NRC Whistleblowers: Risk of Nuclear Melt-Down In U.S. Is Even HIGHER Than It Was at Fukushima

Massive Cover-Up of Risks from Flooding to Numerous U.S. Nuclear Facilities

Numerous American nuclear reactors are built within flood zones:

NuclearFloodsFinal Highres Nuclear Regulatory Commission Engineers Charge Government Coverup:  Reactor Meltdown “Absolute Certainty” If Dam Fails ... 100s of Times More Likely than Tsunami that Hit Fukushima
As one example, on the following map (showing U.S. nuclear power plants built within earthquake zones), the red lines indicate the Mississippi and Missouri rivers:

 Nuclear Regulatory Commission Engineers Charge Government Coverup:  Reactor Meltdown “Absolute Certainty” If Dam Fails ... 100s of Times More Likely than Tsunami that Hit Fukushima

Numerous dam failures have occurred within the U.S.:

dam failures map

Reactors in Nebraska and elsewhere were flooded by swollen rivers and almost melted down.  See this, this, this and this.

The Huntsville Times wrote in an editorial last year:

A tornado or a ravaging flood could just as easily be like the tsunami that unleashed the final blow [at Fukushima as an earthquake].

An engineer with the NRC says that a reactor meltdown is an “absolute certainty” if a dam upstream of a nuclear plant fails … and that such a scenario is hundreds of times more likely than the tsunami that hit Fukushima :

An engineer with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) … Richard Perkins, an NRC reliability and risk engineer, was the lead author on a July 2011 NRC report detailing flood preparedness. He said the NRC blocked information from the public regarding the potential for upstream dam failures to damage nuclear sites.

Perkins, in a letter submitted Friday with the NRC Office of Inspector General, said that the NRC “intentionally mischaracterized relevant and noteworthy safety information as sensitive, security information in an effort to conceal the information from the public.” The Huffington Post first obtained the letter.

***

The report in question was completed four months after … Fukushima.

The report concluded that, “Failure of one or more dams upstream from a nuclear power plant may result in flood levels at a site that render essential safety systems inoperable.”

Huffington Post reported last month:

These charges were echoed in separate conversations with another risk engineer inside the agencywho suggested that the vulnerability at one plant in particular — the three-reactor Oconee Nuclear Station near Seneca, S.C. — put it at risk of a flood and subsequent systems failure, should an upstream dam completely fail, that would be similar to the tsunami that hobbled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan last year.***

The engineer is among several nuclear experts who remain particularly concerned about the Oconee plant in South Carolina, which sits on Lake Keowee, 11 miles downstream from the Jocassee Reservoir. Among the redacted findings in the July 2011 report — and what has been known at the NRC for years, the engineer said — is that the Oconee facility, which is operated by Duke Energy, would suffer almost certain core damage if the Jocassee dam were to fail. And the odds of it failing sometime over the next 20 years, the engineer said, are far greater than the odds of a freak tsunami taking out the defenses of a nuclear plant in Japan.

“The probability of Jocassee Dam catastrophically failing is hundreds of times greater than a 51 foot wall of water hitting Fukushima Daiichi,” the engineer said. “And, like the tsunami in Japan, the man‐made ‘tsunami’ resulting from the failure of the Jocassee Dam will –- with absolute certainty –- result in the failure of three reactor plants along with their containment structures.

“Although it is not a given that Jocassee Dam will fail in the next 20 years,” the engineer added, “it is a given that if it does fail, the three reactor plants will melt down and release their radionuclides into the environment.”

***

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Huffington Post, Richard H. Perkins, a reliability and risk engineer with the agency’s division of risk analysis, alleged that NRC officials falsely invoked security concerns in redacting large portions of a report detailing the agency’s preliminary investigation into the potential for dangerous and damaging flooding at U.S. nuclear power plants due to upstream dam failure.

Perkins, along with at least one other employee inside NRC, also an engineer, suggested that the real motive for redacting certain information was to prevent the public from learning the full extent of these vulnerabilities, and to obscure just how much the NRC has known about the problem, and for how long.

Huffington Post notes today:

An un-redacted version of a recently released Nuclear Regulatory Commission report highlights the threat that flooding poses to nuclear power plants located near large dams — and suggests that the NRC has misled the public for years about the severity of the threat, according to engineers and nuclear safety advocates.

“The redacted information shows that the NRC is lying to the American public about the safety of U.S. reactors,” said David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer and safety advocate with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

***

According to the NRC’s own calculations, which were also withheld in the version of the report released in March, the odds of the dam near the Oconee plant failing at some point over the next 22 years are far higher than were the odds of an earthquake-induced tsunami causing a meltdown at the Fukushima plant.

