As governments and nations work towards a fossil free energy future, a strong push by the nuclear industry for an atomic energy future is making its way into global energy power discussions around the world.
Apart from the economic weakness of an atomic power future as well as the enormous risk of meltdowns and radioactive contamination from atomic reactors, what the nuclear industry fails to mention is their total inability to properly manage and dispose of the highly toxic waste created by the nuke industry that threatens humanity for hundreds of thousands of years.
In Fairewinds’ latest video, Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen and Dr. Marco Kaltofen, nuclear forensics expert and president of Boston Chemical Data Corporation, discuss major problems that continue to plague radioactive waste dumps with toxic releases that impact people and the environment in the United States and abroad.
Atomic garbage has piled-up more than 70-years high, beginning with the first atom bomb testing in the American Southwest, and the nuclear industry has failed to safely “take the trash out.”
In this video, Mr. Gundersen and Dr. Kaltofen take a look at the currently raging underground fire in the St. Louis area, from which Dr. Kaltofen has studied at least 350 samples during the past 2-years. Dr. Kaltofen draws our attention to the 1950s chemical explosion at the Kyshtym nuclear waste facility in Russia, a rarely discussed nuclear disaster whose repercussions continue to haunt the health and lives of people living in Kyshtym’s fall-out area today. From the cracking, leaking Hanford site threatening the Columbus River to plutonium and americium found in house dust from the homes of people living near the Rocky Flats Nuclear Arsenal in Rocky Flats, Colorado, Mr. Gundersen and Dr. Kaltofen concur that no country is managing nuclear waste. Arguably one of the worst releases of radiation into the environment was in New Mexico, at a place called Church Rock that borders Navajo Nation. At Church Rock, a 20-foot breach in a dam allowed acidic water containing uranium mill tailings to enter Puerco River and contaminate 70 miles of crucial desert water flowing through Navajo land.
Mr. Gundersen and Dr. Kaltofen highlight a chilling truth: the threat of economic strain and financial burden hardly touches the lasting devastation to people and the environment that atomic energy and the nuclear industry impose throughout every link in the nuclear power fuel chain.
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Demystifying Nuclear Power:
With a giant blot still reading over the page of its public safety record, the multi-national, multi-billion dollar atomic power industry faces the stark economic reality that without even more of the regulatory and financial support that it has long enjoyed, it cannot successfully compete financially with sustainable methods electrical generation.
Moreover, these preferential government regulations and incredible financial subsidies from countries around the world are more concerned with maintaining a nuclear energy fleet that in the US has long been tied-up with Defense Department interests, and throughout the world has also been an assured method of access to nuclear weapons.
During the early days of atomic reactors, decommissioning, clean-up and long-term radioactive waste storage were not even acknowledged or planned for, and now they crowd onto center stage as aged and leaking plants line up to speedily shutdown and abandon their overflowing nuclear waste cesspools. In the US, people living near the plants and state governments without regulatory authority over this federal process are stunned to discover the financial burden of underfunded decommissioning funds and inadequate decommissioning procedures that will leave the public facing corporate waste abandonment.
That’s right, here’s the hook: if it weren’t for the scientific consensus view that radiation is harmful, and more radiation is even more harmful, nuclear plants might be a whole lot cheaper to operate.
Talk about your “inconvenient truth!”
Recent developments suggest that the atomic power industry, with cooperation from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), may have come up with a crafty way to make the financial numbers work once again: rehabilitate radiation.
If securing the public from risk due to radiation at all phases of the atomic reactor chain – beginning with uranium mining to final decommissioning and waste treatment for 250,000 years – has just become exponentially more costly due to impacts from the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown, the obvious answer for this tainted industry is to deny that radiation risk even exists!
Denial in the face of evidence has certainly been an effective tool to frustrate worldwide efforts to address Climate Change. Why not attempt the same public relations makeover on radiation?
This new, bold initiative appears to be coming in a two-pronged attack: the first is reviving an already disproved theory that radiation may be ‘good for you’: hormesis.
The second is changing the world’s perception of the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown that released and deposited massive amounts of radioactivity in many areas of Japan. How? Persuade the Japanese public in particular, that evacuation from the heavily contaminated exclusion zone at Fukushima Daiichi is not just unnecessary but in fact harmful! If the corporate power brokers can sell this meme, these nuke power corporations will literally trim billions of dollars in costs for evacuation plans required for operating atomic reactors.
