Three Mile Island: Writing the Nuclear Meltdown Playbook
By Arnie Gundersen
People today who are familiar with social media think that TMI means “Too Much Information”. But to me, and anyone listening to the news in 1979, TMI will always represent the disaster at Three Mile Island, when the public received too little information, not too much.
At the time of the nuclear disaster at TMI, there were plans to build more than 200 nuclear plants in the US, with some projections topping 1,000. Today, less than 100 nuclear plants are operating in the US. During the 1970’s, the total amount invested in those early plants easily exceeded one trillion dollars. If the public became fearful of nuclear power, then the nuclear industry, investors, and banks that had loaned money would face huge losses, so the nuclear industry and nuclear regulators tried desperately to minimize the significance of what was happening at the crippled reactor.
The pattern of denial created by the nuclear industry during the TMI meltdown had at least five steps in its playbook:
Make it appear that “authorities” have the situation under control.
Delay any evacuation orders for as long as possible.
Claim radiation releases are much lower than they actually are.
Claim radiation exposures are acceptable and that no one will die.
And lastly, minimize conflicting information given to the press through paid off experts.
The formula for damage control at TMI was designed by the nuclear industry composed a one size fits all “playbook” the industry has followed for all nuclear catastrophes since TMI. Comments made during the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi by utility owner Tokyo Electric could easily mimic those made at Chernobyl and TMI! When Maggie and I saw these old tricks being played again at Fukushima Daiichi, we dedicated ourselves to ensuring that the public has an accessible resource on which to rely that provides accurate information, and thus the Fairewinds videos were born.
In this video posted to commemorate the TMI disaster, I discuss the pattern of denial regarding nuclear power plant failures and meltdowns, not just for TMI but also for Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi as well. We at Fairewinds Energy Education hope you will watch it and think about sharing the true facts with others.
Arnie Gundersen Expert Witness Report - Three Mile Island Litigation
Report on Three Mile Island Containment Leak by Arnie Gundersen
FAIREWINDS ENERGY EDUCATION – Arnie Gundersen – Penn State TMI (transcribed 3-24-15)
VO: On March 27, 2014, exactly 35 years after the nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island, Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen gave this keynote presentation at Penn State’s Symposium TMI@35 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
F: Please welcome Arnie Gundersen. (applause)
AG: Hi. I realize it’s late, you’re tired, you’re hungry and your butts hurt. And I will – this was going to be a 40-minute speech but I’m going to try to cut more than 5 minutes out and still touch on the issues I wanted to. So thank you for hanging around as long as you have. I was an expert at the TMI trial, representing the plaintiffs. There were 10 of us at that who tell an entirely opposite story from the story you’ve heard from the NRC and the story you’ve heard from General Public Utilities. And so I sort of feel like I’m representing those 10 people and the 2,000 plaintiffs in the TMI case as well. So anyway, thank you for being here. There’s many lessons that could be learned and should be learned, not just from TMI but from the other 5 meltdowns that have occurred in the last 35 years. And five is TMI and Chernobyl and 3 meltdowns at Fukushima. So we’ve had five meltdowns in 35 years. What are the real lessons that TMI – we should have learned from TMI and 35 years later, we still have not learned? This is me in 1975. My wife says I’ve aged well. I was an engineer on a power plant almost exactly identical to Fukushima Daiichi. And then in 1977, I moved to New York State Electric & Gas, right across the border from Pennsylvania in the southern tier. And I was there when the accident occurred at Three Mile Island. As you can see, I was a member of their speakers club and I was asked by the company to go on television, which I willingly did. And I talked about the accident and I told people that there was – that there was essentially no damage, all the safety systems worked. I then went to malls and handed out brochures to moms saying don’t worry about this accident. And appeared in the boardrooms briefing executives saying don’t worry about this accident. And I had a t-shirt that said “I Survived Three Mile Island.” Then I became a senior vice president in the industry and when Chernobyl came around, I was again on television. And I basically said it’s a stupid Russian design, it couldn’t happen here. But it’s interesting that in 1979 when Chernobyl happened, the Russians said, it’s those darn capitalists and it couldn’t happen in Russia. So we both were pointing fingers at each other over a period of a couple of years. Then in 1993, though, I was hired as an expert witness to represent the plaintiffs in the litigation against GPU. And that gave me the opportunity to read thousands of pages of information. And I realized I was