Wednesday, June 22, 2011
The oceans are dying, says a team of top scientists. The causes are all human: overfishing wiping out key species, warmer waters from a warming world, dying coral which supported millions of species, pollution like fertilizers causing deadly algae blooms and dead zones, - a whole host of factors.
But key among them: our huge carbon emissions are being sucked up the sea, turning them more acidic. As Dr. Alex Rogers explains in an audio clip, there is more than just the difficulty when plankton and shell fish and all species can't find the calcium they need to make shells and bones (due to acidification changing the chemistry). There are other impacts being discovered, including a breakdown of senses used by marine life to survive.
As the oceans become more loaded with carbon dioxide, they further add to warming, becoming a positive feedback loop. The announcement by the 27 scientists for IPSO (described below) is the most depressing and alarming science news I've seen this year.
Many of the scientists are talking about a mass extinction in the ocean, and horrible impacts for land species. They have the data to back that up. We are late in the game, and must revolutionize our energy systems, or watch the oceans die, just like in the science fiction movie "Soylent Green".
We start with a quick clip from Professor Chris Reid, Marine Institute, the University of Plymouth in Britain. He's afraid to tell his grandchildren what he knows.
He's talking about a report that must be the greatest headline of our times. A new report from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, or IPSO, features 27 top experts on the oceans. They warn the oceans are in a state of dying from multiple causes, all of them human.
I'm sorry to interrupt the latest murder story on TV, the Hollywood gossip, or even the fire storms, floods, drought or what have you, with news from serious science. Climate change is not coming. It is here.
Carbon is not only flooding the atmosphere but the deep sea. The oceans, stripped of the big species we eat, poisoned by our waste into expanding dead zone, with corals richness turning into white deserts - but changing chemically, becoming more acid.
It is news of mass extinction, and thank you for having the courage to listen. To face the awful truth.
AMERICAN FUKUSHIMA INFO POSTED BELOW...
Later in this Radio Ecoshock show, (and further down in this long blog entry) you will learn how governments sold you out on reactor safety. The Japanese people learned to their lasting sorrow, government turned nuclear safety over to the industry. With devastating results at Fukushima, and well beyond.
You will hear three sources confirm the same regulatory system in the United States was gutted in 1999. There has been virtually no enforcement ever since, with dangerous reactor problems left unfixed. On our present course, an American Fukushima is just a matter of time.
Oh, and by the way, the law prohibits you or your local government even bringing up anything about safety of old dilapidated reactors. You have no say. Our experts from within the nuclear industry, and a former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commision, will explain how Democracy does not apply.
EXTINCTION IS THE TOP STORY!
But surely the science of extinction must come first. Here is a short clip from Dr. Alex Rogers, Scientific Director of IPSO and Professor of Conservation Biology at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, talking about the new report.
Extinction? You want to talk extinction? Dr. Peter Ward from the University of Washington makes a career studying the five previous mass deaths on planet Earth. He's advised on extinction specials on Animal Planet, and a recent climate special on National Geographic TV. His book "Under A Green Sky" set the scientific world on edge, as he proposed the way a change in ocean life could extinguish almost everything that breathes on land. Judging by the geological record, Life, Ward said in a later book, "The Medea Hypothesis" - tends toward mass suicide. Peter returns for his third visit to Radio Ecoshock. See also here.
You would think Ward would be the most depressing conversationalist in the world. Quite the opposite. I always enjoy talking with him, and we're going to do that right now.
We finish the first half of the show with new climate music! From Amherst Massachusetts, this Ethan Miller song is sung by Ben Grosscup and Dan Inglis. It's called "Come Winter", first broadcast on Radio Ecoshock. Find that song, and other by the duo, at http://www.myspace.com/447866052
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has failed to enforce regulations on American nuclear plants since 1999. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard this, and other clear warnings about big risks at U.S. reactors - from a panel of experts at the Boston Public Library, June 19th, 2011.
I'm Alex Smith. In this Radio Ecoshock special you will hear, from multiple sources, lax regulation has left well-known dangerous problems unfixed in U.S. reactors for decades. An American Fukushima nuclear disaster is just waiting to happen. Three sources back that up.
The kicker: in this upside down system, Democracy need not apply. You are not allowed to ask about safety. Neither are the State governments, or Governors. No matter how dangerous, we can argue about the esthetics or economics of nuclear plants, but nobody can present safety issues. We'll talk to Professor Peter Bradford from the Vermont Law School to find out how that works. Bradford is a former Commission of the NRC, and he knows the system isn't working.
