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come to contradictory conclusions. A major study that sought to make sense of all the other studies was conducted in 2008 by Virginia Tech and University of Singapore professor Benjamin Sovacool. His conclusion is that nuclear power is responsible for about six times the carbon emissions of wind power, and 2-3 times the carbon emissions of various types of solar power technologies. At such a disparity in carbon emissions, nuclear should not qualify as a “clean energy” technology even based only on carbon releases, much less other pollutants. The Nuclear Fuel Chain Is Necessary For Nuclear Reactors, And Polluting Nuclear reactors cannot, of course, operate without uranium fuel. In that respect, nuclear power is much more like fossil fuels, which are extracted from the earth, than like renewable power, which produces energy from natural and omnipresent phenomena like wind and the sun. Mining uranium, processing it, milling it, enriching it and producing uranium fuel pellets from gaseous enriched uranium is both carbon-intensive and dirty business at every step of the way. Perhaps the dirtiest part of this lengthy process is the mining, which, like coal mining, leaves massive quantities of “tailings” that are often left either as mountainous piles, or as slag in “empoundments” that pose substantial threats to miners, local communities, and to the larger environment.
Most uranium used nowadays by U.S. reactors is — like oil — imported. While renewable energy sources are secure as long as the sun shines and the wind blows, nuclear power, like other technologies requiring extraction of fuel, remains an insecure means of power production, dependent on the whims of other nations. Nuclear Power And Water Pollution Nuclear power’s pollution of our nation is not limited to releases of radioactive materials. Nuclear reactors are also responsible for significant damage to marine environments and diversion of increasingly scarce water supplies. Nuclear reactors require vast amounts of water for cooling their red-hot nuclear cores as well as simply to produce electricity. Those with cooling towers take in some 20,000 gallons per minute of water from rivers, lakes, or oceans. Reactors without cooling towers, which use “once-through” cooling systems, take up to 500,000 gallons per minute of water before spewing it back out again. When the water comes out and is discharged back to its source, it is five to ten degrees warmer than it was when it went in. This causes havoc among marine environments. The huge amount of water taken in, and the rate at which its taken, also results in massive fish kills at reactors that use once-through cooling systems — often numbering in the billions of fish and fish eggs per year at a single reactor.
Today, there are 104 nuclear power stations in the country, which supply 20 percent of our electricity needs but they produce dozens and dozens of harmful emissions, some emissions that are totally beyond our ability to control as we’ve learned from Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now the Japanese disaster pictured above and below.
Because of the widespread contamination and health effects caused by uranium mining on its land in the Southwest, for example, the Navajo Nation has banned any more uranium mining. But 500 to 1300 abandoned uranium mines from the Cold War era remain on its land awaiting cleanup. At one mine abandoned years ago near Cameron, Arizona, for example, the EPA found in November 2010 that radiation levels were higher than its equipment could measure. Clean-up estimates for the hundreds of abandoned mines run into the many hundreds of millions of dollars. Enriching uranium 235 from the mined and milled uranium is enormously energy intensive and creates long lasting, deadly solid, liquid and gaseous wastes. Similarly, at the end of the fuel chain, after nuclear reactors split atoms, making them millions of times more radioactive, radioactive waste is generated for which there is no known permanent isolation from the environment. Efforts are underway to release some “low-level” radioactive waste—radioactive metal, concrete, soil, wood, chemical, plastic and other nuclear waste into the everyday commercial recycling supply and consumer goods.
Further, because the water discharged is so much hotter than the water taken in, it can cause problems downstream for other industrial uses, and even civilian public drinking water uses. Finally, when evaporated in cooling towers, or made unusable through heating, water use by reactors can use up a significant amount of municipal and regional water supplies. This will become increasingly important in coming years, as the Department of Energy already has predicted droughts in about 2/3 of the United States over the next decade. Electricity generation and agriculture are the two predominant consumers of water in the U.S., and nuclear power is by far the largest consumer among electricity producers. No assessment has yet been conducted as to the effects on water supplies, especially drinking water supplies, of the kind of major reactor construction endeavor including nuclear power in a “clean energy standard” would seek to encourage. In France, which obtains nearly 80% of its electricity from nuclear power, summer heat waves in recent years — which increased river water temperatures to the point reactors could not legally use the water for cooling
— forced reactors to close at the exact time electricity was most needed for residential cooling. But France had no back-up supplies of electricity to provide that cooling. In the summer of 2003, thousands of people died because of the heat and related blackouts. But it’s not just a French problem: in recent years in the U.S., reactors, such as those at the Browns Ferry complex in Alabama, have been forced to close or reduce power because of rising river temperatures. In an era of global warming, it is folly to encourage new reactor construction without a thorough, scientific assessment of water availability for reactor operation, taking into account drinking water needs. Conclusion No source of electricity generation is absolutely “clean.” Every source requires use of resources, some of which are toxic. Every source of electricity results in some level of carbon emissions. The only “clean” electricity is the electricity that is not used. Ensuring the use of energy as efficiently as possible should be the number one goal of any “clean energy standard.” Nuclear power, compared to the viable renewable alternatives like wind, solar, geothermal, etc, coupled with smart grids, distributed generation and other 21st century energy technologies, does not even come close to “clean.” Nuclear power releases toxic radiation on a routine basis; it is not carbon-free — its carbon footprint is substantially higher than its competitors; it uses far more water in an era of water scarcity; it requires a vast and polluting nuclear fuel chain simply to function. Inclusion of nuclear power in a Clean Energy Standard would make a mockery of the concept. Moreover, although beyond the scope of this paper, nuclear power’s enormous costs and typical reactor size would discourage use of genuinely clean, safe and affordable renewable technologies were nuclear chosen as a means of meeting a “clean energy standard.”
