Similarly – as documented below – the nuclear agencies are owned and controlled by the nuclear industry, and serve them … instead of public health or safety.
Congressman: There’s Been an “Attempted Coup” at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
I noted last week:
New US plant designs are very near being licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission without any Fukushima modifications.
Now we know why.
Congressman Markey wrote yesterday:
As part of his ongoing investigation into U.S. nuclear safety since the Fukushima meltdowns, today Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) … released a blockbuster new report that details how four Commissioners at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) colluded to prevent and then delay the work of the NRC Near-Term Task Force on Fukushima, the entity tasked with making recommendations for improvement to NRC regulations and processes after the Fukushima meltdowns ….
Rep. Markey’s office reviewed thousands of pages of documents, including emails, correspondence, meeting minutes and voting records, and found a concerted effort by Commissioners William Magwood, Kristine Svinicki, William Ostendorff and George Apostolakis to undermine the efforts of the Fukushima Task Force with request for endless additional study in an effort to delay the release and implementation of the task force’s final recommendations. Documents also show open hostility on the part of the four Commissioners toward efforts of NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko to fully and quickly implement the recommendations of the Task Force, despite efforts on the part of the Chairman to keep the other four NRC Commissioners fully informed regarding the Japanese emergency.
“The actions of these four Commissioners since the Fukushima nuclear disaster has caused a regulatory meltdown that has left America’s nuclear fleet and the general public at risk,” said Rep. Markey. “Instead of doing what they have been sworn to do, these four Commissioners have attempted a coup on the Chairman and have abdicated their responsibility to the American public to assure the safety of America’s nuclear industry. I call on these four Commissioners to stop the obstruction, do their jobs and quickly move to fully implement the lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster.”
A copy of the report “Regulatory Meltdown: How Four Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners Conspired to Delay and Weaken Nuclear Reactor Safety in the Wake of Fukushima” can be found HERE.
Major findings in the new report include:
- Four NRC Commissioners attempted to delay and otherwise impede the creation of the NRC Near-Term Task Force on Fukushima;
- Four NRC Commissioners conspired, with each other and with senior NRC staff, to delay the release of and alter the NRC Near-Term Task Force report on Fukushima;
- The other NRC Commissioners attempted to slow down or otherwise impede the adoption of the safety recommendations made by the NRC Near-Term Task Force on Fukushima ….
- The consideration of the Fukushima safety upgrades is not the only safety-related issue that the other NRC Commissioners have opposed.
The Hill’s energy and environment blog reported yesterday:
[The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory Jaczko] believes the commission “has taken an approach that is not as protective of public health and safety as I believe is necessary.”
The commission has disagreed in recent months over how to deal with the recommendations of a task force assigned to reevaluate the country’s nuclear safety regulations in light of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.
The report called on the commission to make sweeping improvements to NRC’s “existing patchwork of regulatory requirements and other safety initiatives.”
Jaczko called on the commission to quickly evaluate the report and implement the necessary recommendations. But the commissioners initially resisted Jaczko’s call for swift action.
It turns out the leader of the group of commissioners which Jaczco is fighting was a consultant for Tepco – the company which operates Fukushima.
Rolling Stone pointed out in April:
The NRC has long served as little more than a lap dog to the nuclear industry, unwilling to crack down on unsafe reactors. “The agency is a wholly owned subsidiary of the nuclear power industry,” says Victor Gilinsky, who served on the commission during the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979. Even President Obama denounced the NRC during the 2008 campaign, calling it a “moribund agency that needs to be revamped and has become captive of the industries that it regulates.”
In the years ahead, nuclear experts warn, the consequences of the agency’s inaction could be dire. “The NRC has consistently put industry profits above public safety,” says Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear executive turned whistle-blower. “Consequently, we have a dozen Fukushimas waiting to happen in America.”
