No Game Changer Without You!


$100,150 raised so farEND DATE: January 1   
  • Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • Lingering Problems At Fukushima Raise Questions About Nuclear Power Safety At Home


    Nuclear expert David Lochbaum and award-winning journalist Susan Stranahan discuss the weaknesses in nuclear regulation and whether the United States has the proper safeguards to protect its citizens from a similar disaster -   February 28, 2014
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here

    Audio

      Share to Twitter
    Share to Facebook



    I support The Real News Network because it is not Conservative, it is not Liberal; it is Real. - David Pear
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN

    Bio

    Dave Lochbaum worked at nuclear power plants for 17 years and is one of the nation’s top independent nuclear power experts. As director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Nuclear Safety Project, he monitors ongoing safety issues at U.S. reactors, testifies before Congress and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and provides informed analysis of nuclear plant conditions and incidents, such as the March 2011 crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi facility in Japan. Mr. Lochbaum has authored numerous reports, including The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010, the first in a series of reports he produces annually. His recent book is Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster.

    Journalist Susan Q. Stranahan was the lead reporter of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Three Mile Island accident.  She has written about environmental and energy issues for national publications for more than 30 years.  She lives in Maine and also is author of Susquehanna: River of Dreams.

    Transcript

    Lingering Problems At Fukushima Raise Questions About Nuclear Power 
Safety At HomeJESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

    It's been nearly three years since a massive earthquake hit Japan on March 11, triggering a tsunami, which led to one of the worst nuclear disasters of all time. On Monday, the Japanese government also announced that it will allow some residents to return to Fukushima, despite the news that there's been another leak of contaminated water at the Fukushima Power Plant. Many questions have remained unanswered about the Fukushima disaster, like if it was preventable and if we should be concerned about other nuclear facilities in the U.S. and worldwide. Some of these questions are answered in the recently published book titled Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster.

    With us to discuss this exposé are the book's authors.

    We have David Lochbaum. He's the director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Nuclear Safety Project. He worked at U.S. nuclear plants for 17 years and was a reactor technology instructor for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

    Also joining us is Susan Stranahan. She was the lead reporter of The Philadelphia Inquirer's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Three Mile Island accident.

    Thank you both for joining us.

    SUSAN STRANAHAN, COAUTHOR, FUKUSHIMA: THE STORY OF A NUCLEAR DISASTER: Thanks very much.

    DAVID LOCHBAUM, COAUTHOR, FUKUSHIMA: THE STORY OF A NUCLEAR DISASTER: Thank you, Jessica.

    DESVARIEUX: So your book goes into great detail about what happened at Fukushima. David, I'm going to start out with you, because from a regulator's point of view, do you see this being avoided in the first place? And if so, how?

    LOCHBAUM: Yes, Fukushima was designed and operated like plants in the United States were. They were designed looking backwards at what has been the worst earthquake, what's been the worst snowstorm, what's been the worst hurricane, etc., and then was designed to pretty much be protected against what's happened in the past. So if something in the future exceeds events that have happened in the past, the plant may or may not be protected against those. Fukushima was not protected against what it faced that day.

    Had any of our plants been challenged in that same way, they all would have failed in maybe a little bit longer or a little bit less time, but none of them were invulnerable to that type of challenge.

    What we think the accident showed or demonstrated was that you can't assume an accident's only going to be so big and not going to be any larger. Whenever you draw a line at some barrier, like an x foot tall wall or a so-many feet thick concrete, you need to ask yourselves and answer: what if it's greater than that? You've got to have a plan B available and not just rely on miracles to save the day.

    DESVARIEUX: Okay. And I want to give our audience a sense of what it's like in Japan in terms of their nuclear facilities. Only two of Japan's 50 nuclear facilities are currently operating, and Japanese commercial nuclear operators are saying that they are implementing new safety standards and should be allowed to reopen due to the much needed energy supply.

    David, from your perspective, should they be allowed to restart?

    LOCHBAUM: If the fixes that are being implemented will ensure that you're protected against things and you don't have to rely on miracles, then the plants could be safely restarted and the risks appropriately managed. If all you're doing is pasting Band-Aids over problems, building taller seawalls (because that's what failed at Fukushima), then that short-sightedness will set the stage for disasters tomorrow.

    DESVARIEUX: And, Susan, you covered the Three Mile Island disaster, and it's considered to be the worst U.S. nuclear disaster. Were there changes to safety regulations implemented in the U.S. after that occurred?

    STRANAHAN: There were some, but they weren't adequate. Nor did they address what is the fundamental safety issue that remains, and that is the mindset that prevails both among regulators and the nuclear industry that nuclear power already is so safe that we don't have to plan for the unexpected. In other words, we can say that an accident will only entail this, and that the chance of anything worse than that is so low we don't need to prepare for it. That was largely a problem at Three Mile Island and definitely a problem at Fukushima.

    DESVARIEUX: Okay. And, David, in your opinion, do you see--I mean, right now we have the U.S. government just promise $8.3 billion loan to guarantee to help the Southern Company build two nuclear reactors in Georgia. Do you think that current regulations safeguard against a Fukushima-style disaster here in the U.S.? And can you speak to specifics?