The United States wants, needs and deserves clean energy. Nuclear power does not fit the bill.
Three Mile Island
The Three Mile Island accident was a partial core meltdown in Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania near Harrisburg, United States in 1979. It was the most significant accident in the history of the US nuclear power generating industry, resulting in the release of an admitted 481 PBq (13 million curies) of radioactive gases, and 740 GBq (20 curies) of the particularly dangerous iodine-131, as far as we know.
The Lasting Fallout of a Nuclear Meltdown’s Data Gaps by Alexis Madrigal Thirty years ago, half the core of a reactor at the Three Mile Island nuclear complex melted down, but government officials and the utility running the place didn’t know that. And they wouldn’t know for six more years. In fact, as the crisis extended from its start on March 28, 1979, the amount of information available about the nature of the accident remained slim. Key pieces of data were missing. Nobody knew exactly what was happening inside the containment vessel and, more importantly, what was coming out of it. The sensors designed to measure radioactive release were overwhelmed. The limitations of data collection and computation made precise predictions and good decisions difficult to make. As intermittent emissions of radioactive gas tumbled into the sky, the uncertainty about how severe the accident had been rose with them. The information vacuum didn’t just impact what was happening on the ground during that frightening week. It has rippled down through time as the debate over what the Three Mile Island accident meant to society became clouded with doubts over what actually happened out in the Susquehanna River. Both pro- and anti-nuclear groups used the accident to illustrate their points, but material facts about the reactor’s core were still coming out six years after the partial meltdown. “The instrumentation that was put in that plant and in several other plants at the same time, was not designed to handle the scope, the scale of the release that happened at that plant. Even though it was small, it was beyond the range of the instruments that were in the containment vessel,” said Tom Sullivan, a former Livermore scientist who helped respond to the disaster. “So, what happened is that the accident moved into the realm of the unknown and as soon as that happened people started to imagine things.” If a Three Mile Island-like accident happened today, we have a datacenter-full of new capabilities to assess any damage. The accident, in part, called into being a new force within the Department of Energy: a group of meteorologists whose sole job is to model how dangerous particles from anything from nuclear fallout to chemical explosions will cross a landscape. Headquartered at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center is an under-appreciated link in our chain of defenses against nuclear and chemical accidents or attacks. We only truly built its capability in the aftermath of the worst nuclear power accident in American history. In one of the most underrated outcomes of the disaster, Three Mile Island confirmed the value of having better data, and the geeks who could understand it. Without it, the authorities found themselves scrambling. The utility was trying to figure out what had gone wrong. The public was fearful and angry. The government was in damage-control mode. Everyone wanted to know the thing that no one could provide: Exactly how much of the tasteless, odorless, invisible radiation was released and where was it heading? The impact of the confusion would have much longer-lasting impacts than anyone could have imagined. Walter Cronkite led off the CBS Evening News broadcast by delivering the bad news to the world. “The world has never known a day quite like today,” he said from beneath his bushy eyebrows. “It faced the considerable uncertainties and dangers of the worst nuclear power plant accident of the atomic age.” Those words reflected the terror that a fundamentally new kind of danger had entered the world, one that we manifestly were not prepared to measure. Into the data vacuum rushed fear and DOE staff. Marv Dickerson, another former Livermore scientist, got the call in the United Red Carpet Room at O’Hare Airport. “We cleared out an area and started work right there in the airport,” Dickerson said. Shortly thereafter, he was on a plane bound for Harrisburg, where he’d become intimately involved in the response to the accident, briefing decision makers. Meanwhile, Sullivan headed back to Livermore to crank out calculations based on the data that was beginning to flow into the system. They pushed everyone else off the Lab’s computers and started working. The setup back then was crude. “The big computers were at the other end of the lab, and we had no electronic connections. People would run back
and forth with a big reel of tape,” Sullivan said, recalling a time when memory was stored in BPI, or bits per inch of tape. “We would run it from the big computers to the little computers we had that would then make [a map] that we would make a hard copy of, hand label, and put in a fax machine. Talk about primitive.” Even with that ’70s setup, which is about as foreign to us now as a polyester leisure suit, they were able to produce a rudimentary model of the release in Harrisburg, but it was missing some key details. “When we first responded to Three Mile Island, we didn’t even have topography in the model,” Sullivan said. “Basically it was a Flat Earth Society model. We were very worried about that. The first 48 hours, we probably put in 24 man hours trying to get the topography into the little grid.” There was no accounting for turbulence, and the resolution wasn’t too high, either. But their projections were still immensely valuable in guiding the measurement taking of helicopters and ground crews. At Livermore’s modern NARAC facility, they are several orders of magnitude more precise in their calculations now, and they’ve responded to more than 150 events. What used to take hours now takes minutes. Real-time data availability might not have headed off the divisive clash over what happened at Three Mile Island, but it would have helped protect citizens while providing a common basis for argument over the atomic energy’s risks. As it was, the confusion made having a real conversation about the meaning of the accident at Three Mile Island’s second reactor impossible. While the accident was certainly not as bad as the darkest fears of some, it turned out to be considerably worse than industry and government officials believed (or let on) at first.