I noted in April:
Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, Duane Peterson (president of VPIRG & coordinator for the campaign to retire Vermont Yankee nuclear plant), investigative reporter Harvey Wasserman and Paul Gallay (executive director of Riverkeeper) point out in a roundtable discussion:
- The NRC won’t even begin conducting its earthquake study for Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York until after relicensing is complete in 2013, because the NRC doesn’t consider a big earthquake “a serious risk”
- Congressman Markey has said there is a cover up. Specifically, Markey alleges that the head of the NRC told everyone not to write down risks they find from an earthquake greater than 6.0 (the plant was only built to survive a 6.0 earthquake)
- The budget for the NRC comes from the nuclear power companies [just like banks fund the Federal Reserve]
- The NRC is wholly captive to industry
- The NRC has never turned down the request of a nuclear power plant to be relicensed in the United States. Relicensing is solely a paper process; there is no safety review.
- The NRC’s assumptions regarding a worst-case accident are ridiculous. For example, the NRC assumes only 1% of the fuel could meltdown, while 70% melted down at Fukushima. The NRC assumes no loss of containment, while there has been a major loss of containment in reactors 1-3 (especially 2) at Fukushima.
- “If there was a free market in energy, nuclear power would be over … immediately”. Nuclear plant owners can’t get insurance; they can only operate because the U.S. government provides insurance on the taxpayer dime. The government also granted a ridiculously low cap on liability
- If we had no subsidies for nuclear, coal or oil, we’d have a clean energy economy right now
- We have 4 reactors in California – 2 at San Onofre 2 at San Luis Obisbo – which are vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis [Update: There's a new proposed California ballot initiative to shut down all nuclear reactors in the state. See this, this and this].
- No state or federal agency knows who would be in charge in case of an accident at Indian Point. It’s like the Keystone Cops
The precursor to the NRC – the Atomic Energy Commission – was no better:
By any measure, Dr. John Gofman was one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century. Gofman earned his doctorate in nuclear and physical chemistry, and was also a medical doctor. He worked on the Manhattan Project, co-discovered uranium-232 and -233 and proved their fissionability, helped discover how to extract plutonium and led the team that discovered and characterized lipoproteins in the causation of heart disease.
Dr. Arthur R. Tamplin was a doctor of biophysics, who was tasked – as a group leader in the Biomedical Division at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories – with predicting the ultimate distribution within the biosphere and in humans of each radionuclide produced in the explosion of a nuclear device.
In 1963 the Atomic Energy Commission asked Gofman and Tamplin to undertake a series of long range studies on potential dangers that might arise from the “peaceful uses of the atom.” They told the truth, and the AEC launched a campaign of harassment in response.
What did they say, and why was the AEC so hostile?
Gofman and Tamplin documented that low levels of radiation can cause cancer and other diseases, and they argued that federal safety guidelines for low-level exposures should be reduced by 90 percent.
Because Obama’s top adviser and top funders are connected with the nuclear power industry, the White House has also aggressively pushed four new nuclear power plants in the U.S., even though virtually all of the current nuclear reactors in the U.S. are of the same archaic design as those at Fukushima, and this design was not chosen for safety reasons, but because it worked in Navy submarines, and produced plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. And even though the same folks who built and run Fukushima will build and operate the new U.S. facilities.
(Other U.S. agencies are captured as well. For example, the EPA and FDA are playing politics with radiation. Indeed, Forbes’ blogger Jeff McMahon and Truthout writer Mike Ludwig both note that FDA radiation standards for milk and other foods are 200 times higher than EPA standards for drinking water, and are based more on commercial than safety concerns.)
IAEA: Another Nuclear Industry Shill
The NRC is not the only captured nuclear agency. The International Atomic Energy Agency is also just a booster for nuclear power.
I noted in May
The entire purpose of the IAEA – according to its website – is to promote nuclear power:
The IAEA is the world’s center of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up as the world´s “Atoms for Peace” organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.
