AREVA, cancer, Catastrophes, Chernobyl, clean water, corruption, dangers of nuclear, defective breakers, EDF, environment, flooding, Fukushima, Growth Machine Politics, Hurricane Katrina, Japan, NRC, nuclear, nuclear accident, nuclear disaster, nuclear energy, nuclear industry, nuclear power, nuclear reactors, nuclear safety, Open Phase Defect, Pork Barrel Politics, regulatory capture, Riverbend Nuclear Power Station, UK, US NRC, USA, water, Waterford nuclear power station
In “Catastrophe in the Making: The Engineering of Katrina and the Disasters of Tomorrow“, Freudenberg, et. al., 2009, “assign responsibility for the disaster to the (publicly funded) “Growth Machine” that values economic development over environmental stewardship. Their main premise is that modern-day “pirates” have directed public funds to implement (potentially) environmentally destructive projects with little societal benefit, which profit a select few and, by artificially spreading the risk and cost, do not allow the markets to act rationally“(Book Review by DE Schaad, 2010). The biggest example of this, passing largely unnoticed, is the nuclear industry, which cannot survive without massive public (taxpayer and ratepayer) subsidies of every sort, from start to finish, including avoidance of most liability (e.g. health consequences for routine legal discharges). In the US, the nuclear industry’s backup plan to their backup plan is to have the National Guard save them in a disaster: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/nuclear-strategic-alliance-for-flex-emergency-response-safer-not-depends-on-emergency-resources-which-may-be-needed-elsewhere-unavailable/ The National Guard has its hands full with trying to rescue people in an emergency, and community volunteers near and far need to help out too, as did the “Cajun Flotilla”, aka “Cajun Navy”, during both Hurricane Katrina and recent Louisiana flooding. (Cajun Navy song: http://youtu.be/MQ66eUazGaw ) There are no spare hands to make up for the incompetence of the nuclear industry in a natural disaster which can quickly turn into a nuclear disaster, as was the case at Fukushima.
All but one US nuclear power station has an open phase electrical system problem; and an unknown number have defective breakers, meaning that even a lightening strike could lead to a nuclear meltdown, as nearly happened at Riverbend Nuclear Power Station, upriver from Baton Rouge, earlier this year: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/lightening-scrammed-nuclear-reactor-lost-cooling-off-for-weeks-on-again-now-off-usnrc-inspection/ At least some non-US nuclear reactors share these defects (e.g. one in Sweden and one in the UK (Dungeness).
Riverbend Nuclear Power Station, upriver from Baton Rouge, Louisiana
The US NRC, a prime example of “regulatory capture”, is allowing the utilities to take their time to address these problems- years in fact. http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/ops-experience/open-phase-electric-systems.html The nuclear industry, even foreign members like French state owned Areva, knows that the NRC is how to spell regulatory relief (i.e. exemptions because the rules apparently give the nuclear industry indigestion).
Waterford Nuclear Power Station lies behind an earthen dam (levy) on the Mighty Mississippi River. Unless the Mississippi river is allowed to gradually take its natural course, it will eventually run over the nuclear reactor.
Photo Credit: Greg Webb / IAEA pointing to pic of a melted Fukushima reactor
The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster is an ongoing manmade disaster, which occurred in the context of a natural disasters (earthquake, tsunami)
Book review by David Schaad:
364 volume 118, number 8, August 2010, Environmental Health Perspectives
“Catastrophe in the Making: The Engineering of Katrina and the Disasters of Tomorrow William R. Freudenberg, Robert Gramling, Shirley Laska, and Kai T. Erikson Washington, DC: Island Press, 2009. 209 pp. ISBN: 978-1-59726-682-6, $26.95
In Catastrophe in the Making: The Engineering of Katrina and the Disasters of Tomorrow, William R. Freudenburg, Robert Gramling, Shirley Laska, and Kai T. Erikson outline the very timely and pressing issues of moral hazards and adverse selection that unwise development practices have brought upon ourselves. Using the very tangible example of Hurricane Katrina, the authors walk readers through the colorful history of New Orleans and southern Louisiana, provide a clearly understandable description of the movement of tropical storm systems, and explain their theories on how and why Katrina had so devastating an impact on this economically, historically, and culturally important city. They rightly eschew pointing the finger of responsibility at the obvious ineptness of FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), but instead focus on the centuries-old patterns of development that weakened the Big Easy’s natural defenses against storms such as Katrina. Taking readers through the steps (and missteps) associated with how and why development occurred as it did, they draw us along on an interesting and informative history lesson in the study of a system of failures. Generally balanced in their criticism, the authors assign responsibility for the disaster to the (publicly funded) “Growth Machine” that values economic development over environmental stewardship. Their main premise is that modern-day “pirates” have directed public funds to implement (potentially) environmentally destructive projects with little societal benefit, which profit a select few and, by artificially spreading the risk and cost, do not allow the markets to act rationally. From backgrounds primarily in sociology or environmental studies, the authors do an excellent job explaining their treatise, providing a comprehensive background on the hurricane itself—how and why it formed, the physical processes at work, and how once the storm passed the disaster started. Discussing deeper stories not widely reported in the media, they highlight the heroics of the “Cajun Flotilla” and other inventive survivors, and create a backdrop for a better understanding of the human cost associated with the storm and subsequent tragedy. They flavor all of this with an intriguing and informative overview of the historical and ethnic diversity of this area, illustrating how the people (and the environment) developed into an “ethnic and cultural mix of the region’s inhabitants [that] proved to be as rich as its famous gumbo.” Their discussion of the demise of the protective wetlands and the industrial processes that impacted the fragile cypress swamps in and around the southeastern parishes helps paint a broader picture of how development in this region could at once be so vulnerable (i.e., within the last 50 or so years building on settling soils below sea level) and so unprotected (both by degraded natural defenses and inadequately human designed and constructed systems). All communities desire economic stability and seek to capitalize on their intellectual and human capital as well as geographic or natural resources, and at times the authors’ commentary paints (maybe rightly so) the development plans of past community leaders in a sinister light. With the hindsight of history, it is clear that some of the public works