[Marxism] An escalating crisis in Japan

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 16 07:08:55 MST 2012


Comment: Harvey Wasserman

An escalating crisis in Japan

Harvey Wasserman, a senior advisor to Greenpeace USA, reports on 
the continuing nuclear crisis in Japan--and the implications for 
nuclear power elsewhere.

February 14, 2012

AS THE Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approves a 
construction/operating license for two new reactors in Georgia, 
alarming reports from Japan indicate the Fukushima catastrophe is 
far from over.

Thousands of tons of intensely radioactive spent fuel are still in 
serious jeopardy. Radioactive trash and water are spewing into the 
environment. And nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen reports that 
during the string of disasters following the March 11, 2011, 
earthquake and tsunami, Fukushima 1's containment cap may actually 
have lifted off its base, releasing dangerously radioactive gasses 
and opening a gap for an ensuing hydrogen explosion [1].

There are some two dozen of these Mark I-style containments 
currently in place in the U.S.

Newly released secret emails from the NRC also show its 
commissioners were in the dark about much of what was happening 
during the early hours of the Fukushima disaster. They worried 
that Tokyo might have to be evacuated, and that airborne radiation 
spewing across the Pacific could seriously contaminate Alaska [2].

Reactor pushers have welcomed the NRC's approval of the new 
Westinghouse AP-1000 design for Georgia's Vogtle facility. Two 
reactors operate there now, and the two newly approved ones are 
being funded with $8.3 billion in federally guaranteed loans and 
state-based rate hikes levied in advance of the reactors being 

NRC Chair Gregory Jazcko made the sole no vote on the Vogtle 
license, warning that the proposed time frame would not allow 
lessons from Fukushima to be incorporated into the reactors' 
design [3].

The four commissioners voting to approve have attacked Jaszco in 
front of Congress for his "management style," but this vote 
indicates the problem is certainly more rooted in attitudes toward 
reactor safety.

The approval is the first for a new construction project since 
1978. The debate leading up to it stretched out for years. Among 
other things, the commission raised questions about whether the 
AP-1000 can withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters. 
Even now, the final plans are not entirely complete.

Only two other U.S. reactors--in neighboring South Carolina--are 
even in the pre-construction phase. As in Georgia, South Carolina 
consumers are being forced to pay for the reactors as they are 
being built. Should they not be completed, or suffer disaster once 
they are, the state's ratepayers will be on the hook.

The industry is heralding the Vogtle approval as a major boon to 
the "nuclear renaissance." But it comes alongside the announcement 
that all 17 reactors owned by the Tokyo Electric Company are shut, 
as are all but two of Japan's 50-plus nukes.

Germany has decided to shut all its nukes by 2022. New reactor 
financing in Great Britain is under legal attack, as it is in 
Florida. India has announced that in 2011, it led the world in new 
green energy projects. China has yet to make its future nuclear 
commitments clear in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

And no American utility is readily available to follow in Vogtle's 
path, with operating reactors in Vermont and New York's Indian 
Point under fierce governmental attack. Florida's Crystal River is 
beset by huge bills for faulty repair work, and may be headed for 
permanent shutdown. Both currently licensed reactors at 
California's San Onofre are closed following radioactive leaks, 
and a disturbing pattern of tube holes in newly installed steam 
generators has surfaced at a number of reactors across the U.S.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

BUT THE biggest shock waves this week were caused by Tama 
University Professor Hiroshi Tasaka [4], a key adviser to Prime 
Minister Naoto Kan during the Fukushima disaster.

Warning that Fukushima is "far from over," Tasaka said official 
assurances of the complex's alleged safety were based on 
"groundless optimism." Tasaka cited more than 1,500 fuel rods 
dangerously exposed to the open atmosphere at Unit Four alone. The 
waste problem has gone nationwide, he said in a newly published 
book, as "the storage capacities of the spent fuel pools at the 
nation's nuclear power plants are reaching their limits,"

Tasaka's statements came as a new temperature spike unexpectedly 
stuck Fukushina Unit Two [5]. For reasons not yet clear, heat 
releases in excess of 158 degrees Fahrenheit spewed from the core, 
prompting Tokyo Electric to pump in more water and boric acid 
meant to damp down an apparently ongoing chain reaction. Prof. 
Tasaka and others warn that this in turn will contribute to 
spreading still more radiation into the water table and oceans.

With bitter debate raging in Japan, the U.S. and elsewhere over 
the killing power of Fukushima's emissions, the certification of a 
new U.S. reactor design may someday be remembered as a bizarre 
epitaph for the 20th century's most expensive failed technology.

Without state ratepayers and federal taxpayers being forced to 
foot the bill, new reactor construction in the U.S. is going 
nowhere. And without a final resolution to the ongoing horrors at 
Fukushima, the entire planet, from Tokyo to Alaska to Georgia and 
beyond, remains at serious radioactive risk.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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     [3] http://nukefree.org/nrc-votes-4-1-vogtle-ap-1000-construction
     [6] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0

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