The Fairewinds Crew greatly appreciated the generosity of our viewers, by way of monetary donations, and through increased viewership, social media support, and encouraging notes and emails. Thank you all for being a part of the Fairewinds community. Once again it was a treat to work with best-selling author Chris Bohjalian, who joined us for this year's Summer FUNdraising Raffle. Fairewinds is excited to announce the winners who will be receiving a signed copy of Mr. Bohjalian's critically acclaimed novel, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands.
"A chilling and heartbreaking suspense novel for readers who like the poetry of Emily Dickinson. That may sound like a literary mash-up -- the 19th-centrury belle of Amherst, Mass., meets a 21st-century nuclear meltdown -- but Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is ambitious and poignant thanks to the voice of its teen narrator. . .It's a novel about survival and the power of literature and poetry."
- Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
And the winners are... Congratulations!
Susan (Bellevue, WA) - Karen (Flagstaff, AZ) - Dave (Sebastpol, CA) - Dieter (Hoodsport, WA) - Virginia (Santa Cruz, CA) - Christine (Tucson, AZ) - Claire (Vienna, Austria) - Susan (Eastport, MI) - Nicholas (Austin, TX) - Helen (Silver City, NM) - Toni (El Cerrito, CA) - Sean (Bala Cynwyd, PA) - Norman (Chicago, IL) - Fritz (Philadelphia, PA)
Demystifying Nuclear Power:
Coast-to-Coast Reflections and Summer FAQs by Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer
I am writing this blog post after drinking my fourth cup of coffee this morning. I was up from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. EST for a Coast-to-Coast radio interview Monday, July 27, 2015. Auggggg – early morning work on the East Coast is tough afterwards, but it was certainly worth it! As a returning guest on Coast-to-Coast radio, I was fortunate to be interviewed by radio host George Knapp; we shared two hours of smart conversation and thoughtful questions from an inquisitive audience. Thanks C2C! Since the show aired, Fairewinds Energy Education has had thousands of new visitors to the site, and dozens of questions via email.
We at Fairewinds decided to use this opportunity to address some of the key areas people are asking since the C2C interview aired. Some of these questions were answered in full on other portions of the show, and some we only briefly mentioned. Other questions raised have been discussed and/or answered on Fairewinds site via video, podcast, or FAQs (frequently asked questions).
1. New Nuclear Alternatives: The nuclear industry always has new nuclear reactor concepts to promote the ongoing operation of nuclear power. Many of these nuclear reactor concepts are simply not feasible for economic or environmental reasons. As George Knapp and I discussed on C2C, neither of us is anti-nuclear, but we are interested in making sure the world’s finances are not spent on expensive untested ventures that cannot deliver consumers’ power needs quickly or economically.
Whether it is small modular reactors, thorium reactors, molten salt reactors, or other new designs, all these designs have two things in common. No one knows how much these ideas on paper would ultimately cost or how many decades it would take for these technologies to produce significant amounts of power. As I said in my recent speech at Northwestern University that was quoted in Forbes Magazine:
“The operative word in this discussion tonight is now. What are we going to do now to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere? …These things can be implemented immediately. We know how to insulate a building. We know how to put double and triple-pane windows in them. We know how to build windmills and put solar cells up. These are immediate things. We don’t have to invest $50 trillion and wait 15 years for that to come to fruition.”
Recently, my friend and fellow Vermonter Peter Bradford eloquently said,
“Wall Street doesn’t want (reactors), the utilities don’t want them…Trying to solve climate change with nuclear is like trying to solve world hunger with caviar.”
2. Ocean Contamination: Nuclear fuel from the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi is in direct contact with groundwater and will continue to bleed into the Pacific for decades. Near Fukushima, I would not swim in the Pacific. These radioactive plumes are more diluted by the time they reach the United States, so right now I believe it is safe to swim along the western U.S. coast. However, bioaccumulation in animals in the food chain is an entirely different major concern. The federal governments of Canada, Mexico, and the US, coastline provinces and states, and independent labs should test fish to let the public know what concentration of radioactivity is present in its food. As citizens in democratic countries, we have a right to know what is in our food; we must be informed consumers. Until this information is available, I have made the choice not to eat fish caught in the northern Pacific.
3. Downstream: The reality is that Fukushima Daiichi is leaking into the Pacific Ocean. What if a similar disaster were to happen on the Rhine, Mississippi, or Danube Rivers, or the Great Lakes. Commerce and drinking water for a large part of a continent would come to a halt. Chaos and economic calamity would ensue. As I have said before, nuclear power is a unique technology that has the capability to destroy the fabric of society overnight. See Downstream LINK for more details.