projects they attack did have unintended consequences, and the authors help establish how we as a society may “be able to impair far beyond our capacity to repair.” They also present an interesting economic model, and join a growing number of critics in calling for a way of quantifying and including “the full costs of a project” before it starts (or is even approved). Freudenburg, Gramling, Laska, and Erikson correctly identify other examples of areas in the country where disasters are waiting to happen—where problems will occur because of unwise development practices. Although the authors are not engineers and hydrologists, their conclusions about how and where we develop are joining the growing cacophony of sustainable-growth proponents in calling for rational economic and development strategies to prevent this kind of tragedy from occurring again. This book provides a well-reasoned overview of the entire story of Katrina—from the historic and personal perspective to the unfolding of the problems that will continue to plague the Crescent City (and other areas with “unsafe” patterns of development). For those unfamiliar with the story of New Orleans and the tragedy associated with Katrina, this book provides a wonderful depth and breadth that will inform and enlighten them. Those who have trod the streets of Treme, spent time in the French Quarter, haunted the streetcar as it has moved upriver on tree-lined St. Charles Avenue toward Tulane, or enjoyed the bayous in and around St. Bernard Parish will recognize the familiar story of the Mississippi River–Gulf Outlet and the personality that has swirled around the city and the different (sometimes ill-fated) economic development projects associated with the region. With regard to the conclusions the authors draw, some of their assertions regarding the hydrologic processes are questionable, but their criticisms of the development practices are solid. At times the book wears on as the authors beat the drum against the “Growth Machine,” but it is an important message that is clearly told as they encourage us to prevent the disasters of tomorrow—both in the New Orleans region and across the nation and globe where population densities are growing in hazard-prone areas. Accurately assessing the total costs (or detriments) is critically important in measuring the benefits of future projects so that as a society we can rightly attribute the value of a project and fairly appropriate the risk for the undertaking.
David E. Schaad David E. Schaad, of Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, has designed many systems related to industrial wastewater, storm water, and flood hazards. His research focuses on sustainable engineering and development, wastewater treatment design, storm water retention/detention, and urban hydrology. As part of one of the courses he teaches, he has facilitated Spring Break experiences for more than 300 students to visit to the New Orleans area to participate in the recovery effort. Additionally, he started the DukeEngage in New Orleans program, which places approximately 10 students in volunteer internships in the region each summer.
Arnold Greenwell/EHP” Emphasis added. Original here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2920111/pdf/ehp-118-a364.pdf (EHP is a US govt. publication).
Japan’s parliamentary (Diet) commission concluded that the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster was manmade:
“The Commission has verified that on March 11, 2011, the structure of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant was not capable of withstanding the effects of the earthquake and the tsunami. Nor was the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant prepared to respond to a severe accident. In spite of the fact that TEPCO and the regulators were aware of the risk from such natural disasters, neither had taken steps to put preventive measures in place. It was this lack of preparation that led to the severity of this accident.
The “regulatory capture” of Japan’s nuclear industry The fundamental causes of the accident, including the failure to carry out earthquake and tsunami measures and the lack of measures for dealing with a severe accident, can be also traced to the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC). This is an unregulated lobbying association of electric power companies, and thus also bears a share of the responsibility. Despite the fact that constant vigilance is needed to keep up with evolving international standards on earthquake safeguards, Japan’s electric power operators have repeatedly and stubbornly refused to evaluate and update existing regulations, including backchecks and backfitting. The Japanese nuclear industry has fallen behind the global standard of earth-quake and tsunami preparedness, and failed to reduce the risk of severe accidents by adher-ing to the five layers of the defense-in-depth strategy. The Commission’s examination of the way safety regulations are deliberated and amended reveals a cozy relationship between the operators, the regulators and academic scholars that can only be described as totally inappropriate. In essence, the regulators and the operators prioritized the interests of their organizations over the public’s safety, and decided that Japanese nuclear power plant reactor operations “will not be stopped.” Because the regulators and operators have consistently and loudly maintained that “the safety of nuclear power is guaranteed,” they had a mutual interest in averting the risk of existing reactors being shut down due to safety issues, or of lawsuits filed by anti-nuclear activists. They repeatedly avoided, compromised or postponed any course of action, and any regulation or finding that threatened the continued operation of nuclear reactors. The FEPC has been the main organization through which this intransigent position was main-tained among the regulatory agencies and in the academic world. Our investigation focused on the significant lobbying role taken by FEPC on behalf of the operators, and scrutinized the relationship between the operators and regulators. The Com-mission found that the actual relationship lacked independence and transparency, and was far from being a “safety culture.” In fact, it was a typical example of “regulatory capture,” in which the oversight of the industry by regulators effectively ceases. We found examples of this in the neutering of revisions in the Guideline for Anti-seismic Design, and the improper discussions that took place on regulating severe accident countermeasures“. Excerpted from “The National Diet of Japan, The official report of The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, Executive summary” Emphasis our own. Original found here: https://web.archive.org/web/20120710082826/http://naiic.go.jp/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/NAIIC_report_lo_res2.pdf An equivalent of the FEPC appears to be the EPRI, located in the US but involving foreign countries (e.g. French State owned EDF), and with the Nuclear division run by an old British Nuclear Navy guy Neil Wilmshurst.
Riverbend Nuclear (prequel) 1994 http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/gen-comm/info-notices/1994/in94083.html (Link from the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle: https://lasinkhole.wordpress.com )