Thursday, July 14, 2011

Deception on the public broadcasting network

On July 13th, the National Public Broadcast program "It's Your World" replayed a June 14th program entitled "Powering America: Does Nuclear have a Future?" featuring Thomas Isaacs, Per F. Peterson, and V. John White. While the program made a number of interesting points pertaining to the future of nuclear power, particularly with respect to the likelihood of the future construction of much safer reactors characterized by passive reactor design where no water injection is needed to maintain cooling, the program was particularly unnerving in its failure to address two major controversies pertaining to the accident in Japan. These controversies are highlighted in our publication Fukushima Daiichi: Nuclear Information Handbook as well as in our publication announcement packet.

The design flaws in General Electric's boiling water reactors that played a major role in the Japan accident should be a major concern for all American citizens living downwind from America's 35 boiling water reactors. The accident in Japan graphically illustrates the vulnerability of aging nuclear reactors to meltdown accidents due to a combination of normal equipment deterioration such as steam tube deformation and sludge deposits in fuel assemblies and the startling design flaws illustrated by the Japan disaster. No mention was made of these issues in the broadcast.

Even more disconcerting was the failure to address the ongoing controversy pertaining to the lack of real time monitoring of the emissions that continue to characterize the accident in Japan. The technology to monitor these emissions as measured in becquerels per hour or becquerels per cubic meter has been available for almost a half century. The program focused on the lack of public trust for nuclear power in the future and inadvertently made a major statement fostering such mistrust by failing to discuss the need for a comprehensive survey of the source term releases of the Japan accident. Currently a comprehensive ground deposit survey is entirely lacking as are accurate weekly reports about contamination in the Japanese food supply. The hope for accurate monitoring symbolized by NISA's initial comprehensive reporting of ambient radiation levels as expressed in microsieverts per hour has since been compromised by a gradual reduction in reporting of monitoring data that would allow a reasonable evaluation of the status of an accident that may continue indefinitely.

Pers Peterson did mention the ongoing problem of the generation of large quantities of radioactive water, but otherwise avoided terminology such as nuclear accident, nuclear meltdown, and, especially, multiple interlocking meltdown event (MIME). The main question raised by this program is: in the case of a future meltdown event and quick release accident at a US boiling water reactor, will the reactor licensee, as well as the NRC, also withhold accurate information about the total amount of radioactivity released during the accident scenario? One would never know from listening to this deceptive program that the amount of radiation released from the Fukushima Daiichi accidents (7) is significantly larger than that released from Chernobyl.

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