Let's hear this short explanation from David Lochbaum, nuclear engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, on why the NRC stopped enforcing regulations on nuclear power plant safety issues over a decade ago. The question from the audience at the Boston Public Library is read out by Sandra Gavutis, Exective Director of the C-10 foundation.
HOW CONGRESS HELPED INDUSTRY THROTTLE THE NRC
[ Sandra Gavutis, Executive Director of the C-10 Foundation:
"What explains the NRC's current inability to enforce it's own regulations?"
David Lochbaum: "June 4th, 1998. I was sitting at the Commision table, directly across from NRC Chairman Jackson, when I was the usual bit whining about the NRC. He slammed the table and said if I really believed that, I could walk to Capital Hill.
I didn't understand at all why she was mad at me for that reason. It turns out that same, that morning she had received word that the Senate threatened to cut the NRC's budget by 40 percent. Five hundred NRC workers would have been laid off very rapidly.
The Senate at that time was controlled by Senator Domenichi from New Mexico, who was somewhat of an ally for the nuclear industry.
The previous year, 1997, nine U.S. reactors were shut down the entire year to fix safety issues. Chairman Jackson was a regulator. She did enforce the regulations. The plant that didn't meet the regulations did not operate. Pretty simple.
The industry didn't like that so they went to Congress and said 'we need to knock this off.' So Congress threatened to cut the NRC's budget by 40 percent unless they stopped doing their job.
So it was either lose your job, or stop doing your job. They chose the later. They stopped enforcing in 1999. They haven't enforced many regulations since then.
I criticize the NRC. I think if they had a spine they would have resisted Congressional pressure. They gave into it.
But if you look at MMS (U.S. Minerals Management Service), the Securities and Exchange Commission, anybody, any regulatory body that tries to enforce the regulations, Congress tells them to not [do it].
Not Congressman Markey, there are very strong allies, but unfortunately the majority of the Congress is pro-business and anti-safety.
So the NRC uses any excuse it has. Protection of their jobs was the best one of the day."
Don't believe it? We'll get confirmation of lax regulation from a former NRC Commissioner.
Lochbaum's story is so important. The same threats from Congress have allowed big industry to capture supposed regulatory agencies in almost every field, from chemicals to the oil industry. Even the right-wing CATO Institute says the same thing.
Lochbaum mentioned the U.S. Mineral Management Service. That agency was supposed to provide safety inspections on rigs like the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that blew up in the Gulf of Mexico last year.
The sordid tale of bribes, prostitution, and inaction by the MMS regulators is reported by the Washington Post in an August 24th, 2010 article titled "How the Minerals Management Service's partnership with industry led to failure".
The Cato Institute is more blunt. Their article is titled "MMS Captured by Industry". So was the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
THE BATTLE AGAINST VERMONT YANKEE - CAN A STATE STOP RE-LICENSING OF A DANGEROUS OR UNPOPULAR NUCLEAR REACTOR?
Let's go to our legal expert from Vermont. He'll explain all the crazy legal limitations that keep Americans, State Legislatures, and even Governors from ever bring up safety at all. Is the local reactor leaking? Do parts of it fall right over? Shut up. That's not for you to decide. Anyone concerned with nuclear power safety, and we all should be, should listen to this interview closely and twice.
After the interview, you'll hear about major safety problems in 50 American reactors that should have been fixed decades ago. But it's optional, and plant owners just say "No" to the government. Just like Japan. Politicians protect the industry.
What if the people of your community are afraid of an aging nuclear reactor with a history of problems? After multiple nuclear melt-downs in Fukushima Japan, local citizen action groups are waking up again. In America, they are being joined by State Legislatures and Governors.
Their power to say "no" to risky nuclear power plants may depend on a lawsuit going forward in the state of Vermont. The Vermont Yankee plant is a General Electric Mark I boiling water reactor - the very same design that exploded in Japan. The owners, Entergy are up against the Vermont State Legislature - who want the operation closed.
From New England, we are joined by an expert from the Vermont Law School, Adjunct Professor Peter Bradford, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the NRC.
In February of 2010 the Vermont Senate Legislature (the Senate actually) voted overwhelmingly against continuing the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant after 2012.
The plant owner, Entergy, which bought in relatively recently, agreed it would not seek relicensing if opposed by a certain Vermont board. But before that group could rule, the Senate stepped in saying no decision could be made without their approval.
