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Nuclear disaster could happen here (Updated)

Many of us are wondering if what we are seeing in Japan could happen here. I think that the answer is yes, it could could happen here.

From CP:

While new plants are unlikely to be built in the United States over the next 25 years, nuclear power provides 20 percent of our electrical power and is climate friendly. We therefore must make existing reactors safer, develop a new generation of safer designs and prevent nuclear power from facilitating nuclear proliferation. As tragic as the Fukushima disaster has been, it has provided a rare opportunity to advance those goals.

Nuclear physicist Frank von Hippel has a good op-ed today, which the NYT gave the provocative headline, “It Could Happen Here.”  The Princeton professor is co-chairman of the International Panel on Fissile Materials. From 1993 to 1994 he was responsible for national security issues in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Here’s more:

From one perspective, nuclear power has been remarkably safe. The 1986 Chernobyl accident will ultimately kill about 10,000 people, mostly from cancer. Coal plants are much deadlier: the fine-particulate air pollution they produce kills about 10,000 people each year in the United States alone.

Of course, for most people this kind of accounting is beside the point. Their horror over even the possibility of a meltdown means that the nuclear-power industry needs constant and aggressive regulation for the public to allow it to stay in business.

Yet despite the 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has often been too timid in ensuring that America’s 104 commercial reactors are operated safely. Nuclear power is a textbook example of the problem of “regulatory capture” — in which an industry gains control of an agency meant to regulate it. Regulatory capture can be countered only by vigorous public scrutiny and Congressional oversight, but in the 32 years since Three Mile Island, interest in nuclear regulation has declined precipitously.

In 2002, after the commission retreated from demanding an early inspection of a reactor, Davis-Besse in Ohio, that it suspected was operating in a dangerous condition, its own inspector general concluded that it “appears to have informally established an unreasonably high burden of requiring absolute proof of a safety problem, versus lack of a reasonable assurance of maintaining public health and safety.” (more…)


Looks like Japan was warned about a surge of water but they appear not to have listened.

The lack of attention may help explain how, on an island nation surrounded by clashing tectonic plates that commonly produce tsunamis, the protections were so tragically minuscule compared with the nearly 46-foot tsunami that overwhelmed the Fukushima plant on March 11. Offshore breakwaters, designed to guard against typhoons but not tsunamis, succumbed quickly as a first line of defense. The wave grew three times as tall as the bluff on which the plant had been built.

Japanese government and utility officials have repeatedly said that engineers could never have anticipated the magnitude 9.0 earthquake — by far the largest in Japanese history — that caused the sea bottom to shudder and generated the huge tsunami. Even so, seismologists and tsunami experts say that according to readily available data, an earthquake with a magnitude as low as 7.5 — almost garden variety around the Pacific Rim — could have created a tsunami large enough to top the bluff at Fukushima.

After an advisory group issued nonbinding recommendations in 2002, Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant owner and Japan’s biggest utility, raised its maximum projected tsunami at Fukushima Daiichi to between 17.7 and 18.7 feet — considerably higher than the 13-foot-high bluff. Yet the company appeared to respond only by raising the level of an electric pump near the coast by 8 inches, presumably to protect it from high water, regulators said. (more…)

By |2011-03-27T09:11:00-04:00March 27th, 2011|Energy|Comments Off on Nuclear disaster could happen here (Updated)

Rikyrah from JJP in the house

The Errington Thompson Show will look at, discuss and dissect meteorites, volcanoes, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, the state of the financial sector, the progress of the financial bill in the Senate, taxes and the tea partiers. We are happy to welcome from the popular blog, Jack and Jill Politics, Rikyrah. Join me this Friday for some fun, entertaining and progressive discussion at 6 PM (EST).

GREAT show. If you missed it, I’ll have the podcasts up later.

By |2010-04-16T03:22:44-04:00April 16th, 2010|Economy, Podcasts|Comments Off on Rikyrah from JJP in the house

Adding Up the Lies in the Presidential Debates

Tonight, we watched the first nationally televised presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama. As a result of following this campaign closely for over 12 months, I know the candidates and their positions. It still amazes me how McCain can lie and tell the truth with the same expression on his face. For example, when Obama stated that Henry Kissinger said that he supported direct negotiations with Iran, McCain replied with a straight face that Kissinger never said that. Oops. It turns out that Kissinger said exactly that. So, either McCain was “naïve” and has no idea what his advisor is even saying or he was lying. Take your pick.

Five former Secretaries of State had a forum last week. Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger and James Baker all advocated talking with your enemies.

Here’s more on Kissinger’s position from the Huffington Post:

I’m in favor of negotiating with Iran. And one — (unintelligible) — of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East — of a stable Middle East and our notion of nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it.

It’s not only Kissinger’s position, it is the position of James Baker and Colin Powell as well. Here is what Powell said at last week’s forum: “We should start to talk to them. Don’t wait for a letter coming from them. Start discussion. We’ve been talking to them up through 2003.” When asked whether we should take the initiative, Powell responded, “Yeah. We shouldn’t we? What are we afraid of?”

From the Washington Post Fact Check:

McCain seriously misstated his vote concerning the marines in Lebanon. He said that when he went into Congress in 1983, he voted against deploying them in Beirut. The Marines went in Lebanon in 1982, before McCain came to Congress. The vote came up a year into their deployment, when the Marines had already suffered 54 casualties. What McCain voted against was a measure to invoke the War Powers Act and to authorize the deployment of U.S. Marines in Lebanon for an additional 18 months. The measure passed 270-161, with 26 other Republicans (including McCain) and 134 Democrats voting against it.

Overall, I think that Obama did well. McCain tried to make him seem small and inexperienced, but I don’t think that it worked. And even though McCain tried to tie Iraq into everything, Obama did a great job of untangling Iraq and pushing the problems in Afghanistan. At best, McCain fought to a tie in a subject that was his strong suit.

Daily Kos has some polling numbers on how Americans thought the candidates did.

By |2008-09-26T23:30:21-04:00September 26th, 2008|Election 2008|Comments Off on Adding Up the Lies in the Presidential Debates
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