By Michael Steinberg / Black Rain Press
Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the continuing decline of the US nuclear industry, and highlights efforts of those who are democratically working to bring about a renewable energy future. As nuclear plants in the US are approaching or surpassing their 40 year operating life, their ability to operate properly and safely lessens, creating more and more problems across the nation.
Here’s our March report:
Diablo Canyon – Last Nuke Plant in California
On February 20 a Federal Court of Appeals in Washington DC rejected an attempt by Pacific Gas & Electric and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to quash a lawsuit filed by environmental group Friends Of the Earth (FOE). According to FOE, the suit alleges that the “NRC illegally allowed PG&E to alter Diablo Canyon’s nuclear plant license.” And …
“”FOE contends the NRC acted in secret and collusion with PG&E to hide Diablo Canyon’s vulnerability to earthquakes stronger than it was built to withstand. A decision in favor of Friends of the Earth could result in PG&E having to shut down its reactors, pending a public hearing to examine the new risks at the plant.”
In 2013 Friends of the Earth filed a similar lawsuit against Southern California Edison, owner and operator of the San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California. That suit alleged Edison was mismanaging the plant, and lying about its safety, thereby putting the public in danger.
The utility permanently shut San Onofre down in June 2004, before the lawsuit went to court—leaving the Diablo Canyon the remaining nuke plant operating in California.
Diablo Canyon has been controversial since the beginning. Located on California’s central coast near San Luis Obispo, and in an earthquake and tsunami zone, 1900 no nukes protesters associated with the Abalone Alliance were arrested at the site in 1981, over a period of two weeks, in an attempt to stop its construction.
Several years before that, The China Syndrome, a movie starring Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas, appeared on silver screens across the nation, at least partially inspired by the struggle at Diablo Canyon. This was 1979, the year the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster melted down into American consciousness.
And in fact Friends of the Earth itself was founded all the way back in 1969 by environmentalist David Brower because of concerns about the possible construction of a nuclear plant at Diablo Canyon.
Nevertheless, PG&E started up two reactors at Diablo Canyon, one in ’85, the other the following year.
After the strongest recorded earthquake in Japan’s history in March 2011, followed with a resultant massive tsunami and multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daichi nuke plant, attention began to refocus on Diablo Canyon.
And then, last year, Friends Of the Earth upped the ante. As the group states:
“On August 25, 2014 Friends Of the Earth made public an explosive document, A Differing Professional Opinion, by Dr. Michael Peck, former senior resident inspector for the NRC at Diablo Canyon. This document reveals that three of the nearby faults are capable of generating earthquakes stronger than the reactors are designed to withstand.
“Peck’s dissent argues that Diablo Canyon is operating outside the conditions of its license and should be shut down until PG&E can prove the reactors can withstand potential earthquakes on these faults.”
The three faults are Shoreline, Los Osos, and San Luis Bay. Shoreline wasn’t even discovered until 2008, and is only 2000 feet from Diablo Canyon.
FOE also reported that the NRC suppressed Peck’s report for nearly a year. And after Peck’s report did go public, PG&E and the NRC both tried to dismiss it out of hand.
In addition, FOE said that a radioactive plume escaping Diablo Canyon due to a nuclear accident, “should southerly winds prevail, could threaten millions in Southern California, from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles and beyond.” FOE expects a decision on its lawsuit “later this year.”
Momentum for shutting down Diablo Canyon has been building. On January 24 and 25 a statewide conference met in San Luis Obispo “to strategize on how to fight for a nuclear free California.” Participants included the local chapter of Mothers For Peace. And a similar meeting happened on January 27 in San Francisco.
On March 26 the San Francisco Chronicle’s lead story was “Nuclear plant’s safety record probed.” This report detailed the entry of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Inspector General’s office into Diablo Canyon’s increasingly convoluted story.
The Inspector General—the NRC’s “own internal watchdog,” according to the Chronicle, appears to basically be investigating the allegations raised in Friends of the Earth’s lawsuit to shut down Diablo Canyon: whether PG&E and the NRC colluded in compromising seismic safety at the plant by secretly acting to change its operating license, and in so doing exclude the public from the decision making process.
In other words, did the utility and its supposed regulator turn into crooks and screw the public together? And this raises another question. Is the NRC capable of responsibly investigating itself?
Sources: Friends of the Earth foe.org ; San Francisco Chronicle sfgate.com
Fukushima + 4
March 11 marked four years since the Fukushima disaster hit the northeastern coast of Japan. But its fallout continues. At that time the then San Diego-based aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan was off Japan’s west coast, heading east.
After March 11’s earthquake, tsunami, and triple nuclear reactor meltdown, however, the nuclear powered warship was ordered back to the coast for relief work, passing through a radioactive cloud while on its way.
This past March 10, Global Research published an article about what has happened to the hundreds of sailors who were on the Reagan at the time since then. Global Research is The Center for Research on Globalization, an “independent research and media organization” based in Montreal.
The report, by David Gutierrez, is “Fukushima Coverup: Sick Navy Sailors Class Action Lawsuit, US Government, Doctors Bury Truth About Fukushima Radiation.”
According to Global Research. San Diego attorney Paul Garner is representing 247 sailors who served on the Reagan while it was conducting its relief mission in Japan after the Fukushima disaster, and have since become sick.
Their 100 page legal complaint, filed in San Diego US District Court, is suing Fukushima’s operators and builders; Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), Toshiba, Hitachi, Ebasco, and General Electric.
A 1950s US Supreme Court decision—the Feres Doctrine—bars military personnel from suing the military or federal government from injuries suffered while in the service.
Nevertheless, the sailors’ claim their illnesses have been caused by radioactive fallout they received while serving in Fukushima’s disaster zone. According to Global Research, those diseases include, “case after case of cancer, internal bleeding, abscesses, thyroid dysfunctions, and birth defects.”
The Navy and US government respond that that the sailors couldn’t have received a high enough amount of radiation to cause these injuries.
But Global Research reports that the Fukushima tragedy was the “worst nuclear disaster in history,” and “released two times as much nuclear material as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.”
Global Research reports:
“in the years since the Fukushima disaster at least 500 Reagan sailors have become ill.”
But many have not joined the lawsuit,because a number of those who did, have did have been subjected to harassment and intimidation.
One of these sailors, ‘initial plaintiff” in the lawsuit, Lindsay Cooper, who went public, “”has already been mocked by atomic energy experts on CNN and by conservative radio hosts. Others are afraid of being perceived as anti-military or un-American,” according to Global Research.
Another Reagan sailor plaintiff who has spoken out is Lt. Steve Simmons, Global Research reports. Simmons,-
“once a triathlon athlete, fell ill after returning from Japan, suffering hair loss, muscle wasting, migraines, bloody discharges and incontinence. His fingers turned yellow, even brown. His feet turned dark red. He suffers from whole-body spasms and must use wheel chairs.
“Personnel, diplomatic and economic interests are all at stake,” Simmons commented.
“They are leaving us alone,” he continued. “They’re closing their eyes, keeping quiet and waiting for it to blow over. There are sick soldiers everywhere, many in the hospital in San Diego, and in the medical center in Hawaii.
They’re ordinary folks who are poorly insured, with family and kids. Loyal and scattered. Most of them don’t know how to react. Those who raise their voices are denounced on the Internet for being unpatriotic. You have to put up with a lot.”
But Fukushima’s fallout blew far beyond Japan. It’s airborne radiation reached the west coast of North America within a week.
Has it done us any harm?
The Radiation and Public Health Project (radiation.org) thinks so. This organization of scientists, physicians and concerned citizens has produced a series of post Fukushima studies that have implicated Fukushima fallout in increases in US total deaths, infant mortality and childhood thyroid disorders, especially along the west coast.
The RPHP’s latest study, published this March, deals with birth defects.
The study, “Changes in Congenital Anomaly Incidence in West Coast and Pacific States (USA) after Arrival of Fukushima Fallout,” appeared March 19 in the Open Journal of Pediatrics. RPHP researchers Joseph Mangano and Jannette Sherman are its authors.
The study cites Environmental Protection Agency measurements of airborne radiation during a 47 day period when the highest amounts of Fukushima fallout hit the US. Fukushima blew on March 11, 2011, and the EPA testing was March 15-April 30.
The study’s authors report “over this period well over 1000 samples with detectable concentrations (of radiation) were taken at over 100 stations” around the country.
In California those sampling stations were in San Diego, San Francisco, LA, Anaheim, Bakersfield, Fresno, Richmond, Eureka, Sacramento, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
And “the most elevated levels of environmental radiation after Fukushima occured in states bounding on the Pacific Ocean: California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska.”
The researchers then compared the rates of five kinds of birth defects that occurred in these states during the months of April to November 2011 to the rates for the same period in 2010.
The five birth defects studied included Cleft Lip Palate, Downs Syndrome, and Spinabifida.
The study authors “included births conceived in September-December 2010, meaning they were in the 3rd-6th month in utero when Fukushima occurred.”
In describing the study, the authors state:
“The particular sensitivity of the fetus to radiation exposure, and the ability of radioisotopes to attach to cells, tissues and DNA raise the question of whether fetuses/newborns with birth defects suffered greater exposures after the period after the meltdown.”
This study concludes that they did.
“The birth defect rate for all five defects increased 13% in the five Pacific Ocean states for births from April-November (2011)”, compared to that period the year before.
The actual number of birth defect cases rose from 600 to 677. For the other 45 states and Washington DC, the birth defect rate for those five anomalies actually decreased 3.77%. And the actual number of cases fell, from 4378 to 4180. In addition, the birth defect rate for each of the Pacific states increased.”
The study notes, “Only the California increase achieved statistical significance.” That increase was 11.88%
Sources: Journal of Open Pediatrics scirp.org/journal/ojped ; Radiation and Public Health Project radiation.org
Originally posted at OB Rag