it’s rare, but it does happen …

… occasionally. While the Japanese are still trying, and struggling mightily with all kinds of problems, to mop up the Fukushima mess, the whole business of nuclear power generation goes largely unreported in the US mainstream media.

But every once in a while that’s not true, and they do a halfway decent job of raising questions that seriously need raising. There are a couple of pieces here on 9thousandfeet about the problem of aging plants here in the US that are the same design at those in Japan, most of them now well past their design shelf-life, but whose operating licenses keep getting renewed. Rubber stamped, really.

Here’s a fairly decent piece by CNN which discusses this, and also the nefarious and misleading nonsense that the plant operators often release in response not only to public requests for information, but also to requests from supposed regulatory agencies. Agencies, as this piece shows, that are no more interested in fulfilling their mission — ostensibly to ensure safe operations and protect the US public — than anyone else.

The end result is always the same. Some wretched functionary comes across looking like a duplicitous dick, as here. Because that’s what he is, and that’s the way this game is played. Beyond a doubt, it will require a serious malfunction somewhere for this problem to be taken seriously.

Government officialdom, and political candidates (mostly men, as I never tire of pointing out), are too busy being all up in women’s uteri to be bothered by shit like this;

22 Responses to it’s rare, but it does happen …

  1. NatashaFatale says:

    Maybe this kneejerk comment will do a little more good than it usually does.

    For sixty-five years, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has engaged in a quixotic public argument against the various ways that we’re most likely to incinerate ourselves using nuclear energy. I mention this now because for that whole span of time they’ve been publishing, as they still do, article after article about the stuff raised by this uncharacteristic outburst of faux CNN-style responsibly.

    But if you go there, they will ask you to contribute. You really should if you can.

    Here’s their site. You can read a lot of it for free.

    Here’s a suggestive but inadequate summary of what they’ve been doing these many years.

  2. MadameMax says:

    Fairly accurate report, except no mention of the details of the litigation. I don’t understand all the ins and outs, but when NRC renewed the license, overruling the legislature which had voted to close the plant down, the State’s suit could not be based, at all, on safety considerations but rather only on whether the State legislature has the right to close the plant. I believe one court threw out the case, ruling that the issue IS safety. There’s an appeal underway. Even if there was proof that the plant was going to melt down next week, that could not be used in the appeal.

    Off the topic: Is that normal attire for a professional reporter doing serious interviews with other professionals? Do the male reporters wear skin-tight jeans and knee-high boots? I’m not surprised the NRC guy didn’t take her seriously. She looked and acted like a bimbo.

  3. KevinNevada says:

    Some points on this.

    1. I did not know that any of the reactor type that failed at Fukushima were used here. News reports concerning the Japanese disaster led us all to believe otherwise. 22 of the damn things is 22 too many. That is a poor design.
    2. I am not surprised that we have been misled. Not one bit.

    3. That reporter does need to present herself better, as something more professional than a college J-school exercise. That is between her, and CNN.

    4. We will not incinerate ourselves with these plants. If one fails, badly we will be poisoned. Yeah, I know, picky picky.

    5. This is the same agency, the NRC, that right now is being stopped from proceeding with the Yucca Mountain fiasco – 90 miles upwind of where I sit, at this second. Pres. Obama has kept his word regarding this, as he damned well better considering that he promised our Harry Reid to halt the project.
    The GOP candidates made it clear that they would proceed with Yucca Mtn. again, if elected.

  4. Cochise says:

    This is the same agency, the NRC, that right now is being stopped from proceeding with the Yucca Mountain fiasco


    Any idea who came up with that hole in the ground with a fault running through it? For how many billion- trillion?

    Random political theory
    Deep space has a reason and rhythm to it that includes a random chaotic element. Being made up of the same elements might there be a sub-conscience random chaotic force at work here as well?

    Would not surprise me.

  5. KevinNevada says:


    the Screw Nevada Bill was authored by former Sen. Domenici, R., NM. It was put through by a coalition of Congresscritters from states that have nuclear plants – to bury the waste in a state with no such power plants.

    Not one.

    They told us, at first, that the mountain is “impermeable” to water. Fact is, the rock is sandstone and it is very permeable, and sits above a aquifer the extent of which is unknown.

    And the damned thing is 90 miles upwind of two million people, including me, and my good wife.

    Oh, I could go on.

  6. MadameMax says:

    We here in Vermont had some serious concerns back in August with the Irene flooding because we’ve known ever since Fukushima that Vermont Yankee was the same design. Of course not just here in Vermont; some residents of Massachusetts and New Hampshire are closer to that plant than I am.

    I don’t know why Bill Sorrell was being so cutesy in that clip. The executives of Entergy LIED in testimony before the legislature when they said there were no underground pipes.