The NRC report identifies flood threats from upstream dams at nearly three dozen other nuclear facilities in the United States, including the Fort Calhoun Station in Nebraska, the Prairie Island facility in Minnesota and the Watts Bar plant in Tennessee, among others.

***

Larry Criscione, a risk engineer at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who is one of two NRC employees who have now publicly raised questions about both the flood risk at Oconee and the agency’s withholding of related information, said assertions that the plant is “currently able to mitigate flooding events,” amounted to double-speak.

Criscione said this is because current regulations don’t include the failure of the Jocassee Dam — 11 miles upriver from Oconee — in the universe of potential flooding events that might threaten the plant. “I think they’re being dishonest,” Criscione said in a telephone interview. “I think that we currently intend to have Duke Energy improve their flooding protection and to say that the current standard is adequate is incorrect.”

According to the leaked report, NRC stated unequivocally in a 2009 letter to Duke that it believed that “a Jocassee Dam failure is a credible event” and that Duke had “not demonstrated that the Oconee Nuclear Station units will be adequately protected.” These statements — along with Duke’s own flood timeline associated with a Jocassee Dam failure and NRC’s calculated odds of such a failure — were among many details that were blacked out of the earlier, publicly released report.

***

Richard H. Perkins, a risk engineer with the NRC and the lead author of the leaked report, pointed to the analysis by the Association of Dam Safety Officials in an email message to The Huffington Post. “I felt it made a significant point that large, fatal, dam failures occur from time to time,” he said. “They are generally unexpected and they can kill lots of people. It’s not credible to say ‘dam failures are not credible.’”

Dave Lochbaum, the Union of Concerned Scientists engineer who reviewed a copy of the un-redacted report, says these revelations directly contradict the NRC’s assertions that Oconee is currently safe. “Fukushima operated just under 40 years before their luck ran out,” Lochbaum, who worked briefly for the NRC himself between 2009 and 2010, and who now heads the Nuclear Safety Project at UCS, said in a phone call. “If it ever does occur here, the consequences would be very, very high.

“Japan is now building higher sea walls at other plants along its coasts. That’s great for those plants, but it’s too late for Fukushima. If in hindsight you think you should have put the wall in,” Lochbaum said, “then in foresight you should do it now.”

Other Comparisons Between Dangers In U.S. and Fukushima

There are,  in fact, numerous parallels between Fukushima and vulnerable U.S. plants.

A Japanese government commission found that the Fukushima accident occurred because Tepco and the Japanese government were negligent, corrupt and in collusion. See this, this and this.  The U.S. NRC is similarly corrupt.

The operator of the Fukushima complex admitted earlier this month that it knew of the extreme vulnerability of its plants, but:

If the company were to implement a severe-accident response plan, it would spur anxiety throughout the country and in the community where the plant is sited, and lend momentum to the antinuclear movement ….

The U.S. has 23 reactors which are virtually identical to Fukushima.

Most American nuclear reactors are old.  They are aging poorly, and are in very real danger of melting down.

And yet the NRC is relaxing safety standards at the old plants. Indeed, while many of the plants are already past the service life that the engineers built them for, the NRC is considering extending licenses another 80 years, which former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority and now senior adviser with Friends of the Earth’s nuclear campaign David Freeman calls “committing suicide”:

You’re not just rolling the dice, you’re practically committing suicide … everyone living within a 50 mile radius is a guinea pig.

Indeed, the Fukushima reactors were damaged by earthquake even before the tsunami hit (confirmed here). And the American reactors may be even more vulnerable to earthquakes than Fukushima.

Moreover, the top threat from Fukushima are the spent fuel pools. And American nuclear plants have fuel pool problems which could dwarf the problems at Fukushima.

And neither government is spending the small amounts it would take to harden their reactors against a power outage.

The parallels run even deeper.   Specifically, the American government has largely been responsible for Japan’s nuclear policy for decades. And U.S. officials are apparently a primary reason behind Japan’s cover-up of the severity of the Fukushima accident … to prevent Americans from questioning our similarly-vulnerable reactors.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Leslie-Corrice/100001938983145 Leslie Corrice

    Two problems here. First, the blog never mentions that all US plants have had emergency-power supply systems which were upgraded after 9/11 to withstand rare-but-not-impossible natural calamities, including floods. If Japan had similarly upgraded (water-proofed existing locations, or moved the diesels and batteries to a separate dedicated building, or etc.) THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO FUKUSHIMA ACCIDENT. Second, David Lochbaum has never given the nuclear industry or the NRC credit for anything. Plus, he always exaggerates to get the best-possible media pop. He’s nothing more than a bigot with respect to nuclear energy.