prevailed a little too well in this case. For a while in the early 1980s, nuclear power industry officials maintained that no melting had occurred — and that was a major reason for claiming the coverage of the affair was overblown. “Little, if any, fuel melting occurred, even though the reactor core was uncovered. The safety systems functioned reliably,” said D.B. Trauger, a nuclear engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, at an engineering conference eight months after the accident. “Based on the conservative licensing analyses, the core was subjected to conditions that would have produced a total melt…. This accident has revealed that reactors are orders of magnitude safer than previously assumed.” In fact, it took excavation of the containment vessel in the mid-’80s to glimpse the true extent of the damage. What workers found was shocking. The Washington Post’s Three Mile Island timeline summarized the new severity estimates, “Core temperatures reached 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit; as much as 50 percent of the fuel melted.” On the other hand, fears of massive radiation releases and increased cancer, though they continue to surface, have not played out. No one died from the initial accident and the official line is that no deaths can be statistically attributed to the radiation released in the area. In other words, both sides got pieces of the story right, but neither of them could have known exactly what was happening at the time of the event. What’s more unclear was the impact that TMI had on the nuclear industry as a whole. The public reaction to the accident was clearly real, but Three Mile Island’s importance could be overestimated. While it’s true no new nuclear plant has been built since the accident, the industry’s problems began years earlier, and the chief reason for its declining
Tens of thousands of protesters took part in a huge anti-nuclear rally as the first shipment of waste in two years was slowed on its way back to Germany. The transport has become a tense political issue this year due to anger over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to extend the lifespan of Germany’s 17 nuclear power plants (since rescinded in the wake of the Japanese disaster) in the face of overwhelming public opposition. A convoy of trains transporting the waste was held up for hours by an earlier demonstration near the German-French border when thousands of activists blocked the tracks. momentum in the United States was economic.
Richard Lyons, reporting on the front page of The New York Times, wrote that John G. Herbein, Metropolitan Edison vice president, said “that the mishap was not all that unusual in his eyes since similar accidents had happened ‘two or three times’ to the first reactor unit at the plant that opened in 1974. But he conceded that there was one major difference: the leak of contaminated water into the building next to the reactor this time.” It’s clear, in retrospect, that Herbein didn’t really understand what had happened in the three-month old reactor. “It was a bit of an engineering nightmare because they didn’t understand how the plant was functioning at that time,” Sullivan said. At first, utility and government officials contended that only 180 or maybe 360 of the 36,000 containment rods had melted. Those numbers were up to 9,000 rods shortly after the accident, but the cooler heads
The myth continues, though, because it serves everyone to blame the nuclear industry’s problems on the meltdown and subsequent increased anti-nuclear power protests. Environmental groups get to claim victory in slowing nuclear construction projects and the nuclear power industry gets to blame their failure to fulfill the promise of “the nuclear age” on the irrational response to a “minor” accident. But the industry was showing major signs of weakness before the accident. Plants were turning out to be expensive and taking exceedingly long times to build. There was (and remains) no solution for the long-term storage
of radioactive waste. And the public had already begun to lose trust in the government-industrial complex to regulate itself adequately. On Feb. 27, 1979, two months before the accident, influential New York Times columnist, Tom Wicker, noted the trouble the industry was having, particularly with the credibility of its safety assessments. “Now the industry is paying the price in reduced public support and confidence and a nuclear energy construction program slowed almost to a standstill,” Wicker wrote. Regulators had touted a landmark 1975 safety study, which Marcus Rowden, a Nuclear Regulatory commissioner said showed “the risks from potential nuclear accidents would be comparable to those from meteorites.” But as doubts continued to surface about the report’s methodology and intellectual independence, the NRC was forced to back away from the report. Later, a 1982 report found that the old safety study had underestimated the risk of a nuclear accident by a factor of 20. Perhaps, if there is a nuclear renaissance, the increase in our computational power and the commitment to transparency that the Obama government espouses will create a more rational national discourse about the atomic age (I’m laughing here). The New York Times opinion page, in the wake of Three Mile Island, actually struck exactly the right tone in its critique of the industry, “Credibility Meltdown.” “For years, the industry and its supporters in Government and elsewhere have insisted that nuclear energy is safe. Relatively speaking, they are right. But under the pressure of emotional protests, the nuclear spokesmen have gone further. Nuclear power, they have proclaimed, is The Answer; it is not just reasonably safe but comfortingly so; a serious accident is a million-to-one shot,” they wrote. The truth be told, we have these million-to-one shot’s less then every 20 years and between 3-Mile Island, Chernobyl and the current problems in Japan we’re adding to the total radiation burden of the civilian population of the world. In the near future and at this rate the planet will eventually be uninhabitable.