It appears Entergy is suing the State of Vermont for interfering beyond it's legal rights, by opposing re-licensing. The case is complicated, and may go to the Supreme Court. Entergy hopes for some kind of interim ruling by late Summer, Bradford thinks, so they can plan for continung staff, or plan for a shut-down next year.
But the process is so convoluted as Bradford explains. Because ONLY the NRC can rule on safety of a nuclear plant (and the NRC is captured by industry) - the State of Vermont can only talk about economic issues or other concerns. They are not allowed to raise safety concerns, like the ongoing Tritium leaks from Vermont Yankee, or the incident in 2007 when an entire cooling tower just collapsed, being so rotten.
Bradford gives listeners a lot of incite into the various legal rulings which have walled off safety exclusively the Nuclear commissioners. The President appoints members to the NRC, and those appointments have to be approved by the Senate. Could anti-nuclear groups approach Obama? Wait, Obama is pro-nuclear, and received big nuclear money in his Ohio campaign. He appointed pro-nuclear staff, like Steven Chu.
Bradford has a little optimism that the new Chairperson and mostly new Commissioners may be in a position to change things, after Fukushima, because they were not involved in the previous history of non-enforcement.
However, he says the NRC invoked draconian powers to shut out the public and public interest groups during the 1990's, and these were not unanimous decisions (implying opposition by some Commissioners). Peter Bradford says they went too far, and that needs to be changed.
Just like in Japan, there has also been at least one documented case where an NRC Commissioner was negotiating for a job with a nuclear operator he was supposed to supervise, Bradford says. I'm betting that's just the tip of the iceberg! We'll hear more about the revolving door between the NRC and the nuclear industry.
Bradford himself was an NRC Commissioner in the 1980's.
The whole discussion, of how democracy got lost in nuclear power, and why it is treated so differently from every other industry and agency, is quite enlightening. Any activists or concerned citizens should listen to the audio interview.
CONFIRMATION OF NON-ENFORCEMENT OF NUCLEAR REGULATIONS - FROM AP
The American dozens of plants in nuclear industry have hardly fixed any major known flaws. Because regulation is non-existent.
Now, after Fukushima, it's a big open story. When a part of a whole country becomes radioactive Chernobyl-style, when a population is terrified, when the whole Northern Hemisphere is hit with radioactivity, it's more than news. Ugly nuclear secrets are coming out of the closet.
One big breaking story, crammed with NRC inaction and frightening near-misses comes from Jeff Donn of the Associated Press. His series is devastating.
Donn's expose is our third confirmation that American nuclear regulators "repeatedly" water down the rules, or are, quote, "simply failing to enforce them". You've heard it from the Union of Concerned Scientists, from former Commissioner Bradford, and now from Associated Press. I'd say the secret is out.
This is so so dangerous. And it's exactly what led to the lack of earthquake and Tsunami protection, and lack of working back up plans, at Fukushima, Japan.
Find one of Jeff Donn's AP stories here.
Joe Romm at the climateprogress.org blog has a good summary of it too.
REVELATIONS FROM THE BOSTON LIBRARY PANEL Q AND A
The public interest group C-10 Research and Education Foundation is fighting the Seabrook nuclear reactor in New Hampshire.
C-10 set up a panel at the Boston Public Library, June 19th, 2011, with David three experts: nuclear engineer David Lockbaum from the Union of Concerned Scientists, long-time nuclear industry executive Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, and Dr. Richard Clapp, Professor of Environmental Health, at the Boston University School of Public Health.
You will hear a couple of short clips from the You-tube Q and A, courtesy of C-10, and more from the main presentations, thanks to recording by Fairewinds Associates and Turning Tide Productions.
NUCLEAR DANGER IN NEBRASKA
In the radio program, we start with long-time nuclear industry executive Arnie Gundersen on the flooding threat to the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Reactor in late June 2011. It has been surrounded by the flood-waters of the Missouri river.
That may be an under-reported nuclear accident. There was a fire at the reactor last week, and the FAA ordered no fly-overs. Apparently cooling to the heavily stocked spent fuel pool was unavailable for several hours. But I have found no reports of radiation escaping, so far...
Still the plant operators declared a Level Four alert, while denying there was any real problem. Photos of the Fort Calhoun reactor show the site entirely flooded by the Missouri River, although operators claim the actual reactor buildings are still protected by sand bags.
Arnie Gunderdsen of Fairewinds Associates says a record snow-fall in the Rocky Mountains has forced six dams upstream of Fort Calhoun to open their floodways. I believe two of those dams are just earthen dams, rather than concrete. Gundersen says if any of those dams give way, Fort Calhoun will turn into a major nuclear accident. That is how close it is.