    • http://chimaeraimaginarium.wordpress.com/ Richard_William_Posner

      Could you provide your sources for the information regarding the upgrades please? I’d like to learn more about them.
      Thank you.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=549066379 Chris Cassino

        http://www.neimagazine.com/story.asp?storyCode=2063117

        There’s some of the industry information there.

        I have two problems with this article though.

        First, the US NRC is the main reason a nuclear site has any risk due to flooding at all. They won’t let the US nuclear industry reprocess spent fuel, they won’t approve a long term storage site like Yucca Mountain, and they won’t approve more cintering facilities to encase spent fuel in glass. But they still require the US Nuclear industry to pay for all of these things, and the current fund for a long term storage facility has billions of dollars in it now. If the US NRC doesn’t want a risk of damaged fuel in a flood situation, they need to stop obstructing the industry.

        Second, even if you ignore the constant bleating from the Union of Concerned Scientists about things that they don’t like without good reason, if we know that certain dam failures will lead to other drastic consequences, then why isn’t that cause for a national infrastructure program to prevent those failures?!

        • http://chimaeraimaginarium.wordpress.com/ Richard_William_Posner

          I gather from the tenor of your comments that you are a proponent of nuclear energy.

          Thank you for the link. I have bookmarked it and will read the article later. Frankly, I’m more interested to read what Nuclear Engineering International has to say about Fukushima and will probably read their “Fukushima news” first.

        • CaptD

          RE: “the constant bleating from the Union of Concerned Scientists ”

          The nuclear industry denies that they need to do any real safety upgrades and complains about any NRC required safety upgrades, yet they will not insure themselves against risk,having gotten Congress to pass that risk along to the US Govt. and the people of the USA, thanks to the Price-Anderson Act.

          Per the NRC: Fact Sheet on Nuclear Insurance and Disaster Relief http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/funds-fs.html

          In short, if there is more than $12 Billion in damages, residents are left holding a empty radioactive bag! This is only a tiny fraction of what it will cost in Fukushima, which I estimated to be about a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster!

          What is the value of all the homes and Commercial property downwind of Southern California or yet another nuclear power plant (NPP)?

          Probably at least several TRILLION dollars…

          Here is a great graphic that will help everyone visualize what is downwind of any of the US reactors! NRDC Nuclear Fallout Map: http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/fallout/

          Just click on a reactor and zoom in… (BTW: These are conservative fallout estimates).

          Where will the US Government get the REST of the money if it happened at to a reactor upwind from where you live, next week, probably from Social Security and or Medicare?

          BTW: Your homeowners insurance does not cover anything related to nuclear pollution, so you are going to suffer big loses should anything BAD happen!

    • CaptD

      Your claim that all US reactors are safe is 100% false!
      A single example:
      San Onofre was a nuclear “near miss” thanks to its operator SCE trying to slip its poorly designed replacement steam generators past the NRC! Now after less than two years for Unit 2 and less than a single year for Unit 3 they both have more damage than all the rest of the US nuclear fleet combined!

      http://sanonofresafety.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/steamgeneratortubespluggedbyageandsanonofresteamgeneratorproblems2012-11-03.pdf

      Utilities are focused on profits not safety, despite saying the opposite, and that what makes US (and other countries) nuclear power plants (NPP’s) dangerous!

  • http://chimaeraimaginarium.wordpress.com/ Richard_William_Posner

    Not to worry! I have it on good authority, from experts commenting on the recent nuclear weapons articles on this very site, that radiation is harmless, or at least its dangers are vastly exaggerated.

    So chill. It’s all good.

  • http://chimaeraimaginarium.wordpress.com/ Richard_William_Posner

    Not to worry! I have it on good authority, from experts commenting on the recent nuclear weapons articles on this very site, that radiation is harmless, or at least its dangers are vastly exaggerated.

    So chill. It’s all good.

    • Nano

      Richard, it is a fact that the dangers of radiation are routinely exaggerated. It is a matter of the radiation dose rate. And the fact is that no-one who understands the situation in Fukushima (scientists, physicians, etc) actually say that the public was harmed, or will be harmed in any way. The only people who have actually obtained significant amounts of radiation dose where the plant workers.

      Of the 3700 workers at the Fukushima site who worked to control the disaster, about 100 of them got a dose of of about 100 MSv, 2 people got 650 MSv and about 300 got between 50 and 100MSv.