wrong; that there was significant health damages and there was significant radiological releases from the accident at TMI. So it was that formative experience in ’93, ’94 and ’95 during the trial that fundamental changed my world view on what happened at Three Mile Island. GPU never told the NRC, never told Governor Thornburg, and then the NRC marched into that same trap and never told the public the magnitude of the releases that occurred at Three Mile Island. We found that out – the 10 of us – that group of experts – found out how bad things really were and unfortunately, we never got to trial. Fairewinds, by the way, is a company started by my wife, Maggie. We’re a 501(c)3 and we work on safety issues and trying to get those safety issues out to the public in great detail. On the 30th anniversary, I spoke in Harrisburg, and on our website – on the Fairewinds website, we have the tape of that presentation, which goes into lots of technical detail – 40 minutes of technical detail – on this accident. So if you’re interested in the raw technical detail on this accident, I’d urge you to take a look at the Fairewinds site. Now when you’re on the Fairewinds site and you listen to this thing, there’s funny music in the background for the first 10 minutes. We did it in a conference room right off the rotunda and there was a marching band in the rotunda. So people have said, “What is that music?” and we can’t take it out. So you’ll have – but the presentation is audible but there’s a little bit of background noise. Anyway, I came to the conclusion as an expert on the trial that at 7 o’clock in the morning on the first day of the accident, an evacuation should have been ordered because radiological releases had already begun to occur. The radiation inside the containment was so high that the written procedures that TMI had in its possession required an emergency evacuation at 7 in the morning. Those emergency evacuation orders were ignored. Well, then, three years ago when Fukushima Daiichi occurred, I was watching. And I could see the same lies being presented to the Japanese people that we had with TMI and that the Russians had after Chernobyl. And so three years ago, I dedicated myself and I said I am not going to let this happen to the Japanese. I saw it happen here. I know the games that will be played. And I’ve dedicated my life to making sure that Daiichi isn’t covered up like TMI and Chernobyl. So anyway, the concept of an accident, I have a real problem with. This is from the Diet Commission – the Diet is the Japanese parliament. They issued a report on their accident that says the accident at Fukushima Daiichi cannot be regarded as a natural disaster. It was a profoundly manmade disaster that could have and should have been foreseen and prevented, and its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response. That same statement could be made about TMI and about Chernobyl. So looking back over the 35 years of accidents, I kind of narrow it down to five basic areas that are lessons we should have learned and haven’t. The first is that safety systems will fail. The second is that human beings will fail. The third is that political systems will fail; and if any emergency planners are still left or political systems, we’re in the middle of this speech, so please stay. The fourth is that people will die; and the fifth is that the risk has been grossly underestimated for nuclear power. Well, let’s look at the first one. Lesson one: Safety systems will fail. There’s four parts to that, and the first one is this thing called single-failure criteria. And what that means is that in a nuclear plant, when something breaks – a pipe breaks – you also have to assume that something else is going to break, too. And that other thing that breaks is a single failure. So a nuclear plant has to be capable of not just withstanding a pipe break, but also has to be capable of withstanding the other single failure. And that’s like cardinal law for nuclear power single failure criteria. But these five disasters have shown us that one component – that more than one component will fail during a nuclear catastrophe. Several safety systems and several operating components failed at each of these accidents. So the concept of single-failure criteria will lead to more accidents in the future. Really moving forward, if you’re going to pursue a nuclear alternative, you have to have systems that can withstand multiple component failures. And Greg Jaczko has said the same thing. The public will not accept a meltdown every 7 years. And in order to avoid that, this concept of single-failure criteria has to be off the table and we have to rethink our approach moving forward. The second one is that instruments will fail. During each of the major catastrophes, the operators relied on instruments that were erroneous. At TMI and Fukushima Daiichi, for example, the instruments that they relied on for water level, told the operators that there was a lot of water in the nuclear reactor when in fact, there was none. And it was interesting – someone else put a slide up here earlier about, well, there’s a lot of radiation in the containment but we think it’s erroneous – did you see that slide? – and it was interesting because, as I was an expert, every reading that was true and really bad they thought of as erroneous. Every