The Christian Science Monitor noted in March:
[Russian nuclear accident specialist Iouli Andreev, who as director of the Soviet Spetsatom clean-up agency helped in the efforts 25 years ago to clean up Chernobyl ] has also accused the IAEA of being too close with corporations. “This is only a fake organization because every organization which depends on the nuclear industry – and the IAEA depends on the nuclear industry – cannot perform properly.”
Bloomberg reported yesterday:
The [IAEA] classifies safety as one of its top three priorities, yet is spending 8.9 percent of its 352 million-euro ($469 million) regular budget this year on making plants secure from accidents. As it focuses resources on the other two priorities — technical cooperation and preventing nuclear- weapons proliferation — the IAEA is missing an opportunity to improve shortcomings in reactor safety exposed by the Fukushima disaster, said Trevor Findlay, a former Australian diplomat.
“The IAEA did not seize the opportunity of this dreadful event to advance the agency’s role in nuclear safety,” said Findlay ….
The IAEA was founded in 1957 as the global “Atoms for Peace” organization to promote “safe, secure and peaceful” nuclear technology, according to its website. A staff of 2,300 work at the IAEA’s secretariat at its headquarters.
Its mission statement encapsulates the same conflict as Japan’s failed nuclear-safety regime: playing the role of both promoter and regulator of atomic power, according to scientists, diplomats and analysts interviewed by Bloomberg News.
About half of the IAEA’s budget is devoted to restricting the use of nuclear material for military purposes, and the agency has spent a decade investigating Iran’s atomic program because of suspicion the country is developing weapons.
As the agency targeted weapons, the meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant capped years of faked safety reports and fatal accidents in Japan’s atomic-power industry. The country’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency was in a conflict of interest because it was under the control of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which had a mandate to promote nuclear power.
The IAEA “accepted for years the overlap between regulation and industry in Japan,” said Johannis Noeggerath, president of Switzerland’s Society of Nuclear Professionals and safety director for the country’s Leibstadt reactor. “They have a safety culture problem.”
Since coming to office in 2009, Amano has spent five times more money fighting terrorism and preventing proliferation than on making the world’s 450 nuclear reactors safer, UN data show.
The agency’s safety division garnered little respect in U.S. diplomatic cables that described the department as a marketing channel for countries seeking to sell atomic technology.
They also questioned the credentials of Tomihiro Taniguchi, the IAEA’s former head of safety who helped create the regulatory regime in Japan, which is being blamed for failings that led to the Fukushima disaster.
The IAEA’s nuclear-safety division had downplayed the threat from natural disasters. In 2010, the director general’s first full year in office, anti- terrorism spending rose at three times the rate of safety expenditure.
“Tsunamis, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes have affected many parts of the world and nuclear installations everywhere responded admirably,” Taniguchi said in a December 2005 speech. “The design and operational features ensured that extreme natural conditions would not jeopardize safety.”
Taniguchi was also an executive of Japan’s Nuclear Power Engineering Corp., which promotes public acceptance of the operation of atomic-power plants, before joining the IAEA.
The IAEA’s own mission to promote atomic power may also contradict the Convention on Nuclear Safety.
“Each contracting party shall take the appropriate steps to ensure an effective separation between the functions of the regulatory body and those of any other body or organization concerned with the promotion or utilization of nuclear energy,” says article 8.2 of the convention.
IAEA Controls World Health Organization on Radiation
I noted in April:
Certainly the World Health Organization is a neutral voice?
One would think so. But as physician Helen Caldicott points out:
There is widespread confusion about the roles of the World Health Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Commission. Monbiot expresses surprise that a UN-affiliated body such as WHO might be under the influence of the nuclear power industry, causing its reporting on nuclear power matters to be biased. And yet that is precisely the case.