      These doses are very small, however, an estimate can be made (and was made) of the number of additional cancer deaths among this group of 3700 people, sometime in the future. It turns out that 5 workers (out of all these 3700) are liable to have their lives shortened due to cancer.

      This is tragic of course, but of these 3700 workers we should realize that about 20% are likely to die from cancer anyway. Cancer is a rather common disease after all, with or without nuclear accidents! 20% of 3700 people is about 700 people who are likely to die from cancer anyway, to which now are probably added 5 more people. A tragedy, but it must pale in comparison to the actual tragedy which is the destruction caused by the tsunami and earthquake.

      • CaptD

        Nano, get a grip, citing current issues is silly since the health implication from Fukushima will take years to appear! You have also no listed the effect on the land or nearby waters from the radioactive pollution, which is like cherry picking numbers to make your case that nuclear pollution is not any big deal

        Ask the 150,000+ people that are displaced from Fukushima or all the children that now have to play indoors because it is not safe to play outside!

  • CampbellH

    These reactors are not going to disappear overnight. However the lessons learned in Japan need to taken on board. To fail to do so is the height of criminal irresponsibly. Personally, I am anti-nuclear power – for a variety of reasons, but that is not the point. To hijack this issue for politics is again extremely irresponsible – in manner that reminds me of the vilification of carbon dioxide. The point is that diesel engines and water do not mix – so do something about diesel powered emergency cooling systems, Immediately. Don’t argue wider issues to make a political point. Just do it.

    • CaptD

      Every US nuclear power plant must have multiple WORKING generators ALONG WITH ENOUGH tanked STORED WATER TO COOL THEM FOR AT LEAST A WEEK, otherwise they are at risk…

  • dubld

    Wow, stunning. And not alarmist at all;)

    Now how about providing us with a map of all the coal fired plants in the US and overlaying it with a map of retail outlets that sell matches, cigarette lighters, and campfire starters. Then we’ll be really really afraid…

    • CaptD

      Justifying the RISK of nuclear by calling out coal fired plants is a lame argument, especially when other countries (like Germany) are shifting away from both and not only making money but creating huge numbers of clean GREEN jobs!

  • Matthias

    In 2011 Barak Obama authorized the building of 9 new nuclear power plants in the US, 3 in Georgia and 3 in South Carolina are already in the works. The US is going to be destroyed in every possible way, and by DESIGN. From jobs sent overseas, the American Majority being replaced via immigration, the handing over of taxpayer TRILLIONS to the banksters by Bush and Obama both, much more could be listed such as Affirmative Action, H-1B Visas, etc but SOMEBODY, somebody POWERFUL has it in for the US and the Enemy is WITHIN.

  • Nano

    “Moreover, the top threat from Fukushima are the spent fuel pools. And American nuclear plants have fuel pool problems which could dwarf the problems at Fukushima.”

    Nonsense, the Fukushima spent fuel pools are not a threat at all. This ‘issue’ is a hoax. A very well crafted and executed hoax, but a hoax none the less.

    http://atomicinsights.com/2012/05/debunking-the-fukushima-spent-fuel-fable.html

    The rest of the article seems to contain little more than half-truths and complete falsehoods. Hopefully, some experts will show up in the comments section to debunk every one of them.

  • Dennis Wilson

    THORIUM energy alternative to Nuclear Power + GOVERNMENT meddling to suppress it!
    http://tinyurl.com/THORIUM-energy

    • Dennis Wilson

      By weight, thorium can produce 200 times
      as much energy as uranium, reactors are cheaper to design and waste,
      much cheaper to store – even if it is stored; for in thorium reactors,
      the waste can be regenerated for use as fuel. It is also inherently
      safer, since its fission reaction has to be primed; absent an external
      neutron stream, it shuts down automatically.

      India is switching to thorium, and as Evans-Pritchard remarked, China is committed to extensive use of this technology.

    • CaptD

      Thorium is Borium…

      Solar (of all flavors):

      … Is faster to install,

      … Costs less to install

      … Is ready for 24/7 power

      … Requires no decommissioning costs

      … And has no Nuclear RISK…

      Thorium is yet another Black Hole that has taken billions in R & D and is nowhere near ready for prime time, unlike Solar (of all flavors)…

  • David Dean

    I am a nuclear engineer (29 years experience) and a libertarian (even longer). Yes, I am pro-nuclear energy, but I would not expect anyone to just accept my background as sufficient to justify that position. It is simply not possible to do justice to the questions raised here in so short a forum. It is asking too much to expect anyone to be expert in the multitude of technological risks in modern industrial society. To decide such questions by political means, democratic or otherwise, will not achieve a rational result. All I want is to remove the many distortions imposed through regulations, subsidies, taxes, and lack of accountability through full liability of all competing sources of energy. Let accountability and a free people choose in a free market. I have confidence in the potential of nuclear power to prevail. If wrong, it deserves failure in that world.