United in discontent: An aerial view shows the scale of the anti-nuclear protest in Dannenberg, Germany Merkel urged those taking part in the rally to refrain from committing criminal acts while attempting to stop the convoy of 11 train cars carrying 154 tonnes of waste. The waste transported on Saturday originated in Germany and was reprocessed at the French nuclear group Areva’s processing plant at La Hague for storage in a site in the northern German town of Gorleben. The waste shipment is expected to arrive in Gorleben, near the central city of Dannenberg, on Sunday. At the mass rally in Dannenberg, thousands listened to speeches and music while others made plans to at least temporarily stop the convoy before it reaches Gorleben. ‘Merkel provoked society by extending the lifespan of nuclear power and this is the people’s answer,’ said Juergen Trittin, a leader in the Greens party. Merkel’s government has slumped in popularity due in large part to its decision to extend nuclear power by about 12 years beyond the original shut-down set for 2021. Germany gets 23 percent of its energy from nuclear power.Organisers estimated 50,000 took part in the rally on Saturday, but police said between 10,000 and 20,000 people attended. Demonstrators had to march across soggy fields and roads after days of heavy rain to reach the rally but spirits were high. ‘We’re here to show we’re not going to accept the government’s nuclear policies,’ said Giselher Kuehn, riding on one of some 600 farm tractors taking party in the rally. Pensioner Elke Hinrichsmeyr, 71, from the town of Buchholz, added: ‘We’re horrified that this government wants to extend the use of nuclear power. They’ve ignored the will of the people.’ ‘We’re against nuclear power because the waste will remain radioactive for thousands of years,’ said Renate Komm, 72. Anti-nuclear activists have often clashed with police in pitched battles in the past and a police force of some 20,000 was on hand to secure the shipment. Scenes of violence in previous transports have contributed to Germany’s strong anti-nuclear mood. Protesters fear the depot at Gorleben, built as an interim storage site, could become permanent. Greenpeace says the site, in a disused salt mine, would be unsafe over the long term. Anti-nuclear protest in Germany
Japanese Tragedy Is An Eye Opener On Nuclear Energy
The crippling of a number nuclear facilities in Japan as a result of the mega-earthquake and subsequent tsunami should be an eye-opener for those who still advocate the use of nuclear energy. Carmel Cacopardo AD Spokesman on Sustainable Development and Local Government said, “on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, (which occurred on the 26th April 1986) the myths on the safety of nuclear energy have been shattered once and for all.” As a result of the Japanese nuclear crisis and in particular after various explosions in the Fukushima nuclear power station various European governments have decided to revise their use of nuclear energy. In Germany as a result of the continuous campaigning of the Greens German Chancellor Angel Merkel has decided to re-examine plans to extend the life of Germany’s 17 existing nuclear power stations and announced the temporary closure of its two oldest ones. Switzerland has likewise announced putting on hold its plans for new nuclear power stations whilst Austria Minister for the Environment has called for checks on the safety of nuclear facilities. In the light of the above, Carmel Cacopardo added, “it is very fortunate that the agreement between Nicolas Sarkozy on behalf of the French Republic and Colonel Gadddafi on the supply by France to Libya of nuclear technology to be used for the desalinisation of water along Libya’s Mediterranean coast has not to date materialised. In the ongoing civil war in Libya access to and misuse of nuclear material would be an added worry.” Prof. Arnold Cassola, AD Spokesperson on EU and International Affairs, said, “The Maltese Government should take note of the statement of Italian Minister Romani who has affirmed that, despite the catastrophe in Japan, Italy will not go back on its nuclear programme. The Maltese Government should take the necessary steps at EU level to ensure that the Berlusconi government through its construction of a nuclear facility in Sicily does not put the safety of all the people living in the central Mediterranean region at risk.” Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, added, “The Japanese tragedy confirms that we are living in a global society of man-made risks, as is the case with nuclear energy. Such energy might solve short and medium term problems related to demand for energy, but is ultimately unsustainable because of the dangers it presents, and because global supply of uranium – its basic raw material, is limited. while the long term storage of the highly radioactive nuclear waste remains a major source of concern.” “Global subsidies towards nuclear energy should be progressively diverted towards clean alternative energy such as solar and wind energy. Such energy has unlimited supply, is totally safe and does not contribute towards climate change.”