    There’s been one mishap after another for years at that place. The NRC is corrupt.

  7. Bluthner says:


    Has anyone yet come up with an alternative use for the Yucca Mountain site? Must be good for something.

    Me I don’t mind that the journalist dressed like a slouchy member of the public. She wouldn’t have made any more headway in a suit and after all it’s the slouchy public who are going to get poisoned (indeed, not incinerated) when the plant malfunctions catastrophically.

    Also it might actually get apathetic members of the slouchy public to keep watching long enough to figure out how badly they are being treated….

  8. Di-Ohso says:

    Atomic plants going tits up scares me. When I heard on the radio that the Russian plant at Chernobyl had blown up and released a cloud of radiation across Europe and beyond, I went cold.
    We had heavy rainfull in some parts of the UK at the time, and there were areas where the land was heavily polluted. For many years farmers were paid when their animals went to slaughter but the meat wasn’t allowed on the market. Not sure if there are still restrictions.
    I read about families that were out in the rain at the time but were ignorant of what had happened. They must have got a heavy dose of radiation. I’m pretty sure it was all played down.
    I read recently that radiation from the Japanese plants was carried over a huge area…

  9. Bluthner says:


    I think the last restrictions on eating livestock were recently lifted. And being out in the rain probably wouldn’t affect anyone significantly. the worry is ingestion of plants which absorbed the fallout. So things like spinach, or the grasses/lichens etc that the sheep & reindeer were eating. In the UK at least I think whatever was there has been deemed to have leeched away.

    I was in Greece at the time, not reading papers or listening to radio or in any contact with the outside world, so went on eating the locally grown salad regardless. In theory a bad idea, but probably not much of an actual threat.

  10. Di-Ohso says:


    For me the fact you can’t actually see it is the thing of nightmares.

    It was the first and [so far] only time I’ve been really scared for my kids.

  11. KevinNevada says:

    D and B:

    I too was in England for that wonderful Chernobyl event. The Sunday that the cloud passed the UK I was playing softball on Ealing Common. I remember that the press carried the soothing statement that the “risk was minimal”.

    Hey, it may even be true. The rain would actually help. I did take a careful shower when I got home.

    There are three forms of radiation:

    Alpha particles, basically the nuclei of helium, so heavy that they cannot cause much harm. They can be blocked by one sheet of paper. Or clothes.

    Beta radiation, basically speedy little electrons flying free. They can be blocked by anything that conducts, so those tinfoil hats really can do some good.

    And Gamma radiation, high energy photons, that is the stuff that requires a pool of water, or a useful thickness of lead, to stop it. Flesh just absorbs damage. The best solution to being near a gamma emitter is to run away. Fast.

    Most of the isotopes in radioactive fallout, like the crud from Chernobyl or what is still spewing from Fukishima will be breaking down, as such atoms do and emitting either alpha or beta particles. The risk comes if you ingest one, and it is an element that your body can absorb into a compound inside, so it stays and emits that radiation inside you.

    Isotopes like strontium-90, that can mimic calcium in your bones and so hang around, those
    are scary.

    I hope this helps. Please remain calm. Officials are aware of what is going on.

  12. Bluthner says:


    There is a comforting fact that might help allay your anxieties – and yes, because it’s invisible it hits us where we feel as if we can’t fight back except with fear- After Hiroshima and Nagasaki the populations of those cities (who survived) were monitored. And a strange thing happened. Those who did not die (often terrible deaths) in the first year tended to live, on average ten years longer than the general population of Japan. And that is from a very large sample.

    The theory is that living organisms respond to certain levels of stress by actually becoming stronger. It’s not, as N. said, anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, it’s anything that only hurts you so much and no more actually really does make you stronger. There is even a name for this phenomenon, but just this moment I’ve forgotten it.

    Even after Chernobyl, if you weren’t one of the incredibly brave firefighters or others who exposed themselves or were exposed to doses of radiation that killed you rather quickly, or one of the children who were allowed to drink milk from cows in the region afterwards, you probably were not permanently harmed.

    Which is not a reason at all to be lax in any way with nuclear power, not at all, but rather I suggest it as a reason not to allow things that have already happened to make you feel anxious.

  13. Di-Ohso says:

    Expat and Bluthner:

    Thank you both. You know the expression went cold with fear…That’s what I did that day, and with the fear wondered what ever sort of a diseased world we were subjecting our children to.

    I did watch a programme [On BBC I think] a while back about Chernobyl and the people and animals that still lived in the ‘hot’ zone.
    There was a scientist who grew his own vegetables and ate them. Evidently some vegetables are more susceptible than others. Also some animals were showing more ill effects than others. Due if I remember rightly to the sort of vegetation they ate….

