The Ongoing Tragedy of Fukushima

March 11, 2017 marks 6 years since triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants and the near meltdown at numerous atomic power reactors across Japan. Even today we are still realizing the widespread impacts these meltdowns have caused for the citizens of Japan and their ongoing impact around the earth. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company, the owner of the Fukushima Daiichi plants) still has not located the melted fuel that continues to release significant amounts of radioactive material into the ocean, and tens of thousands of Japanese citizens displaced from the Fukushima Prefecture remain without a home or permanent settlement.

As many of Fairewinds readers already know, following the Great East Japan earthquake and Tsunami that shook and destroyed a large area on the Pacific coast of Japan, a level 7 meltdown occurred at three of the six rectors at the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant. As we remember the devastation caused in this event, we must also be thankful for the thousands of workers who responded promptly and sacrificed their personal safety to prevent further catastrophe at the 14 nuclear power reactors in jeopardy on March 11. As we look back, we have to learn from this disaster and remember it could have been worse. 

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When a poor safety culture [to use nukespeak nomenclature] impacts nuclear power plant operations, what does that mean for plant employees, nearby communities, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)?

A survey of NRC employees shows that 39% are afraid of raising safety issues due to possible retaliation from supervisors. 75% of employees who did raise a safety concern reported negative responses like lower performance reviews and being excluded from work activities. How is the NRC supposed to be a nuclear watchdog if its employees are afraid to mention possibly serious safety violations to their superiors? This is a toxic safety culture with ramifications reaching far outside the NRC offices. 

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is responsible for assessing atomic power reactor risk and making sure that the corporations LLCs (independent limited liability corporations) and the public utilities operating the plants follow NRC regulations and more importantly the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) that is the final legal authority for federal agencies. Unfortunately, the real problem that exists is that NRC regulations are not adequately or equally enforced. And most importantly, oftentimes the NRC itself not only ignores its own regulations, but also conveniently forgets to adhere to the Code of Federal Regulations that are the backbone of all nuclear power plant licenses and the regulations for the entire atomic power industry. 

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 Energy News:

The Guardian: ‘Shell knew’ oil giant's 1991 film warned of climate change danger

Surprise! It turns out that Exxon wasn't the only oil company to know early on about the dangers of climate change and the risks poised to the environment as well as people’s wellbeing. A film created by Shell has just surfaced that shows the oil company knew about global warming during the early 1990s. It warns of extreme weather events, sea level rise, famines, and climate refugees, even stating that “if the weather machine were to be wound up to such new levels of energy, no country would remain unaffected.” Despite all this information Shell knowingly ignored it and kept pace with the attitude of “drill baby drill” instead of pivoting to spearhead the development of clean renewable technologies.

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MIT Technology Review: The Department of Defense Wants to Double Down on Renewables

 One might think the U.S. Military and the Renewable industry odd bedfellows, but for the past 10 years the Department of Defense has been adopting renewable technologies and has gone so far as to vow to produce 25% of its energy from renewable sources. The DOD plans to continue its investment into renewables even as the new administration plans to roll back incentives dealing with clean energy. Don’t get any soft ideas about the military wanting to save the planet though, the switch to renewables is mostly a tactical one. As MIT notes, “an Army facility running on renewables would be immune to grid attacks.” Well, at least some of the money currently slated to be cut from renewable programs and given to the U.S. military will end up back where it should belong!

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