Aunt Eve’s Never Been To Japan!
At Ground Zero The Future Finally Appears
NEW YORK – The noise at ground zero is a steady roar. Engines hum. Cement mixers churn. Air horns blast. Cranes, including one that looks like a giant crab leg, soar and crawl over every corner of the 16-acre site. For years, the future has been slow to appear at the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But with six months remaining until the national 9/11 memorial opens, the work to turn a mountain of rubble into some of the inspiring moments envisioned nearly a decade ago is thundering forward.
The memorial plaza won’t be complete when it opens on Sept. 11, 2011, and a tour of the site last week makes clear that work around it will continue for years. Mud is still plentiful at ground level, and for now the site is dominated by the same concrete-gray shades that blanketed lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks. But the agency that owned the trade center and has spent nearly a decade rebuilding it is aiming to deliver a memorial experience on 9/11/11 that closes one chapter — marked by mourning — and ushers in a new experience, where ground zero again becomes part of the city’s everyday fabric. “We want people to be able to see that downtown does have this incredible future to it,” said Chris Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “The work will not be done on that day. What we hope will be done is the sense of frustration.” For now, the complexity and scale of the construction is evident in every corner. Workers labor around the clock. During the busiest shifts, around 2,800 people — mostly men — labor amid
One World Trade Center, otherwise known as the Freedom Tower, has joined the Manhattan skyline. Its steel frame, already clad in glass on lower floors, now stands 58 stories tall and is starting to inch above many of the skyscrapers that ring the site. A new floor is being added every week. The mammoth black-granite fountains and reflecting pools that mark the footprints of the fallen twin towers are largely finished, and they are a spectacle. Workers have already begun testing the waterfalls that will ultimately cascade into a void in the center of each square pit. The plaza that surrounds them has the potential to be one of the city’s awesome public spaces once construction is complete. Some 150 trees have already been planted in the plaza deck, even as workers continue to build it.
tangles and ravines of steel. In one steel cavern that will become a transit hub concourse, showers of orange sparks fly as welders install trusses weighing up to 50 tons. From the top of One World Trade, the view is spectacular, as it was from the twin towers, even though the building stands at 680 feet, less than halfway to its planned 1,776-foot height. Visitors to the upper floors can see the grand sweep of the Hudson River and New York Harbor, dotted with container ships, all the way to Sandy Hook at the northern tip of the Jersey Shore. People at ground level can now see the tower, too, from a growing number of places in the city and across the river in New Jersey.
High in the tower, safety is a big concern. There is netting everywhere to keep pieces of this or that from falling into the void below. On the 29th floor, men preparing to install window glass last week were tethered to the building by safety cables as they worked near the ledge. Even their hard hats were attached by a safety line, in case they were knocked over the side. A yellow line, painted on the concrete deck, marked how close workers are allowed to stand without wearing a safety harness. The building’s glass curtain wall now rises to the 27th floor. After initial slow progress, the crews are getting better and faster at getting each pane in place, while managing wind that pushes each big sheet around like a sail. By Sept. 11, the building is expected to be 80 stories high, making it the tallest tower downtown. A huge portion of the reconstruction of the trade center is taking place below ground. The underground halls that house the memorial are cavernous, and in their unfinished state look like some unexplored temple in an Indiana Jones movie. The 60-foot-high slurry wall of reinforced concrete on the western edge of the site, meant to hold back the Hudson River, is two-thirds taller than Fenway Park’s left field fence, and bears similarities in size and appearance to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The huge boxes that hold the waterfall pits visible from the surface are somehow suspended from the ceiling, held up by pillars that don’t seem big enough to support the blocks’ massive weight. A maze of tunnels, catwalks and narrow, temporary staircases connect the various underground levels. The complexity of the project is evident everywhere, but the choreography involved in keeping the place going is best demonstrated by the engineering feats that have been performed to prevent construction from disrupting the city’s subway system. The tunnel holding Manhattan’s No. 1 subway tracks was buried beneath a mountain of rubble after the attacks. The tube now runs right through the middle of the site, hurdling thousands of passengers through ground zero every day. To rebuild, work crews needed to excavate nearly 100 feet down below it, but rather than reroute service and demolish the tunnel, they merely propped it up on huge pilings and dug beneath it. The tracks, still encased in their old concrete tube, now sit suspended in mid-air as work takes place below, above and on either side. Ward said he hoped people will be able to see in six months that, despite the ongoing construction, the site’s days as a disaster zone are ending. “It will be a place where you meet a friend for lunch. Where you meet a date. Where you race across the plaza and beneath the trees to get out of the rain,” he said. “We want New Yorkers to make their own narrative there.”