In order to cut the long-term cost of the existing Fukushima Daiichi evacuation burden, evacuees are being told that their evacuation was never really necessary and now, more or less immediately, they must accept resettlement back in their devastated, radiation contaminated towns. This new and convenient revision of atomic risk by way of the hormesis myth provides even more cover for TEPCO to end compensation and unceremoniously dump these victims back in their compromised homes and communities.
In the US, the NRC is vigorously pursuing the rehabilitation of radioactivity, where it has accepted and is actively reviewing three recently filed petitions demanding that its longstanding position against small amounts of radioactivity exposure be overturned. Decades of corroborated scientific evidence has proven that no amount of radiation, no matter how small, can be regarded as harmless; (this is called Linear No Threshold, or LNT).
The theory of “hormesis” is that a little bit of radiation may even be beneficial, even though there is significant scientific evidence to the contrary. And now, proponents of the already discredited “hormesis theory”, have launched what appears to be a carefully coordinated and suspiciously timed assault on the public’s perception to their risk from exposure to atomic radiation.
One of the first hints of this mega-PR-effort was the film Wolves of Chernobyl, which focuses on one large mammal species near Chernobyl that appears to have rebounded in the aftermath of the second worst atomic reactor disaster in history. The film has completely ignored the loss of biodiversity in the region; particularly of birds and insects, as well as the inability of timber stands to maintain their natural cycle of decay and regeneration through the activity of microorganisms that were simply wiped-out by the extensive Chernobyl radiation.
Now the NRC has abruptly discontinued its publicly-funded study of the relationship between the incidence of cancer and the proximity of operating atomic reactors. Why was this study that began in 2010 abandoned?
I can’t help but wonder what the data already collected from this study has revealed and whether it was headed in a direction that could further tarnish prospects for a nuclear energy future, like the in-depth study conducted in Germany did. Conducted by Wolfgang Hoffmann and Eberhard Greiser who are located in Bremen, the study entitled, Epidemiologic Evaluation of Leukemia Incidence in Children and Adults in the Vicinity of the Nuclear Power Plant Krummel (KKK) unequivocally showed an increased incidence of cancers in children living near nuclear plants.
Nuclear medicine interests share some of the existential angst experienced by their atomic energy sector colleagues. So it is not surprising that Carol Marcus Ph.D., M.D. is a professor of Nuclear Medicine at U.C.L.A is one of the petitioners to the NRC to demand that it relax radiation illness standards. Nuclear medicine is where expansion of the development and application of new radiology treatments and specialized equipment represent a huge corporate industrial growth opportunity.
Ms. Marcus and her colleagues have a special interest in countering many medical evaluations and admonitions that are routinely raised by doctors and hospitals around the world about the over-use of radiation for diagnosis and treatment.
Adoption of the hormesis theory of benign radiation would really help the nuclear medicine industry as much as it will help the atomic reactor power industry. In fact, Dr. Marcus’ petition to the NRC seems to equate the fact that radiation can be useful in diagnosis and treatment of cancer with evidence that low-dose radiation is indeed beneficial, in spite of years of data proving that is not true, including the lengthy German study.
To that, one must counter that the benefits brought to cancer treatment by radiation have a very specific tissue-destroying capacity rather than any positive health function. There is no scientifically corroborated benefit for even an extremely low-dose of radiation. Rather than providing any actual proof for her hypothesis, the balance of Dr. Marcus’ petition seems to be filled with complaints detailing how existing radiation protection guidelines hamstring her profession.
The second petition to end LNT, submitted by Certified Health Physicist Mark L. Miller relies heavily on language identical to that of Dr. Marcus, suggesting a collaborative relationship.
The third petition was submitted by a group lead by one of the principle voices supporting the hormesis theory, Mohan Doss Ph.D. His cosigner’s predictably represent atomic corporate interests that have heavily financially invested in the success and expansion of atomic industries.