reading that was erroneous but really good, they relied upon. And that’s a trend that I always see in emergency response. Operators want to believe the instruments that lead them to the conclusion they want to get to. In addition to those instruments, every radiation detector was destroyed in all five of these accidents. So when we talk about the releases from Fukushima or the releases from TMI, we have no clue what was released. It’s a scientific guess. The third thing is that hydrogen will explode. This is the pressure inside the containment at Three Mile Island on the first day of the accident. This is a TMI graph from the trial. The unique thing is that thing right in the middle, that pressure spike. That’s a hydrogen explosion. It happened on the Wednesday of the accident, on the 28th at around – between 1 and 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Hydrogen will explode; there was an explosion at TMI. Now related to that is the next one, is that containments will fail. If you look before that spike – so to the left of the spike, zero on this graph on the y axis – zero is atmospheric pressure. So after the accident, the pressure in the containment was higher than outside, just like the air pressure in a tire. The containment was doing its job. It was containing the energy. Then came the explosion. And look what happened after. The containment began to leak. There’s no doubt. One of our experts was a Dr. Wright from University of Bridgeport and he showed quite clearly that the containment failed and about 10 percent of the radiation inside escaped at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. So that was a lesson – this is TMI. This is Fukushima Daiichi. Unit 1 is on the left and has already been destroyed; Unit 2, Unit 3, Unit 4. Watch the one in the middle. That’s a hydrogen explosion 35 years afterward. So whatever lessons we thought we learned at TMI, we didn’t. Because the hydrogen explosions we were trying to mitigate after the lessons from TMI clearly repeated three times right before our very eyes at Fukushima. This thermal image is a picture of Unit 3 at Fukushima. The large spot in the middle is the spent fuel pool. But I want you to look at the four spots to the right of the middle. And they say 128C. That’s 250 degrees. That’s hot radioactive air escaping not from the fuel pool because it can’t exist – water can’t exist at over 212. That’s hot radioactive air escaping from the nuclear containment. Now this lesson is something that the NRC has known for 35 years. But I was in front of the ACRS – the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards – two years ago, and the staff told the NRC we assume containments do not fail. So TMI taught us that multiple components will fail, instruments won’t work, hydrogen will blow up and containments will fail. Guess what? Same thing happened at Fukushima. Multiple components failed, instruments didn’t work, hydrogen blew up and components failed. What have we learned in the last 35 years? Second lesson: Human beings are not infallible. In each of the five meltdowns, they all proved that operators were not infallible. At TMI, the operators didn’t realize, didn’t understand the position of a critical handle on their control panel. At Chernobyl, the operators didn’t understand how the reactor operated at very low levels when they did the tests that caused the explosion and the meltdown. And at Fukushima, the operators turned off something called the isolation condenser (Part 2 begins) and then couldn’t get it started again when they realized, oh, my God, we really needed that. So engineers are designing nuclear power plants for operators to work perfectly. Operators cannot fail in a nuclear plant. But I have saying that just says – this is my saying – sooner or later in any foolproof system, the fools are going to exceed the proofs. But to blame the operators is wrong. I was an operator. And when you’re in a situation, in a crisis situation, it’s an extraordinary event and things are happening faster than your ability to digest it. So the real lesson is not about operators failing to do the right thing. It’s really about engineers failing to build in the necessary redundancies. It’s really about engineers expecting the unexpected. And that was an interesting term. It happened twice in the previous discussions today. So as designers and engineers, we have not expected the unexpected as we build these new nuclear plants and as we run these aging nuclear plants moving forward. Okay. Lesson 3, political system. Penn Staters who are interested in emergency planning, this is your moment. We failed to learn that evacuation plans are more of a political construct than an effective plan. In each of these five accidents, the evacuation plans were not implemented effectively nor in a timely manner. Now I was being deposed – in the TMI trial, I was being deposed, and in deposition, my position was that at 7 or 7:30 in the morning on the first day of the accident, there should have been an evacuation. All of the criteria in the procedures were fulfilled that they should have evacuated between 7 and 7:30. By 10 o’clock, a friend of mine had actually gone down into the containment and measured the thermocouples indicating that the core temperature was 2,000 degrees. There should have been an