The NewW orld Trade Center Mem orial
It’s been hypothesized that what better way to protect the public from low dose radiation being emitted from below each World Trade Center building foundation than with water, the same insulation used in nuclear reactors. With thick walls of water falling on all 4 sides surrounded by walls several feet thick and a pool of water covering the entire base of the towers I find this to be a fascinating hypothesis and the speculation makes a great deal of sense to me. Water acts as a barrier to heat transfer and the movement of radioactive elements to humans which makes it a radiant barrier insulator and 4-6 feet of cement between visitors and the water combined, all make this memorial seem to be of a rather suspicious design.
The following 4 pages contain newspaper articles. The newspapers on the left are dated March 20th, 2003 and the newspapers on the right are dated March 20th, 2011. Think about that... The remaining pages are my Parting Shots.
Asbestos Dust And Ground Zero
The United States Geological Survey performed an in depth analysis to examine the Ground Zero or Lower Manhattan dust samples across 35 locations for Asbestos. A two-person U.S. Geological Survey team (authors Hoefen and Swayze) collected settled dust and coarserairfall debris samples from 35 localities within a 1 km radius centered on the World Trade Center site on September 17 and 18, 2001. Samples collected outdoors were exposed to wind and precipitation during a rain storm on the night of September 14 prior to collection. One sample was collected indoors near the gymnasium in the World Financial Center across from the World Trade Center site on West Street. A sample of dust blown by the collapse into an open window of an apartment, located 30 floors up and 0.4 km southwest of the center of the World Trade Center site, was also acquired a few days later. Two samples of insulation coatings were collected from steel beams that had been removed from the debris pile of the World Trade Center. Samples of concrete were collected from the World Trade Center debris at the same location as the girder coatings. Many of the streets bordering the collection locations had been cleaned or were in the process of being cleaned at the time of sample collection. Given these limitations, collection of dust samples was restricted to undisturbed areas such as window ledges, car windshields, flower pots, building entrances, covered steps, or from sidewalks adjacent to walls where the dust was sheltered from the weather and cleanup process. In many cases, the samples formed compact masses suggestive of having been dampened by rain and subsequently dried during the intervening 3-4 days. Samples were gathered by scooping with a nitrile-glove covered hand, and then placed in doubled plastic ziplock freezer bags. When possible, several handfuls of material were collected from different locations within a few-square- meter area and combined into one sample. Collection locations were identified by street intersections. Reflectance spectra of the samples were measured in a laboratory High Efficiency Particulate Air filter (HEPA) fume hood with an Analytical Spectral Devices (ASD) Full Range Spectrometer® over the wavelength range from 0.35 - 2.5 µm using a halogen lamp for illumination and Spectralon® panel for reference. The ASD spectrometer has 5 nm spectral resolution from 0.35 - 1.0 µm and 11 nm spectral resolution from 1.0 - 2.5 µm. The entire sample was first poured from the plastic sample bag onto white paper, then the sample was mixed with a spatula leaving a relatively flat pile about a centimeter thick for spectral measurement. By mixing the sample, we hoped to avoid possible inadvertent effects of particle sorting that may have occurred during transport or pouring from the bag. Given that VIS - NIR reflectance spectroscopy detects materials down to a few millimeters, in most cases, beneath the surface of the dust, ten spectra of the pile were measured, using a six second integration time for each spectrum, and then the pile was re-mixed before collecting an additional ten spectra, to expose previously unmeasured material at the surface. The spectrometer optical fiber was held a few centimeters above the pile and moved constantly in an elliptical manner to spatially average the surface of all but the edges of the pile. This method allowed about 40- 60% of the entire sample volume to be spectrally characterized. Spectra of each dust sample were averaged and corrected to absolute reflectance. Low levels of noise observed in the averaged spectra indicate that we achieved a very high signal-to-noise ratio of 28,000:1 based on the standard deviation of The bottom line is that they found very little Asbestos by volume and made every effort to make excuses for this. They hypothesized why they may have found so little Asbestos and speculated where the Asbestos may have come from. This is disturbing, that there was so little Asbestos in the dust, overall. That report is here: http://speclab.cr.usgs.gov/PAPERS/wtc.asc.ch3/acs.chpt3.swayze.pdf reflectance values in a flat portion of the spectral average of a relatively dark (23% reflectance) dust sample near 1.38 µm. Sample splits for analyses were obtained by the cone and quartering method.