    If you are interested in the safety and environmental impact of nuclear energy, start by examing to total record, not just the few spectacular failures. How many people died from Fukashima? How many died in the many petroleum and gas fires sparked by the same earthquake and tsunami? What is the total fatalities and environmental effects of nuclear energy compared to others, for the same amount of energy? Then ask why that is so. It has to do with enormous energy per mass of fuel, leading to less damage, in so many ways, to liberate that energy for useful work. In thermodynamic terms, the higher the availability, the less the increase in entropy for the same amount of useful work.

    • CaptD

      How many Japanese nuclear Experts thought their reactors were 100% safe before Fukushima?

      The problem is that all it takes is one nuclear failure to destroy a countries economy!

  • CaptD
  • CaptD

    The French have plenty of problems with Nuclear also!

    French Nuclear Disaster Scenario Was So Bad The Government Kept It Secret http://www.businessinsider.com/potential-cost-of-a-nuclear-accident-so-high-its-a-secret-2013-3 via @bi_contributors

    snip

    Catastrophic nuclear accidents, like Chernobyl in 1986 or Fukushima No. 1 in 2011, are, were incessantly told, very rare, and their probability of occurring infinitesimal.

    But when they do occur, they get costly. So costly that the French government, when it came up with cost estimates for an accident in France, kept them secret.

    But now the report was leaked to the French magazine, Le Journal de Dimanche. Turns out, the upper end of the cost spectrum of an accident at the nuclear power plant at Dampierre, in the Department of Loiret in north-central France, amounted to over three times the countrys GDP.

    Hence, the need to keep it secret. The study was done in 2007 by the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), a government agency under joint authority of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Environment, Industry, Research, and Health.With over 1,700 employees, its Frances public service expert in nuclear and radiation risks. This isnt some overambitious, publicity-hungry think tank.

    It evaluated a range of disaster scenarios that might occur at the Dampierre plant. In the best-case scenario, costs came to 760 billion more than a third of Frances GDP. At the other end of the spectrum: 5.8 trillion! Over three times Frances GDP. A devastating amount. So large that France could not possibly deal with it.

    Yet, France gets 75% of its electricity from nuclear power. The entire nuclear sector is controlled by the state, which also owns 85% of EDF, the mega-utility that operates Frances 58 active nuclear reactors spread over 20 plants. So, three weeks ago, the Institute released a more politically correct report for public consumption. It pegged the cost of an accident at 430 billion.

    There was no political smoothening, no pressure, claimed IRSN Director General Jacques Repussard, but he admitted, its difficult to publish these kinds of numbers. He said the original report with a price tag of 5.8 trillion was designed to counter the reports that EDF had fabricated, which very seriously underestimated the costs of the incidents.

    Both reports were authored by IRSN economist Patrick Momal, who struggled to explain away the differences. The new number, 430 billion, was based on a median case of radioactive releases, as was the case in Fukushima, he told the JDD, while the calculations of 2007 were based more on what happened at Chernobyl. But then he added that even the low end of the original report, the 760 billion, when updated with the impact on tourism and exports, would jump to 1 trillion.

  • CaptD

    What is wrong with our Country when we are giving “whistle blowers” such a hard time instead of our thanks for exposing things that are unsafe?

    This is especially important when it come to anything related to the nuclear industry, since the cost of even one nuclear accident could destroy our Countries economy for generations!

    Utility profits have replaced SAFETY as the most important thing for utilities to consider since if their is any big problems there are not on the hook for them having past that risk onto their ratepayers!

    If the nuclear industry had to self-insure there would be no nuclear power plants in the USA! That statement alone, should cause all ratepayers to question not only the nuclear industry but all those that support them and not just in Congress!

  • CaptD

    What is wrong with our Country when we are giving “whistle blowers” such a hard time instead of our thanks for exposing things that are unsafe?

    This is especially important when it come to anything related to the nuclear industry, since the cost of even one nuclear accident could destroy our Countries economy for generations!

    Utility profits have replaced SAFETY as the most important thing for utilities to consider since if their is any big problems there are not on the hook for them having past that risk onto their ratepayers!

    If the nuclear industry had to self-insure there would be no nuclear power plants in the USA! That statement alone, should cause all ratepayers to question not only the nuclear industry but all those that support them and not just in Congress!

 

 

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