    LOCHBAUM: Yeah, there are a lot of safety regulation shortcomings that we think need to be rectified to provide a solid foundation for the existing nuclear power plants and any new nuclear power plants we build in the United States. For example, half of the reactors operating today in the United States do not meet the NRC's fire protection regulations, even though the fire hazard represents the same threat of reactor core meltdown as all other threats combined. And that's when you meet the regulations. In addition, about a third of the reactors in the United States aren't protected against flooding if an upstream dam were to fail. So another 25, 27 reactors are not protected against earthquake hazards. And we've known this for years, and we've tolerated that rather than fixing it.

    The proper foundation for nuclear power new and existing would be a nuclear regulator that enforces federal safety regulations, rather than in just setting them and watching plants live well beneath them year after year.

    DESVARIEUX: I'm listening to both of you, and it sounds very interesting. It seems very credible. I mean, both of you have experience in this field. So I want to understand the interests, though, at play here.

    Susan, maybe you can speak to this a bit. What sort of interests do we have here? What are the competing interests? Why aren't we seeing more regulation?

    STRANAHAN: Well, I think that part of it is, as we've said, it's the belief--we call it the myth of safety that has become the mantra of both the industry and regulators, that everything is safe, we don't need to make it safer. And of course with every safety improvement comes increased cost for the operators. And the operators have consistently been able to make the case that reactors are so safe we don't need to spend the extra dollars to make safety improvements.

    And we say in the book, if TEPCO, the owners of Fukushima, went out and asked the people of Japan today whether they should have invested a couple of million dollars to make a certain safety improvement but that they did not because it cost too much, you can bet that the Japanese people would say they should have spent the money instead of the multiple billions of dollars of damage that the country has sustained.

    DESVARIEUX: David, what's your take? What interests are behind the scenes, really pulling the strings here?

    LOCHBAUM: Well, the nuclear industry is a very large contributor to political committees. They fund Republicans and the Democrats quite a bit. Plus there's a lot of jobs at stake. If nuclear power plants were to shut down because of economics, most of these are located in remote communities where that's the biggest job farm in town. So it's difficult to lose the jobs or risk the jobs, to have the task revenues done.

    But as you mentioned earlier, all but two of the plants in Japan were shut down as a result of the Fukushima accident. So, basically, the 20 percent of our electricity which is generated by nuclear power is being gambled on none of the plants having an accident. That's a huge gamble, both economically and from a safety standpoint. And fixing some of these problems is relatively cheap insurance against those kind of bad days.

    DESVARIEUX: Alright. David Lochbaum, thank you so much for joining us.

    LOCHBAUM: Thank you, Jessica.

    DESVARIEUX: And Susan Stranahan, thank you so much for joining us.

    STRANAHAN: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

    DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

    End

    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Comments

    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at contact@therealnews.com

    Comments


    Latest Stories


    The Revolution Is Being Televised Pt. 2
    Fracking Opponents Celebrate Key Victories in New Brunswick, Quebec and New York
    The Three Remaining 'Cuban 5' Go Home
    The US and Cuba Restore Diplomatic Relations With A Spy Swap
    Obama Admin Still Seeking Testimony From Journalist James Risen
    Identity and Collective Denial - Lia Tarachansky on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Will South America Bring Life to the Bank of the South?
    Identity and Collective Denial - Lia Tarachansky on Reality Asserts Itself (1/3)
    Hundreds of Thousands of Wrongfully Purged Votes Could Have Cost Dems Midterm Elections
    Budget Bill's Little-Known Provisions Affecting Marijuana Users
    Millions March Oakland: A Look Beyond the Violence
    Contextualizing Baltimore's Recent Police Shooting
    The Lima Accord: A Great Success or More Climate Catastrophe?
    Data Collection Law on Excessive Force Shown Ineffective in the Past
    Will the New Federal Racial Profiling Guidelines Have Any Impact? (2/3)
    Chris Hedges Answers Questions from Viewers - Chris Hedges on Reality Asserts Itself pt7
    Will the New Federal Racial Profiling Guidelines have Any Impact? (1/3)
    Russia Rejects South Stream Pipeline Through Europe
    A Second Mexican Revolution in the Works (2/2)
    Sharpton-Led March Alienates Youth Activists
    Nader: Federal Budget For Militarism, Against the People
    Will the E.U. Hold the U.S. Accountable for Torture?
    Russia Pivots to Eurasia for Trade and Military Alliances
    Congress to Pass Temporary Tax Breaks for Big Business for 15 Years Straight
    Federal Budget Guts Most Significant Financial Regulation Since 2008
    The People's Summit on Climate Change Calls For Energy Democracy
    Mothers Against Police Brutality Rally for Accountability
    COP20 Protesters Draw Attention to Corporate Presence at Negotiations
    The Torturers: Donald Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney
    Quakers Organize National Protest Against PNC

    RealNewsNetwork.com, Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting