As the Japanese nuclear disasters continue to horrify the world, we are learning more about America possibly stumbling into the same horrifying drama here at home. A short while ago, the Obama administration asked Congress for a loan guarantee to build and operate two nuclear plants along the Texas Gulf coast by TEPCO with some local companies. Please note: TEPCO stands for Tokyo Electric Power Company.
Greg Palast, the articulate and knowledgeable investigative reporter and former lead investigator for the government in fraud and racketeering cases (including Shoreham), explains via Truthout: [Here] [The italics are mine.]
The failure of emergency systems at Japan's nuclear plants comes as no surprise to those of us who have worked in the field.
Nuclear plants the world over must be certified for what is called "SQ" or "Seismic Qualification." That is, the owners swear that all components are designed for the maximum conceivable shaking event, be it from an earthquake or an exploding Christmas card from al-Qaeda.
The most inexpensive way to meet your SQ is to lie. The industry does it all the time. The government team I worked with caught them once, in 1988, at the Shoreham plant in New York. Correcting the SQ problem at Shoreham would have cost a cool billion, so engineers were told to change the tests from "failed" to ‘passed.’
The company that put in the false safety report? Stone & Webster, now the nuclear unit of Shaw Construction, which will work with TEPCO to build the Texas plant. Lord help us.
Do we need to know much more? Unfortunately, according to Palast, there is more. One of the Japanese reactors that is currently “dancing with death” (Palast’s phrase) was built by Toshiba--which bought the nuclear power business from Westinghouse and still uses the Westinghouse name.
Tom Zeller of the NYTimes on Monday reported in a piece, “U.S. Nuclear Plants Have Same Risks, and Backups, as Japan Counterparts,” that U.S. nuclear plants are now coming under a renewed round of scrutiny. Zeller pointed out that most or all of our nuclear facilities suffer from the same risk factors as those in Japan viz. near coastal areas and thus vulnerable to tsunamis, close to fault lines, physically aging plants and so on.
Perhaps these risks will cause officials to stop and reconsider. Remember, it was only last year Obama said, (as quoted by Truthout) [Here]
Investing in nuclear energy remains a necessary step," he said. "What I hope is that, with this announcement, we're underscoring both our seriousness in meeting the energy challenge and our willingness to look at this challenge, not as a partisan issue, but as a matter that's far more important than politics because the choices we make will affect not just the next generation but many generations to come.
Promising to push for bigger loan guarantees to build more nuclear power plants, the president said: "This is only the beginning."
Let us hope and pray that the current tragedy in Japan will dampen the President’s enthusiasm.
One final warning from Palast: We shouldn’t accept “official” assurances about the levels of radiation that Palast tells us are already floating toward Seattle. [Here]
(Wouldn’t it be grand if we could believe in the truth of the statements from our public officials?)