that not only are these risks bad for Japan, but these risks have a worldwide effect. And going hand in hand with that, the District Court pointed out – and this is a direct quote – “The Japanese public who watched the disaster unfold at the Fukushima number one plant understood the overwhelming scope of the damages caused by the accident, as well as the great confusion that arose during the evacuation process. Yet both the government and electric utilities are working in tandem to restart reactors as if they’d forgotten what happened five years ago.” And that speaks volumes, at least to me, that a Japanese district court is pointing this out, which is so in line with what you’re saying. The general public of Japan has huge reason to be concerned about nuclear restart. They are concerned. And it seems so apparent when reading this news that the government and electric utilities – they really are brushing over this whole saga, just trying to put a nice sort of veil over it. MG: Thanks, Caroline, for elaborating on that. What really struck me is that one of the articles on the Japanese court orders was an editorial from the Japanese paper, Asah Shimbun, and it said, “Despite utilities’ attempts, nuclear safety myth can never be revived.” And to have more than 70 percent of the people standing up and demonstrating consistently, which has not been covered in the media, in rallies, in marches, in papers, in the active citizens’ groups – adding that to the newspapers pushing back against the Abe regime, which has this para-military stance, I think it’s heartening to see press and individuals taking a stand even though they’re being threatened with jail. AG: (12:49) Yeah. You know, the one thing I learned when I was in the resettlement communities is that they’ve all been told that there will be no resettlement communities by the time the Olympics start. The plan is to move people back into their homes in the contaminated areas, or to move them somewhere else in Japan to permanent homes. And that all of these essentially trailer parks for the resettlement of 160,000 people will be gone. Why? So Japan can show the world that the disaster is behind them. And it’s anything but. MG: I was devastated when I saw some of the pictures that you took in Japan, Arnie. When I have looked at Japan’s pictures from all my other friends and colleagues who have traveled there, and just the beauty and the peacefulness and the serenity of the gardens. Even in Tokyo people have gardens they can walk to and areas they can walk along waterways to have a chance for peace and reflection. And these barracks – and that’s all they are, these temporary housings – just look like military barracks on bare pavement – is horrific for the people who have been stuck there. And I was surprised at one of your inquiries on one of our earlier podcasts when you met with the women who had been evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture. And no one in the government had come to their community of 62 people in the five years to tell them about radiation, what to look for, what to look for in terms of radiation poisoning symptoms. And now to hide the radiation – extensive radiation – that’s there and re-depositing in the already cleaned areas from snowmelt and flooding and rain, and to say it’s okay and send everyone back is a death sentence to all these families and children and grandchildren. AG: Yeah, let me get back to the first thing I said about the inhumanity toward their own people. We had doctors tell us when they treated somebody for radiation illness, if they put radiation illness on the hospital forms, the government refused to pay. So doctors were literally going out of business because they were doing their job and treating people. But the other thing I learned on the last day of the trip was that there’s a huge spike in the death rates within Fukushima Prefecture for young children compared to what it was in previous years. But that story has been stifled by the Japanese medical and government agencies. Nobody’s publishing the data that the Japanese have been publishing for years leading up to the disaster. So where are the death data on Fukushima Prefecture? And the answer is it hasn’t been published because the Japanese government doesn’t want it out there. When you control the medical community, the epidemiological data that you need to prove a case is really, really difficult. I think Fairewinds did a good job in the time we were over there getting sample data with a group of scientists that may affect the way the world looks at the disaster. But the other half of that is, you’ve got to get the doctors on board to report honestly what they’re seeing. And the medical community is even more under the thumb of the Abe regime than is the press. It’s very depressing. CP: I read a BBC article that was inspiring. It was about a group of women – mothers – who have come together and taken the time to not only get a Geiger counter, but learn how to operate it, learn about Becquerels and microsieverts and sieverts. They’ve been working alongside university professors to understand, and they now have a lab running. And there’ve been hundreds – in this article I was reading – there’ve been hundreds of little popup community laboratories. But what sets them apart is that they can read both gamma and beta rays. And it’s wonderful that the Japanese people have taken the initiative to try to find out these things. Because like you said, the epidemiological studies are going to be close to near impossible to take place in the future because the data is so hidden. The data is so convoluted. And these women are really working hard to protect their children, to protect their community and their land. It was sweet. They even have opened a clinic now where they do have doctors that give free thyroid screenings to children. So it’s a wonderful