How The White House Covered Up Post–September 11 Hazards by Carl Pope Why would our government lie to us about something this big? Immediately after the collapse of the World Trade Center, scientists at the EPA gathered as much data as they could on the health risks caused by the fires and airborne debris. Based on that research, the agency quickly drafted a press release warning of high asbestos levels in lower Manhattan, and of risks to “sensitive populations” such as the elderly and asthmatics. The EPA also intended to caution property owners that their homes and businesses would need professional cleanup to remove asbestos, heavy metals, and other contaminants.
feet of dust and debris in her apartment herself because “no one told us about the possible risks.” It was too late for the Ground Zero workers, 78 percent of whom, according to Mount Sinai Hospital, suffered from lung ailments. A private testing firm found asbestos levels of 850,000 fibers per square centimeter in the Woolworth Building, just across from city hall—more than eight times the level considered to be “high.” Other tests found heavy asbestos loads in a stairwell used by employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Robert Gulack, senior counsel for the SEC, who developed bronchitis after the attack, charged that the stairwell had been recontaminated by the failure to clean the exterior of the building. “They rushed us back into contaminated playgrounds and schools and places of business,” Gulack said. “They took it upon themselves to decide what we would be told, and what might be too upsetting for us to know.” And when New York City firefighters asked to have their stations tested for toxic contamination, the administration refused. The EPA responded to the furor over the inspector general’s report in the same way the Bush administration responds to all criticism: by refusing to admit that anything had ever gone awry. Even in retirement, former EPA administrator Christie Whitman continued to be a good soldier for the administration that had routinely ignored her and overridden her agency’s scientists. She blamed the rescue workers themselves for their failure to wear protective equipment: “If they had worn the devices,” she told the New York Post, “we’d see a lot less problems.” “When she said that everything was OK, the firefighters believed those statements,” shot back Steve Cassidy, the head of the firefighters’ union. “For her to say now that we are responsible is outrageous.” In his confirmation hearings to succeed Whitman as EPA administrator, Utah governor Mike Leavitt (R) was questioned about the scandal. Would the Bush administration provide funding to complete the cleanup of lower Manhattan? Would it provide long-term health monitoring and care for those who had been exposed to toxic pollutants because they had relied on the EPA’s doctored public statements? Leavitt’s nonresponsive answers led several senators to put his nomination on hold while they awaited an explanation of why the federal government deliberately misled those on the front line of the first battle in the war against terrorism. It never came. If the EPA and the White House are willing to lie about something as visible, and emotionally uniting, as Ground Zero, how can we trust what they tell us about pollution in our own neighborhoods, or ANYTHING else?
But when the EPA ran its press release by the White House, it was rejected for fear it would hamper the “return to normalcy.” Even while Bush expressed compassion for the victims and support for the rescue workers and residents of lower Manhattan, including a dramatic visit to Ground Zero, his White House spin doctors took their blue pencils to the agency’s announcement. Rather than the EPA, the White House–controlled National Security Council was put in charge of the final release, with the rationale that it had expertise in weapons of mass destruction. “Our tests show that it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in New York’s financial district,” announced the rewritten statement, released on September 16. The reference to sensitive populations was deleted. The asbestos warning was replaced with an assurance that “ambient air quality meets OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] standards and consequently is not a cause for public concern.” OSHA standards, however, assume limited hours in a workplace, as well as appropriate protective equipment. The need for professional contractors to clean homes and offices was watered down to a general recommendation that people should follow instructions from city officials. Two years later, in August 2003, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General concluded that the findings had been manipulated: “Competing considerations, such as national security concerns and the desire to reopen Wall Street... played a role in EPA’s air quality statements.” (Another “competing interest,” apparently, was the desire to downplay New York’s need for federal help and to protect the president’s cherished tax cuts. When New York officials complained that promised federal aid was slow in coming, White House budget director Mitch Daniels accused them of playing “money-grubbing games.”) The inspector general’s report came too late for thousands of people like Pat Moore, who cleaned up the three
the dirt on nuclear power • accidents and incidents
Japan’s nuclear crisis is a nightmare, but it is not an anomaly. In fact, it is only the latest in a long line of nuclear accidents involving meltdowns, explosions, fires, and loss of coolant _ accidents that have occurred during both normal operation and emergency conditions, such as droughts and earthquakes. Nuclear safety demands clarity about terms. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the United States generally separates unplanned nuclear “events” into two classes: “incidents” and “accidents”. Incidents are unforeseen events and technical failures that occur during normal plant operation and result in no off-site releases of radiation or severe damage to equipment. Accidents refer to either off-site releases of radiation or severe damage to plant equipment. The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale uses a seven-level ranking scheme to rate the significance of nuclear and radiological events: levels 1-3 are “incidents” and 4-7 are “accidents”, with a “Level 7 Major Accident” consisting of “a major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended counter-measures”. the past three decades. And, of course, this average does not include the Fukushima catastrophe. Indeed, when compared to other energy sources, nuclear power ranks higher than oil, coal, and natural gas systems in terms of fatalities, second only to hydroelectric dams. There have been 57 accidents since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. While only a few involved fatalities, those that did collectively killed more people than have died in commercial US airline accidents since 1982. Another index of nuclear-power accidents _ this one including costs beyond death and property damage, such as injured or irradiated workers and malfunctions that did not result in shutdowns or leaks _ documented 956 incidents from 1942 to 2007. And yet another documented more than 30,000 mishaps at US nuclear power plants alone, many with the potential to have caused serious meltdowns, between the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and 2009.