  14. Di-Ohso says:

    Sorry, I meant Kevnev and Bluthner:

  15. Bluthner says:


    And of all the men who actually hands on fabricated the plutonium parts for the first atom bombs -I think there were 20 odd guys involved, and no health and safety to speak of: they used to put their hands on the metal itself to feel the strange warmth- out of all of them two did in fact die young of very rare cancers, but the others all lived into old age, some of them advanced old age, with no discernible effect.

  16. KevinNevada says:


    Yes, it does happen. :-)

    The four remaining members of the GOP Carnival Parade all said negative things regarding Yucca Mountain, before and during the NV Caucuses of Feb. 4. Ron Paul was probably sincere, he is a serious states-rights guy and has been consistent on that.

    Gingrich waffled a bit, said (correctly) that we do need a solution for the existing waste. I did not see a firm commitment from him on this issue.

    Frothy pretended to be against the repository, but who knows? Pennsylvania and Virginia have these plants, and Nevada’s six electoral votes would be critical to his chances of winning, which are slim anyway. We could easily be betrayed by Frothy, as we were by Dubya.

    And as for Willard the Weasel, I trust nothing he says. Who can? Now that we are beyond that caucus event, new opportunities to pander will arise.

  17. Di-Ohso says:

    Am I right though, that a large number of British servicemen that were involved in Atomic testing [Christmas Island?] fell ill with all sorts of cancers but it took years for government to recognise and compensate them…

  18. KevinNevada says:


    the atomic testing caused a host of cancers in many places.

    That is the history that is at the core of opposition to Yucca Mtn. here in southern Nevada and Utah. Back when open-air testing was going on, people were told that the risk from the dust was minimal. Workers at the site were told there would be minimal risk to their health.

    The cancer history of this region puts the lie to all that.

    It even affected the chest-thumping patriot’s favorite actor, John Wayne. He was doing location shots in south Utah when a test went off. They were dusted. In subsequent years, Wayne, the director, most of the crew and the rest of the cast endured an major wave of cancers. Stomach cancer killed the Duke.

  19. KevinNevada says:

    More on the film “The Conquerer”, from Wikipedia, which summarizes it well:

    The exterior scenes were shot on location near St. George, Utah, 137 miles (220 km) downwind of the United States government’s Nevada Test Site. In 1953, extensive above-ground nuclear weapons testing occurred at the test site, as part of Operation Upshot-Knothole. The cast and crew spent many difficult weeks on location, and in addition [Howard] Hughes later shipped 60 tons of dirt back to Hollywood in order to match the Utah terrain and lend verisimilitude to studio re-shoots.
    The filmmakers knew about the nuclear tests but the federal government reassured residents that the tests caused no hazard to public health.
    Director Dick Powell died of cancer in January 1963, seven years after the film’s release. Pedro Armendáriz was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 1960, and committed suicide in 1963 after he learned his condition had become terminal. Hayward, Wayne, and Moorehead all died of cancer in the 1970s. Cast member actor John Hoyt died of lung cancer in 1991. Skeptics point to other factors such as the wide use of tobacco — Wayne and Moorehead in particular were heavy smokers. The cast and crew totaled 220 people.
    By 1981, 91 of them had developed some form of cancer and 46 had died of the disease. Several of Wayne and Hayward’s relatives also had cancer scares as well after visiting the set. Michael Wayne developed skin cancer, his brother Patrick had a benign tumor removed from his breast and Hayward’s son Tim Barker had a benign tumor removed from his mouth. [8][9]
    Dr. Robert Pendleton, professor of biology at the University of Utah, stated, “With these numbers, this case could qualify as an epidemic. The connection between fallout radiation and cancer in individual cases has been practically impossible to prove conclusively. But in a group this size you’d expect only 30-some cancers to develop. With 91, I think the tie-in to their exposure on the set of The Conqueror would hold up in a court of law.”

    For anyone who understands statistics, 91 instead of 30 is a significant difference. That really does rule out other factors in this case.

  20. Bluthner says:

    Again, to alleviate Di’s anxiety, those bomb tests were categorically more dangerous than a reactor meltdown, even one as bad as Chernobyl. Even categorically more dangerous than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is astonishing that anyone involved thought it was a sane thing to do. We even detonated five bombs in ‘outer space’ which is to say not so high that they didn’t destroy satellites and form radiation belts in the upper atmosphere.

  21. Bluthner says:

    Sorry, that they DID destroy satellites…

  22. Leigh says:

    Good points, Kevin and Bluthner, but please don’t forget the radiation released making plutonium for those bomb tests. That stuff was made at the Hanford reactor in eastern Washington, and I think its still the most contaminated US nuclear site. A lot of us who grew up downwind from Hanford are now sick with serious thyroid disease, from eating and drinking stuff covered with fallout.

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