thing. It’s admirable and courageous of these women. AG: Yeah. The trust the people have for their government is tenuous, but was very strong in Japan before the disaster. But that bond of trust is totally breached now and it’s wonderful that citizens came forward and did what the government should do. Again, the government should have done it and nobody trusts them any more. MG: I want to thank all of you for joining us today. And I want to let you know that Arnie and other scientists are working on some really significant studies from samples that scientists have taken in Japan and sent to labs in Japan and in the U.S. Fairewinds will be participating in a report that will be issued on this and we will keep you up to date. It takes time to do this testing, but as soon as it’s ready, it will be publicized. We’re very thankful for the support of all of our followers that enabled Arnie to make this trip, and for the beautiful letters and emails we’ve received about the poignant stories we’ve been able to share with you. Caroline, Tony, Arnie, thanks for joining me today. This is Maggie Gundersen signing off. And we’ll keep you informed. French translation: an excerpt translated by "Vivre Aprés Fukushima"…Arnie Gundersen :… J’ai beaucoup réfléchi au cours de la dernière semaine et demie sur ce que le voyage signifiait pour moi personnellement, ce que j’appris, ce que Fairewinds appris et ce que nous pouvons tous apprendre de cette expérience.La première chose est, les gens sont aimables partout. Les personnes que j’ai rencontrées pendant mon voyage et qui m’ont accueilli étaient des êtres humains merveilleux, terriblement préoccupés par leur pays et soucieux de leurs enfants; ils ont accueilli Fairewinds à cœur ouvert. C’était vraiment, vraiment extraordinaire de voir tant de gentillesse et, en fait, d’amour. C’ était vraiment merveilleux.La deuxième chose est l’inhumanité du gouvernement japonais, des sociétés d’électricité japonaises et des banques japonaises envers leurs compatriotes. Je suis consterné par la façon dont la structure au pouvoir au Japon ignore ce que les gens veulent et imposent le nucléaire à leurs compatriotes.…Arnie Gundersen (12 :49)En vue des jeux olympiques de 2020, le gouvernement japonais prévoit de faire disparaître tous les camps de préfabriqués où ont été parquées les personnes déplacées; elles devront soit rentrer chez elle dans les zones contaminées, soit aller s’installer ailleurs au Japon dans des résidences permanentes. Et cela concerne tout spécialement les parcs de caravanes qui relogent 160.000 personnes. Le but est évidemment de faire croire au monde entier que la catastrophe de Fukushima est loin derrière nous, ce qui est totalement faux.Mme Maggie Gundersen:Le Japon a toujours été synonyme de beauté, de sérénité, de paix de l’esprit. Leurs jardins sont célèbres à cet égard, même dans la ville de Tokyo. Or les populations évacuées sont obligées de vivre dans des conditions épouvantables, dans de véritables baraquements militaires plantés sur du béton. Lors d’une de vos émissions précédentes, vous avez rencontré des femmes qui ont été évacuées de la préfecture de Fukushima. Or en 5 ans, cette communauté de 62 personnes n’a reçu la visite d’aucun représentant du gouvernement. Personne n’est venu leur expliquer quoi que soit sur les rayonnements, même pas comment reconnaitre les symptômes en cas d’empoisonnement lié aux radiations. Et personne aujourd’hui ne reconnaît qu’il y a des retombées radioactives importantes dans les régions déjà nettoyées, des dépôts dus à la fonte des neiges, aux inondations et à la pluie. Prétendre que tout va bien et qu’ils peuvent rentrer chez eux équivaut à une condamnation à mort pour toutes ces familles, leurs enfants et leurs petits-enfants.Arnie Gundersen C’est vrai. Mais ce n’est pas tout. Des médecins nous ont raconté qu’ils se voient dans l’impossibilité de faire soigner leurs patients à l’hôpital, parce que s’ils inscrivent sur leur fiche qu’ils souffrent d’une « maladie liée aux radiations », le gouvernement refuse de payer.J’ai aussi appris récemment qu’on voit apparaître actuellement un énorme pic de mortalité chez les jeunes enfants par rapport aux années précédentes, information bien sûr gardée secrète par les autorités médicales et gouvernementales japonaises. Aucune statistique concernant les années précédant la catastrophe n’est d’ailleurs publiée. On ne dispose par exemple d’aucune donnée sur le taux de mortalité dans la préfecture de Fukushima, ce qui rend les études épidémiologiques quasiment impossibles. L’enquête lancée par Fairewinds avec une équipe de scientifiques va dans le bon sens, mais il faut absolument obtenir les témoignages des médecins qui sont sur le terrain. Or le régime Abé tient la communauté médicale sous sa coupe encore plus que ç’est le cas pour la presse : c’est déprimant.Caroline Philips:Un article de la BBC rapporte qu’un groupe de femmes s’est débrouillé pour se procurer un compteur Geiger, et surtout qu’elles ont appris à s’en servir avec l’aide de professeurs d’université qui leur ont expliqué ce que sont Becquerels, millisieverts et sieverts… Aujourd’hui, elles font même tourner un petit laboratoire. Et ce n’est pas un cas isolé, il y en a des centaines comme cela. Ces initiatives de la part de la population japonaise sont extraordinaires et très précieuses puisque, comme vous l’avez dit, il va être quasiment impossible de faire des études épidémiologiques sans les informations que le gouvernement refuse de divulguer. Ces femmes font tout pour protéger leurs enfants, leur communauté et leur pays : elles ont même ouvert une clinique avec un service de dépistage thyroïdien.Arnie Gundersen :Effectivement. Avant la catastrophe, les japonais avaient toute confiance dans leur gouvernement. Aujourd’hui, cette confiance a disparu, mais on voit des citoyens
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