According to the Fox Chase Cancer Center website, Mr. Doss, who is an MCCPM (Member of the Canadian College of Physicists in Medicine) radiology practice includes
Mr. Doss, who has found a well-spring of opportunity in the convenient meme of hormesis, is quoted along with the other two petitioners in a New York Times article that uses the number of deaths from suicide and accident that have occurred among evacuees from Fukushima evacuation zone as a rallying call.
The New York Times argues that the evacuations were unnecessary and caused these unnecessary deaths. This argument claims that people in the exclusion zone were/are exposed to negligible amounts of radiation, even though scientific studies do not corroborate this fallacy.
The truth is that terrible stress is being experienced by the evacuated victims of this atomic reactor disaster, and the remedy is to not allow nuclear reactor disasters to happen ever again.
Rearranging the narrative so that the atomic industry and its alleged regulators can conveniently dismiss evacuations as ‘unnecessary’ is an appalling way to address that personal stress and does a great injustice to the victims of Fukushima Daiichi.
If the NRC accepts the proposed rule change, it will be shifting even more radiation risk onto innocent people around the world as the nuclear energy industry looks forward to saving billions of corporate dollars on radiation clean-up and disaster management.
The nuclear power industry with its ongoing promotion of atomic reactors has simply doubled down on flimflam rather than learning from the real lessons from Fukushima Daiichi disaster.
The potential ramifications for public health are huge.
Fairewinds in the News:
California or Bust!
Fairewinds President and Founder Maggie Gundersen and her husband Arnie, Chief Engineer of Fairewinds Energy Education, are in California! Maggie and Arnie will be speaking and presenting to various organizations and groups at colleges and venues up and down the coast for the next few weeks. The topic of conversation will focus on Fukushima Daiichi and technical issues plaguing the nuclear industry, decommissioning of nuclear power plants in the U.S., and our energy future. Don't miss your chance to hear these two speak truth to power!
What? Arnie Gundersen in conversation with Majia Nadesan, "World in Danger: Fukushima"
When? Wednesday, November 18 at 7pm
Where? Sonoma State University, Student Union Building
What? Arnie Gundersen in conversation with Mary Beth Brangan, "World in Danger: The Fukushima - California Connection"
When? Saturday, November 21 from 7pm-9pm
Where? Dance Palace (Church Space) 5th & B Streets, Point Reyes Station
What? Arnie Gundersen in conversation with Joanna Macy, "World in Danger: From Fukushima to California"
When? Sunday, November 22 at 7pm
Where? University of California at Berkeley, Historic Berkeley Fellowship Hall
What? A lecture by Arnie Gundersen, "Expect the Unexpected: Nuclear Power's Unlearned Lessons"
When? Tuesday, December 1 from 4:10pm-5pm
Where? Cal Poly, Forbes Building
What? Dinner and conversation with Arnie Gundersen, "Ready for the Big One? Diablo Canyon Earthquake Vulnerability"
When? Wednesday, December 2 from 6pm-9pm
Where? Cafe Roma Banquet Room, San Luis Obispo
Fairewinds Crew Book Review:
"What are we reading at Fairewinds Energy Education?"
Everyone on the Fairewinds Crew has a favorite book on nuclear power and we'd like to share our favorites with all of you!
Caroline Phillips, Program Administrator : I’m reading...
Voices From Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich
I heard the doctors talking:
“That girl wasn’t born in a shirt, she was born in a suit of armor. If we showed it on television, not a single mother would give birth.”
That was about our daughter. How are we supposed to love each other after that?
-“Part Two, The Land of the Living”, Voices From Chernobyl
Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices From Chernobyl tells the story of humanity at its most victimized, tragic, and beautiful.
Voices From Chernobyl immortalizes the numerous destroyed lives from the 1986 catastrophic nuclear power plant meltdown at Chernobyl.
Closed off and isolated from the world, the people, who are the radioactive carriers of Chernobyl’s horrific nuclear truth, were kept in the dark by their Soviet government as to the extent of destruction that accompanies an atomic disaster. Risking her life by entering radioactive zones in order to interview victims and expose their stories about the truth of nuclear power, Svetlana Alexievich created a journalistic masterpiece that opens our eyes to what the nuclear industry wants to keep hidden, the real risk of the atomic reactors used to produce our electricity.