In the early days of nuclear power, WHO issued forthright statements on radiation risks, such as its 1956 warning: ”Genetic heritage is the most precious property for human beings. It determines the lives of our progeny, health and harmonious development of future generations. As experts, we affirm that the health of future generations is threatened by increasing development of the atomic industry and sources of radiation.”
After 1959, the organisation made no more statements on health and radioactivity.
On May 28, 1959, at the 12th World Health Assembly, WHO drew up an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. A clause of this agreement says the WHO effectively grants the right of prior approval over any research it might undertake or report on to the IAEA – a group that many people, including journalists, think is a neutral watchdog, but which is, in fact, an advocate for the nuclear power industry. Its founding papers state: ”The agency shall seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity through the world.”
The WHO’s subjugation to the IAEA is widely known within the scientific radiation community, something which Monbiot chose to ignore. But it is clearly not the only matter on which he is ignorant, after his recent apparent three-day perusal of the vast body of scientific information on radiation and radioactivity. The confusion that he and other nuclear industry apologists sow about radiation risks is very similar to the way that the tobacco industry propounded misinformation and lies about the true effects of smoking.
Despite their claims, it is they, not the ”anti-nuclear movement”, who are ”misleading the world about the impacts of radiation on human health”.
Radiation expert Dr. Christopher Busby agrees:
The last thing [proponents of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy] wanted was the doctors and epidemiologists stopping their fun. The IAEA and the World Health Organisation (WHO) signed an agreement in 1959 to remove all research into the issue from the doctors of the WHO, to the atom scientists, the physicists of the IAEA: this agreement is still in force. The UN organisations do not refer to, or cite any scientific study, which shows their statements on Chernobyl to be false. There is a huge gap between the picture painted by the UN, the IAEA, the ICRP and the real world. And the real world is increasingly being studied and reports are being published in the scientific literature: but none of the authorities responsible for looking after the public take any notice of this evidence.
Indeed an agreement between IAEA and WHO states that WHO cannot research health effects of radiation or effects of nuclear accidents if IAEA does not agree (2:30 into the following video) and the former head of WHO admits that WHO answers to IAEA (7:00 into video):
ICRP: Another Industry Mouthpiece
The International Commission on Radiological Protection is also tied to the nuclear industry. I reported in April:
The Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients wrote in 2002:
One of the original five ‘health physicists’ to set radiation safety standards was Karl Z. Morgan. Dr. Morgan served on the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), which set up most radiation standards. He also directed the Health Physics Division at Oak Ridge from 1944 until his retirement in 1972. In recent years, Dr. Morgan has publicly criticized the ICRP for failing to protect human health. In a 1994 article for the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Dr. Morgan wrote: “The period of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons by the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the USSR is a sad page in the history of civilized man. Without question, it was the cause of hundreds of thousands of cancer deaths. Yet there was complete silence on the part of the ICRP. During these years (1960-1965), most members of the ICRP either worked directly with the nuclear weapons industry or indirectly received most of their funding for their research from this industry.”
The ICRP’s alliance with the nuclear industry includes ties to the International Congress of Radiology. In his 1999 autobiography, The Angry Genie: One Man’s Walk Through the Nuclear Age (ISBN 0-8061-3122-5), Dr. Morgan related his concern about the ICRP’s refusal to address the danger of excessive X-ray exposure during diagnostic procedures and dentistry. Until the passage of the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1968, some X-ray equipment used in the 1950s and 1960s delivered 2 to 3 rem per X-ray. X-ray doses as low as 1.6 rem increase a woman’s chance of developing cancer, according to a 1974 study by Baruch Modan [Lancet (Feb. 23,1974), pp 277-279]. The Act did not address the cumulative effect of multiple, routine, and often unnecessary X-rays.
The IAEA and NRC knew pretty quickly that Fukushima was an extreme radiological disaster, but they kept that information from the public for months, and all nuclear agencies worldwide have downplayed the severity of Fukushima.
Indeed, governments around the world have been covering up nuclear meltdowns for 50 years.