4. Earthquakes & Seismic Activity: The Biggest Earthquake ever last hit the Pacific Coast during the 1600s, well before written historical records, and it did not involve the San Andreas Fault. A much larger seismic fault that stretches from Canada down into California is called the Cascadia Subduction Zone, and it could produce a quake 100 times more powerful that the one that devastated the city of San Francisco 100 years ago. Not discovered until long after nuclear power plants were constructed in California and Washington State, the Cascadia Subduction Zone is located where one major tectonic plate slides underneath another. In the July 20 issue of The New Yorker entitled The Really Big One, contributor Kathryn Schulz writes that “An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when” in her discussion of the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
The consequences of a Cascadian Earthquake would be devastating according to Schulz, who writes:
“When the next very big earthquake hits, the northwest edge of the continent, from California to Canada and the continental shelf to the Cascades, will drop by as much as six feet and rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west—losing, within minutes, all the elevation and compression it has gained over centuries. Some of that shift will take place beneath the ocean, displacing a colossal quantity of seawater.”
Fairewinds in the News:
With about 140,000 people displaced by the meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi, and Japan’s nuclear industry in suspended operation, safety risks and concerns have taken a back seat as Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government push for a speedy decommissioning and dismantling of the destroyed nuclear site. Fairewinds’ latest video, Fukushima Daiichi Decommissioning: Follow the Money, gives a detailed analysis of the government and TEPCO’s ongoing cleanup efforts as well as the likelihood of their success. Picked up by Sputnik News, this Fairewinds video emphasizes the extent of nuclear damage created by the disaster, the inability to contain leaking highly radioactive water, and the overwhelming cost and logistics of cleaning up so much nuclear waste. The biggest obstacle at Fukushima Daiichi is that the three nuclear cores are in direct contact with groundwater, thereby allowing the contamination to spread out into the ocean at an unprecedented rate. Years ago, Fairewinds warned that the flow of water in and around the site needed to be stopped immediately. Sputnik’s article is also available in Japanese!
If you haven’t listened yet, check out the Coast-to-Coast radio interview of Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen by radio host George Knapp. Listen as Arnie explains how the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi continues to bleed radioactivity into the Pacific Ocean and how the 2011 earthquake caused underground aquifers near the nuclear reactor to shatter as water basins at the plant cracked. All of these factors have caused 300 tons of toxic radioactive water to seep into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima Daiichi every day!
Japan Prime Minister Abe is targeting thousands of nuclear meltdown refugees in his plan to force them to return to their evacuated homes in Iitate Village 28km northwest of the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant where radiation dose levels are comparable to those inside the 30km exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl. The Japanese government has undertaken massive decontamination efforts with the intention of lifting evacuation orders by March 2017.
As Kendra Ulrich of Greenpeace Japan notes, “radiation levels remain stubbornly high, it looks like the real plan is to 'normalize' nuclear catastrophe, while making Iitate residents nuclear victims twice over - and this time, it's deliberate.”
According to the powerful exposé by Ms. Ulrich featured in The Ecologist July 29, 2015, Greenpeace investigations reveal that of the 200 sq.km of Iitate Village only 56 sq.km are targeted for decontamination. Enormous amounts of radiation spread inland, specifically to the northwest of the nuclear disaster site due to a wind change days after the start of the meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi in March 2011. As a result, Iitate residents suffered some of the worst radiation exposure in Japan, however the government did not order evacuation of the town until late April 2011. The radioactive plume that contaminated the Iitate Village is a constant reminder to the Japanese public and the international community that a major nuclear disaster is not confined to a small 'emergency planning' zone around a nuclear reactor site.
All nuclear reactors in Japan have ceased operation and more than 70% of Japanese citizens oppose restart of any of Japan’s nuclear reactors due to the ongoing radioactive catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown site. However, as nuclear reactors sit idle taking up space, resources, and money, Prime Minister Abe and his pro-nuclear administration continues to push for restart of the idled nuclear reactors. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an agency charged with the promotion of nuclear energy in its charter, is helping the Abe regime in its effort to convince Japan’s citizens that nuclear power is ok by ‘normalizing’ nuclear disasters and announcing the lift of evacuation zone like Iitate by 2017.
Given the facts uncovered by Greenpeace in its investigation, Ms. Ulrich writes, “The reality is this myth making requires that the people of Fukushima prefecture - especially the people of Iitate - be the sacrificial lambs for the nuclear industry. This is not only wholly unjust, but is a violation of their human rights.”