Fort Calhoun was previously flooded in 1993, and yet neither the operators or the government have built new levies to protect the plant. More inaction by the NRC, endangering the public.
Now to David Lochbaum from the Union of Concerned Scientists, and remember this is just part of an hour-long catalog of problems at American reactors. I'm expecting a video of the event will appear at the C-10 site. I'll write the group to see if we can get permission to post the audio - although I would also need permission from Turning Tide Productions, who kindly sent me a copy. Thanks!
Right now, you can see various video clips from the Q and A session that followed the panel presentations, and it was really worth your time. Check them out.
Find them at C-10.org
First video 14 minutes.
I've placed a partial transcript and links at the bottom of this post.
* more explanations of limitations on relicensing hearings. No talking about safety!
* industry experts talk about what it would take for the NRC to finally turn down a re-licensing application - which they have never done, no matter the history of leaks, near-misses and known safety problems. Experts agree only a massive failure in the concrete would be too expensive to fix. Maybe that will stop the Seabrook re-licensing in New England, who knows.
* fights against other old reactors in New England, incuding the Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee plants
* a bit on the earthquake prone reactors on the California coast, which I covered in this Radio Ecoshock show.
Thanks for all our listeners who sent in tips, and to the new college and community radio stations joining us this week.
I'm your bearer of bad tidings, Alex Smith. Good for you, for hanging in there. Now let's do something about it.
PARTIAL TRANSCRIPTS FROM THE Q AND A AFTER A PANEL AT BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
First video 14 minutes
In the first question, Dr. Clapp felt New Englanders did not need to take precautions at this time, as the impact of Fukusima fall-out was minimal.
Arnie Gundersen said we will have to watch out for fish that have bioaccumulated radioactive materials, but not for a year or so.
Asked about the re-licensing procedure, David Lochbaum noted no application had ever been turned down, and the process was riddled with limitations and weakness.
THE PILGRIM NUCLEAR POWER STATION IN PLYMOUTH - AGAINST RE-LICENSING
Here is a transcript of that audio, which addresses the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts:
Host, Sandra Gavutis, Executive Director of the C-10 Foundation:
"What is the timeline and process for Pilgrim [nuclear power plant] relicensing, and what are the major issues being considered?"
David Lochbaum: "Pilgrim Watch [public interest group] and the State have intervened in the relicensing. I'm not sure of the exact schedule for the NRC to litigate that proceeding.
The NRC [inaudible] scope in what you can test in license renewal amounts to slightly more than spell-checking.
You cannot contend that there is a terrorist threat to the plant. Even after 911. You can't carry more than 4 ounces of shampoo on a plane, but you can't assume a terrorist will attack Pilgrim. So that's off the table.
You can't challenge spent fuel storage at Pilgrim. It's not part of the game of license renewal.
Some of the issues that Pilgrim watch has raised include buried piping. If you run a pipe through a building, you have to inspect it for aging. If you run it underneath that building, the NRC says you don't have to inspect if or aging. Not the brightest thing we've ever done.
There is also electrical cables that were not designed to be submerged in water that have been submerged in water. The NRC would like commenters to knock that off. It's currently being contested whether that's a good thing, or a bad thing, or a tolerable thing. It's a bad thing.
There's lots of other major issues."
In fact, Pilgrim Watch has raised five issues, despite the severe limitations on what can be talked about when renewing a nuclear plant permit, according to NRC rules.
DIABLO CANYON - THE REACTOR ON A CALIFORNIA FAULT LINE - THE NEXT FUKUSHIMA?
Arnie Gundersen raises the case of Diablo Canyon, where only long-term and loud public action managed to drag the issue of earthquake safety into that power plant's relicensing procedure. Before the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant was destroyed by an earth quake and subsequent tsunami, the NRC did not consider Diablo's location on a known fault line an issue which could be raised. Now a study if finally being done.
David Lochbuam brought up another issue about the way the Nuclear Regulatory Commission assesses risk.
Arnie also says the NRC only assumes wind will blow in one direction, when mapping out possible escaped radiation.
In thw segment on You tube, Arnie Gundersen also dismisses the common argument that a dose of radiation is the same risk as eating a banana. Our bodies recognize and handle banana radiation, whereas human-made materials, like Plutonium or Americium stay in the body, raising the possibility of cancer.
