[Marxism] Nuclear Energy Causes Global Warming

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 23 21:08:01 MDT 2010

DW wrote:
> So...what does this all mean? Well, for starters, we ought to have a serious
> open ocean regulatory authority like the NRC has with nuclear: completely
> financed by fees levied on oil extraction (a national oil excise tax to
> start wouldn't be bad).

You really are a joke. Do you come up with this stuff on your own or is 
this the Lambertiste education you got?


And then there's corrosion, the most obvious culprit in the 
near-meltdown in 2002 caused by a hole in the nuclear reactor's pressure 
vessel lid at the Davis-Besse plant near Toledo, Ohio. As the NRC itself 
found, as reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

     The gaping rust hole found in 2002 in the lid of the Northwest Ohio 
reactor was the fifth-most dangerous situation at an American nuclear 
plant in the last quarter century, according to a new government analysis.

     In a report issued Monday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission put 
the odds of a core meltdown of some kind at the FirstEnergy Corp. 
facility during the year before the rust hole's discovery at 6 in 1,000.

     That's about the same chance of winning the Ohio Lottery's 
twice-daily Pick 3 wheel bet ...

     A Davis-Besse near miss in 1985 ranked at No. 2 in significance, 
just behind the infamous partial meltdown at Pennsylvania's Three-Mile 
Island in 1979.

     In the months leading to the accidental discovery of the rust hole, 
Davis-Besse was 100 times more likely to have a core-damaging nuclear 
accident than had it been well-maintained, according to the report.

But it was the NRC's indifferent oversight and caving in to the 
utility's demand for delayed inspections that contributed to the near 
catastrophe, Gunter, the GAO, and other critics have found. As Gunter 
summed it up in a 2002 report:

     First Energy, an Ohio electric utility, drove its deteriorating 
Davis-Besse nuclear power station dangerously close to a catastrophic 
accident it was revealed today. Moreover, the Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission (NRC) capitulated to First Energy pressure to delay 
inspections of a vital safety component beyond a requested December 31, 
2001 deadline in order to accommodate the industry rather than force an 
early shutdown to conduct inspections on deteriorating equipment.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) then asked for a thorough GAO report on 
the incident, issued in 2004, and he blasted the agency that's now 
supposed to protect the public when even more nuclear plants are 
proposed to be built:

      "The General Accounting Office (GAO) Report highlights shocking, 
serious and dangerous systemic problems at the Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission (NRC). Problems that call into question whether the agency 
can, as it is currently run, continue to perform its most fundamental 
functions-to protect public safety. This report reveals failures at 
almost every rung of the bureaucratic ladder at the NRC.

     "The crisis at Davis-Besse is the most serious safety issue to face 
a commercial nuclear power plant since Three Mile Island. The GAO report 
shows that the NRC was ill equipped, ill informed and far too slow to 
react. The NRC's reaction to Davis-Besse was inadequate, irresponsible 
and left the public at grave risk."

And despite a series of GAO reports that found a broader, failed 
"culture of safety" at the NRC, an agency funded 90 percent by fees from 
nuclear power plants, the changes so far have been largely cosmetic at 
best, critics say.

Indeed, the agency, according to Kucinich and other observers, initially 
ignored and discounted the GAO report about its failed oversight at 
Davis-Besse, even as federal investigators pursued a criminal inquiry 
into cover-ups by FirstEnergy officials, and the company eventually paid 
over $30 million in fines. As the Toledo Blade reported after a 
FirstEnergy engineer received probation last year for his role in the 

     FirstEnergy Corp., the nuclear plant's owner-operator, has paid a 
record $33.5 million in fines to settle civil and criminal probes that 
were undertaken after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was talked out 
of executing an emergency shutdown order it had prepared for Davis-Besse 
in the fall of 2001.

     The NRC correctly diagnosed something was amiss at Davis-Besse, but 
had no idea the plant's old reactor head was weeks away from bursting 
and allowing radioactive steam to form in containment of a US nuclear 
plant for the first time since the half-core meltdown of the Three Mile 
Island Unit 2 reactor in 1979.

     A crisis was barely averted when the plant was shut down on Feb. 
16, 2002, six weeks later than what the NRC had originally proposed.

But the NRC was hardly just a well-meaning agency duped by wily 
engineers at FirstEnergy. As Gunter and others have chronicled, the NRC 
overruled its own staff that had found numerous safety regulation 
violations that created a potentially hazardous condition.

A little over two years ago, one of the agency's most well-informed 
critics, nuclear engineer David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned 
Scientists, gave the agency in devastating Congressional testimony a 
failing grade on such major functions as effective and timely enforcement.

"The NRC today is very much like FirstEnergy was when the depths of the 
problems at Davis-Besse were discovered," he said, while ticking off 
safety fiascoes, like leaks and electrical misfires, at other major 
nuclear utility companies. He noted that fixing the problems at these 
risky companies involved bringing in senior managers from outside the 
company and totally overhauling the negligent safety culture in the firms.

"But while the NRC suffers from the same chronic performance malaise, it 
has never received the same treatment. Thus while Davis-Besse and others 
are operating today at higher performance levels than in their problem 
years, the NRC remains at the same level it has been at for the past 
decades. No better, no worse, no excuse," he said. As a result, the 
NRC's failings contribute to the ongoing dangers posed by nuclear plants 
found by the Union of Concerned Scientists in its prescient report, 
“Nuclear Power in a Warming World.”

Surprisingly, the NRC recently hired Lochbaum - which could be a sign 
that the agency is, at long last, taking reform seriously, or just 
seeking to co-opt one of its most effective critics.

More recently, the NRC's own inspector general found that in reviewing 
requests to extend operating licenses for another 20 years, the agency 
too often used the industry's own slipshod inspections and essentially 
passed them off as the NRC's own work. "They plagiarized the companies' 
inspections," says Gunter, adding, "The agency staff has renewed 32 
nuclear power plant sites around the country totaling 59 reactor units. 
Only the Yankee Rowe nuclear power station, the original license renewal 
pilot plant, did not get NRC approval and instead closed because the 
operator could not demonstrate that the plant could go another 20 years" 
without concerns about an embrittled reactor vessel.

The inspector general found that not only did the NRC destroy working 
documents it used in making renewal decisions, but it also reported: 
"The identical or nearly identical word-for-word repetition of renewal 
application text found in the [NRC's] audit, inspection, or safety 
evaluation reports are not offset or otherwise marked to indicate the 
text is identical to that found in the license renewal application. A 
reader could conclude that they were reading NRC's independent analysis 
and conclusions when, in fact, it was the licensee's conclusions. 
[Emphasis added.]

In response to such criticisms, a spokesperson for the NRC responded in 
an email to Truthout, "The NRC's Inspector General found that the 
agency's license renewal program is technically sound, and the NRC staff 
have made procedural changes to ensure the agency more clearly describes 
its findings regarding renewal applications."

Regardless of all the safety, health, financial and regulatory alarms 
raised by critics, it still seems likely that the nuclear industry 
itself will play a decisive role in shaping the ongoing embrace of 
nuclear power by Congress and the Obama administration. Mitch Singer, a 
spokesperson for the Nuclear Energy Institute, told Truthout proudly 
it's not spin or ad dollars that's sold nuclear power to Washington: 
"It's the truth that wins out over advertising."

Or at least the "truth" about nuclear power as accepted by Washington 
insiders, with most environmental groups going along - regardless of the 
consequences to the public.

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