Three Tokyo Electric Power Company executives are being indicted on criminal charges for their involvement in the man-made nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi that forced tens of thousands of people to flee their contaminated homes, villages, and cities. An angry Japanese public has increasingly pointed fingers and exposed the ties between the government, nuclear industry regulators, and operators that protect executives of the Fukushima plant operator TEPCO. The decision to finally press charges against former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, vice president at the time of the meltdown, Sakae Muto and former vice president Ichiro Takekuro was made by an independent panel after two previous attempts at prosecution failed due to prosecutors’ claims of insufficient evidence. "The victims have wanted a criminal trial given the anger and grief" over the accident, Ruiko Muto, a campaigner who called for charges, told reporters.
"We feel a sense of achievement that a criminal case will be held to account for an accident that caused such tremendous damage." The judicial panel will be composed of ordinary citizens.
Southern California Edison (Edison) is claiming nearly $7.6 billion in damages from Mitsubishi, the Japanese manufacturer of the faulty steam generators that led to the permanent shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear power plant. LA Times journalist Ivan Penn points out that under a ratepayer settlement agreement, state regulators stuck Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. customers with $3.3 billion of San Onofre’s shutdown costs. California regulators saddled ratepayers with this tremendous burden even though Edison installed the troubled replacement steam generators that caused the January 2012 shutdown without NRC approval.
Money from Mitsubishi would be split with the utility and customers 50-50. However, Mitsubishi maintains that under the agreements for development of the steam generators, its liability is limited to $137 million.
In a related article for the LA Times, Ivan Penn details the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) decision to dismiss a complaint filed in 2012 by the environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) with the NRC against Edison. The FoE complaint accused Edison’s unapproved steam generator replacements as the cause for the nuclear plants failures, permanent shutdown, and threat to the more than 8.5 million people living and working near the now shutdown San Onofre reactors.
After not responding to the complaint for more than 3-years, William Dean, director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, now deemed the complaint, filed by the environmentalist group Friends of the Earth (FoE), “moot” because the plants have been shutdown. It appears that the NRC is not interested at looking at what went wrong at San Onofre or to what degree Edison contributed to the plant’s shutdown.
“What this means is the perpetrator got off the hook,” Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen who served as the lead witness in the complaint against Edison said in the LA Times article. “The bad behavior that got them in this mess is not being punished but is being supported.” As stated, with customers accountable for 70% of the shutdown costs, and Edison seeking liability claims against Mitsubishi, the complaint filed by FoE does not appear to be “moot”.
Take a look at Arnie Gundersen's presentation to the NRC on behalf of Friends of the Earth regarding San Onofre's operation by Edison outside of its design basis.
Demystifying Nuclear Power: Book of the Month
Japan's Tipping Point: Review by Maggie Gundersen, President
Japan's Tipping Point: Crucial Choices in the Post-Fukushima World is a little paperback published November 1, 2011 by Vermont author Mark Pendergrast. Japan was at a crucial tipping point in its energy paradigm when Mark first wrote this book after the March 2011 triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi. Currently, Japan imports all of its fossil fuel and can no longer rely upon nuclear power, following the massive Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power tragedy.
Prior to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power tragedy, Mark was awarded an Abe Fellowship for Journalists to visit five out of 13 so-called Eco-Model Cities, and shortly after the nuclear disaster, he traveled to “Japan to investigate Japan's renewable energy, Eco-Model Cities, food policy, recycling, and energy conservation, expecting to find innovative, cutting edge programs.”
“I figured that because the Japanese import virtually all of their fossil fuel and are technologically sophisticated, that they must be doing innovative things with renewable energy,” Mark has said.
Mark says he discovered that he was naive. Even though “the Japanese boast of their eco-services for eco-products in eco-cities… they rely primarily on imported fossil fuel …live in energy-wasteful homes, and import 60% of their food.”
Like Mark Pendergrast, we at Fairewinds Energy Education had hoped that the massive tragedy of a triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi would become the Tipping Point for Japan. Arnie and I envisioned that by now the technological and entrepreneurial Japanese would lead the world in the innovative use of Small Modular Renewables, wave production technology, and larger innovative solar and wind installations. Instead, Germany, under the leadership of the physicist and once pro-nuclear Chancellor Angela Merkel, has taken world leadership in renewable energy and therefore has the strongest economy in Europe. Look at this week’s news clips to see that even oil rich Saudi Arabia is grabbing renewable energy with both hands in an effort to maintain a rich energy portfolio as world demand for oil, gas, coal, and nuclear continues to decline.
Watch Fairewinds Energy Education’s video Fukushima Decommissioning: Follow The Money to see how politics and money continue to push nuclear power and block Japan’s economic growth and what could have been world dominance in renewable energy. Then read Mark’s book Japan's Tipping Point: Crucial Choices in the Post-Fukushima World to further understand what futures are still possible for Japan.