SCARY NIGHT IMAGES FROM FUKUSHIMA DAI-ICHI - NOT EXPLOSIONS OR FIRE
The frightening images of the Fukushima plant at night are explained by Gundersen. He has received video of the reactors that look like explosions. They are not. In the early days of the accident, in March, everyone could see steam and smoke coming from the reactors. It was loaded with radioactive particles.
But as the weather warmed in late April and May, the steam was hardly visible in day-time. It was still there, but did not stand out in the warm moist air. Yet the plant was still releasing lots of radioactive steam. That showed up in the night images, as the air was cooler, and the lights of the plant picked up the steam. We can never see the radioactivity, but we can see the steam that is carrying it at night.
[Note: bloggers like Lucas Whitefield Hixon and Alexander Higgins showed these steam images, with some people suggesting it might be another explosion at the Fukushima site. Gundersen says no.]
PUT THE FUKUSHIMA REACTORS IN TENTS?
David Lochbaum commented on the proposed tent structure, meant to keep some radioactive particles from escaping from the damaged reactors. The radiation has been too high to get workers in to install such a screen, and there are still questions about whether the badly damaged buildings could support it, Lochbaum says.
CLEAN UP COSTS IN JAPAN MAY REACH A QUARTER TRILLION $
Arnie Gundersen estimated the true costs of clean-up, decomissioning and compensation for the Fukushima accident in Japan could reach a quarter of a trillion dollars ($250 billion U.S.).
THE NEW PLANT IN FINLAND - OVER BUDGET AND VERY LATE
There was a discussion of the new nuclear plant being built in Finland. It uses a new design, but has already cost triple the original estimates, and is about five year late in construction. One feature of that plant is a proposed nearby waste storage site in a deep tunnel. Panelists questioned whether rising seas might compromise that tunnel, since the site is near the ocean.
DAVID LOCHBAUM EXPLAINS HOW NRC STOPPED ENFORCING, AFTER FUNDING CUT THREATS BY CONGRESS - HOW ALL GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS FALL INTO NON-ENFORCEMENT, TO HELP BIG BUSINESS...
In a second You tube video, David Lochbaum explains why the NRC does not enforce the regulations. This is a key report, and I transcribed it above.
REACTOR BLACK OUTS IN THE UNITED STATES (JUST LIKE FUKUSHIMA)
In the third video segment, David Lochbaum explains the factors which could cause a nuclear power plant black-out, a total power loss like the one that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear complex.
Sandra Gavutis, C-10 Foundation:
"What kinds of credible events could in an extended station blackout in either of our two nuclear power plants Seabrook or Pilgrim? What measures are in place to respond to station blackouts?"
David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists:
"I'll start this. The grid could go out for a number of reasons. We've lost the Northeast grid in August of 2003 because a tree branch came into contact with a power line. It caused a large portion of the Northeast and Canada to lose power. It affected a number of nuclear power plants.
In June of 1998, a tornado struck the Davis-Besse plant outside of Toledo Ohio, just knocked the transmission towers, destroyed the lines. This inspired the made-for-TV movie "Atomic Twister".
The emergency diesel generators at that plant started and were doing the job, but they failed twenty six hours later - because it was June of 1998. The outside air temperature was 90 plus degrees. If you run a big engine in a room with bad ventilation it overheats. And they proved that once again. It's not worked yet.
So the diesel generators fried 26 hours later, but fortunately they were able to string a temporary power line back in 25 hours. They had one hour overlap between the power being restored and the diesel generators, instead of the other way around.
Most of the scenarios are usually you can have some severe weather act that knocks out the electrical grid. And then the diesel generators fail.
We've had diesel generators fail because they all share a common fuel tank. And we've had water inadvertently put into the fuel tanks. Water and fuel don't mix real well. We've had biological growth in the fuel tanks, damaged the oil.
We've had - Arnie mentioned the service water - we had plants in the Mid-West [inaudible] had its service water fail. The Wolf Creek plant in Kansas had ice on the lake freeze up against the intake structure that supplied the water for the service water pumps - an ice dam basically - that kept the water on the wrong side of safety systems.
So we've had a number of near misses, that a plant did have a loss of the electrical grid, that did have failure of the diesels. We've not yet had the combination where we lose the electrical grid and have the diesel generators fail. But the more times each of those wheels comes up bad, the more likely that they will come up bad at the same time that causes the American Fukushima."
" In 1966, [inaudible] qualified with a relay failure. We were out for two days.