Anti-nuclear activists wearing ‘‘Scream’’ masks hold a protest in Manila on Mar 15, 2011. They were rallying against revival of the mothballed Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP), amid the danger of a nuclear meltdown in Japan.
Under these classifications, the number of nuclear accidents, even including the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini, is low. But if one redefines an accident to include incidents that either resulted in the loss of human life or more than US$50,000 (1.5 million baht) in property damage, a very different picture emerges. At least 99 nuclear accidents meeting this definition, totalling more than $20.5 billion in damages, occurred worldwide from 1952 to 2009 _ or more than one incident and $330 million in damage every year, on average, for
Mistakes are not limited to reactor sites. Accidents at the Savannah River reprocessing plant released 10 times as much radioiodine as the accident at Three Mile Island, and a fire at the Gulf United facility in New York in 1972 scattered an undisclosed amount of plutonium, forcing the plant to shut down permanently. At the Mayak Industrial Reprocessing Complex in Russia’s southern Urals, a storage tank holding nitrate acetate salts exploded in 1957, releasing a massive amount of radioactive material over 20,000 square kilometres, forcing the evacuation of 272,000 people. In September 1994, an explosion at Indonesia’s Serpong research reactor was triggered by the ignition of methane
gas that had seeped from a storage room and exploded when a worker lit a cigarette. Accidents have also occurred when nuclear reactors are shut down for refuelling or to move spent nuclear fuel into storage. In 1999, operators loading spent fuel into dry-storage at the Trojan Reactor in Oregon, found that the protective zinc-carbon coating had started to produce hydrogen, which caused a small explosion. Unfortunately, on-site accidents at nuclear reactors and fuel facilities are not the only cause of concern. The August 2003 blackout in the northeastern US revealed that more than a dozen nuclear reactors in the US and Canada were not properly maintaining backup diesel generators. In Ontario during the blackout, reactors designed to unlink from the grid automatically and remain in standby mode instead went into full shutdown, with only two out of 12 reactors behaving as expected. As environmental lawyers Richard Webster and Julie LeMense argued in 2008, “The nuclear industry is like the financial industry was prior to the crisis” that erupted that year. “There are many risks that are not being properly managed or regulated.” This state of affairs is worrying, to say the least, given the severity of harm that a single serious accident can cause. The meltdown of a 500megawatt reactor located 48 kilometres from a city would cause the immediate death of an estimated 45,000 people, injure roughly another 70,000, and cause $17 billion in property damage. A successful attack or accident at the Indian Point power plant near New York City, apparently part of al-Qaeda’s original plan for Sept 11, 2001, would have resulted in 43,700 immediate fatalities and 518,000 cancer deaths, with clean-up costs reaching $2 trillion. To put a serious accident in context, according to data from my forthcoming book, Contesting the Future of Nuclear Power, if 10 million people were exposed to radiation from a complete nuclear meltdown (the containment structures fail completely, exposing the inner reactor core to air), about 100,000 would die from acute radiation sickness within six weeks. About 50,000 would experience acute breathlessness, and 240,000 would develop acute hypothyroidism. About 350,000 males would be left temporarily sterile, 100,000 women would stop menstruating, and 100,000 children would be born with cognitive deficiencies. There would be thousands of spontane-
Protesting along the railroad tracks in Germany
ous abortions and more than 300,000 later cancers. Advocates of nuclear energy have made considerable political headway around the world in recent years, touting it as a safe, clean and reliable alternative to fossil fuels. But the historical record clearly shows otherwise. Perhaps the unfolding tragedy in Japan will finally be enough to stop the nuclear renaissance from materializing.
Destroyed: A satellite image of the Fukushima nuclear station shows the destroyed reactor buildings and radioactive steam rising form the plant
Boiled dry: This shot shows of the inside of reactor number four at the Fukushima nuclear plant before the disaster. The spent fuel storage pool is seen at the front of the shot. The rods are at the bottom of the pool, which has now boiled dry
Of Course The People Escaping Japan Have Another Idea...
Another Idea ALTOGETHER
A social activist participates in a rally to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing in the Japanese city of Hiroshima, in Mumbai August 6, 2010.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?