This past Spring, Fairewinds Energy Education’s founder and president Maggie Gundersen sat down with Burlington, Vermont playwright and author Spencer Smith, who created the readers’ play Voices From Chernobyl. In an emotional and moving Fairewinds video production, Ms. Gundersen and Ms. Smith discuss the Chernobyl nuclear tragedy that continues to destroy and threaten surrounding life and land nearly 30-years later.
Riverkeeper - The New York Department of State (DOS) has filed an objection to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that has the potential to block Entergy’s request for a 20-year extension to its operating license for Entergy’s Indian Point atomic power plant. Without an extended operating license, closure of Indian Point could be as soon as next year. Citing the direct impact and risk caused by Indian Point due to major conflicts with coastal policies, the DOS also has drawn attention in its re-licensing objection to the continued lack of necessity of Indian Point Power to the New York state power system. Riverkeeper, one of New York’s clean water advocate groups, filed its own comments with the DOS in 2013. Much of the evidence cited by Riverkeeper form the basis of the recent DOS decision.
If Indian Point is shutdown in the near future, this will be the fourth Entergy owned atomic reactor facing imminent decommissioning in the northeastern US. To learn more about the significant risks and flaws associated with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulated decommissioning and dismantlement process, take a look at Fairewinds’ Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Report filed with the NRC in March, 2015.
Reuters - The first construction license for a permanent nuclear waste repository has been given to the Finnish company Posiva Oy to be built on the island of Olkiluoto in western Finland. Reuters reports Posiva’s plan to pack atomic waste in copper canisters and transfer it into tunnels, then further into deposition holes lined with a bentonite buffer some 450 meters (490 yards) below the surface in granite bedrock. This nuclear garbage encapsulation plan would hold up to 6,500 tons of atomic trash like spent fuel and uranium. Posiva is owned by Finnish utilities Fortum and TVO. It should be noted that according to Reuters, TVO has two reactors in Olkiluoto and it is building a third one, which is currently nine years behind its original schedule.
Into Eternity is a documentary film by Danish director Michael Madsen that takes an in depth look at this plan for a permanent nuclear waste encapsulation facility in Olkiluoto and explores the question of preparing the site so that it is not disturbed for more than 100,000 years, even though no structure in human history has stayed standing for such a long period.
Think Progress - Jobs in the solar industry have grown 20 times faster than the rest of the economy, and transitioning to a clean energy economy would be an economic boon to the United States according to a recent new report released by NextGen Climate America. Increased employment, reduced costs to consumers, and better benefits for investors will come with renewable sources of electricity, and fuel switching according to the NextGen report. Adding a million jobs by 2030, and roughly 2 million jobs by 2050, Think Progress quotes Tom Steyer, co-founder of NextGen and board member of the Center for American Progress:
“While addressing climate change is one of our greatest challenges, it is one of our greatest opportunities to build the economy.”
A particular boom in construction jobs is cited to provide 1.2 million more people with work in 2050 than under the “business-as-usual scenario.”
The Independent Barents Observer - Atomic express! As part of Russia’s Arctic militarization, Russia has announced plans to build up to 30 small transportable atomic reactors for the Arctic, including new bases and re-opening Cold War bases along the north coast of Siberia and on archipelagoes like the New Siberia Islands, Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land. The aim is to be able to fly or ship these mini atomic power plants to rural bases to produce energy.
“If these plans are given a go-ahead in the future, it will lead to an increased risk of accidents and releases of radioactive substances,” says Ingar Amundsen, Head of Section for international nuclear safety with the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authorities (NRPA). Amundsen told The Independent Barents Observer the NRPA was not informed about Russia’s plans before reading about it in Russian media last week. Mr. Amundsen has raised serious concerns stating,
“Nuclear power plants requires good access to needed infrastructure and a comprehensive control regime for safe operation…This is important to avoid accidents and releases, but also to avoid unauthorized access by strangers to the facility and the nuclear material.”
Mobile units in remote areas do not meet these requirements.
Surprisingly, the Arctic is no stranger to militarized atomic power. The Barents Observer points out U.S. military’s secret nuclear reactor that operated for a few years during the 1960’s at Camp Century, east of Thule airbase on Greenland’s northern ice-sheet and a medium-size reactor in operation during the 60’s and 70’s at the McMurdo research station.