The nightmare scenario is something called the Carrington event, which is a solar flare large enough to knock down the grid in the country. It would damage transformers around the country and it would be about 10 years before the grid could recover.
(Radio Ecoshock covered the solar flare/Carrington event as a civilization killer in this program.)
That would obviously take away the off-site power. The nuclear plants assuming their diesel plants ran could run for about a week until they needed more fuel. And then the question is where would you get the fuel from if the grid is down and the refineries have stopped.
The NRC has been approached by some citizens in either Massachusetts or Maine on that very topic. And Congress has held hearings and I don't think they are making much progress on that.
It happens about every one hundred and fifty years so we don't worry about it."
TEMPORARY WORKERS, SUBCONTRACTOR SAFETY
One of the problems unearthed in the Japanese accident was the widespread use of untrained subcontract workers in nuclear power plants. In many cases, nobody effectively tracked their radiation exposure. Some contracted cancer and radiation sickness, without compensation. Is the same thing happening in America?
Here is another short transcript from the panel presentation at the Boston Public Library June 16th, 2011.
Host Sandra Gavutis, reading an audience question:
"Give the recurring theme that workers failed to evaluate problems in a more than cursory level, and given that human error is often a contributing factor to events, and given that other reports disclose that 87 percent of workers at Fukushima were subcontractors, can you provide at least a broad figure, on an industry-wide basis, as to how much responsibility is delegated to subcontractors in U.S. plants, and what responsibility the NRC has to ensure their qualifications."
David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists:
"The percentage of work done by subcontractors is somewhere in the ballpark of 20 percent to 25 percent at U.S. reactors.
Most of that work is done during refuelling outages when plants bring in truckloads of workers to do a lot of work in a short period of time. So they farm that out to subcontractors.
The NRC tries to ensure that companies use subcontractors that ensure that they are high quality work. That doesn't always lead to successful outcomes.
What we would like to see happen [when work ]was done by normal permanent workers of subcontractors, is that when mistakes are made, the NRC should require them to figure out why that happened. Why that wasn't found in testing after work was done. Why did the failure occur? Why was it?
We do a lot of testing and inspections, why didn't they find those problems?
Some companies have a very successful program of managing that work, in protecting against bad outcomes. They say it's for public safety, but they have a billion dollar that they'd as soon not become a billion dollar liability in a few minutes.
So they try to do it right. Those that don't get the message, that are unsuccessful, we would wish, want the NRC to sanction them, if it does't work right. To get them to follow the example of the companies that are doing it the right way - for all our goods."
Dr. Richard Clapp:
"I have one more to add to that. We were looking for this epididemological feasibility study, looking at populations that we might study, to see whether they have a spectrum of over-exposure.
One of the groups was the refueling workers. I think they are designated as 'jumpers' - a worker that will actually go from one plant to the next. We found out that they don't have good records. In fact some people were working as temporary workers in these refueling operations changed their name.
So they don't have a record that says that that [nuclear exposure] badge they had exceeded the limit.
So we don't even know how to keep track of the right person. Again, the problem of temporary workers is real, it's [not as bad as] some other countries, but it's a real exposure problem."
If quake zones, underground leaks, underwater wiring, and faulty backup are no obstacles to re-licensing, what could finally make the NRC turn down an application to extend nuclear plants for another 20 years, or even order a plant shut down? Experts agree, only one thing: bad concrete.
Host Sandra Gavutis:
"Do you think the concrete degredation problems at Seabrook [nuclear reactor in New England], assuming they continue to worsen, would be likely to derail the re-licensing process?"
"I think the concrete problems are very severe. The NRC is taking them very seriously. I was at an industry conference in Feburary this year . The day we had NRC sponsored about license renewal extending life beyond sixty [years].
But the NRC Chairman was asked, along with every other industry person's focus: What is the Achilles heel? What is the thing that will stop license renewal? When does it stop?
And every answer, every person answered that it was concrete. That was the limiting factor. Some of the other things could be dealt with, but concrete is such a large problem that you can not replace a builiding, economically.
So I sat at that conference, wondering that person after person was saying that, (I'm not really a big concrete person.) But when you see the Seabrook report and how seriously the NRC is taking it, that may be ... they may rue the day they went in for early license renewal... early shut-down."
"They are not the only reactor. Salem has had problems with it. It seems like especially those on the coast, because anybody who has ever been in a parking garage in the Northeast will realize that the salt will eat up the cars parked in the parking garage.
That same thing is happening in nuclear plants, but through salt water [inaudible] from below. So the Seabrooke plant is not alone in that problem."