evacuation. And at 1 o’clock they had an explosion. The plant manager was in the control room when the building shook and four reactor operators signed affidavits that he knew there was a hydrogen explosion. So anyway, this is how the dialogue went in the deposition. So I’m being deposed by the attorney representing GPU. And his name was Chub Wilcox – very preppy name. And he turns to me and he says, “Do you mean in the midst of all this confusion, you expected us to contact the governor?” And I said, “That’s exactly what I mean. That you were confused the governor needed to know.” And yet at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the plant manager goes to the governor and tells him everything is under control. So it’s clear to me that the plant staff understood the severity of the accident before the governor had the slightest clue. Maggie and I got this letter sent to us in an email from a woman who was in 10th grade at Middletown High School on the morning of the accident. And here’s what she had to say. And I apologize – it’s kind of long, but it’s awfully important. So this is a 10th grade girl, Middletown High School, day of the accident.:
“Our chemistry teacher had taught the whole semester on nuclear power and waste storage and so he had run a Geiger counter out the window for the entire semester. The morning of the accident, my chem class started at 10. As we entered the classroom, the Geiger counter went haywire, from a normal clicking to a solid buzz. He immediately picked up the phone and called Governor Thornburg’s office and reported the readings. The response was, we know, don’t do anything about it. By 11 a.m., parents were coming to the school and pulling out their children. Of course, many people in town worked at the plant or had relatives who did, and they did not wait for a formal evacuation call.” Kind of sad. In Russia, the authorities didn’t notify anyone for 2 days after the massive fire and explosion, and the Japanese, who are the best emergency planners in the world – they really know that earthquakes happen – the Japanese, the best emergency planners in the world, waited way too long to evacuate Fukushima Daiichi. When they did, they evacuated people into the high radiation areas, which is exactly what the emergency plans at TMI would have done. If people had evacuated, they would have been driven into the plume as opposed to being driven away from the plume, if they followed the emergency plans. So the example in Japan is illustrative of the magnitude of the problem, when policymakers rely on nuclear industry experts and industry regulators as the crisis unfolds. Several months ago, I had a long, private talk with Prime Minister Kan – who’s read my book, by the way, and he had me sign it – that was really kind of flattering. And I told him I tried to put myself in his shoes in the days immediately after the accident, being forced to rely on the small amount of information being released by Tokyo Electric and by METI, which is the Ministry of Economy and Trade and Industry. And I’ll never forget what he said. Kan says to me, the information I got was neither timely nor accurate. That could have been Governor Thornburg on the first day of the accident. GPU didn’t tell him that there was high radiation in the containment; didn’t tell him that they had measured 2,000 degrees in the reactor core, didn’t tell him about the explosion. So he did not receive information that was timely or accurate in a policymaking role. The NRC itself didn’t know about the hydrogen explosion until two days later. So after 35 years of meltdowns, we haven’t learned that corporations will do what’s best for them and their stockholders rather than tell the public and regulators the truth during a disaster. The unlearned lessons from these tragedies is that evacuation plans will not work correctly because people are terrified. And that nuclear owners, regulatory agencies and governments will refuse to tell the truth. Today it’s most likely that most evacuation plans will fail during a nuclear crisis. Critical infrastructure will be destroyed, including things like electricity, emergency sirens, traffic lights, which every emergency plan relies on for an evacuation. Here in the U.S., we only need look at Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Andrew to see how critical infrastructure near a nuclear plant was totally destroyed. It’s kind of hard to evacuate when your neighbor’s house is floating down the street in front of you. Emergency planning isn’t the only political failure. The governments of Japan, Russia and the United States all grossly underestimated the amount of radiation that was released during the nuclear accident. Each believed they were preventing panic by not informing people of the magnitude of these tragedies. How many times have you heard there’s no imminent danger? Only five days after the Fukushima Daiichi accident, when three reactors had already blown up on television, the Department of Energy Secretary Chu was on CNN. I was an expert on CNN, too. Chu was on and then I was on after him. Anyway, he was – Chu was on CNN and he said the accident at Fukushima was a category 5, the same as TMI. And then I came on and they said well, what do you think of that. And I said – I didn’t say it but he’s full of it. I said no, I’m sorry, this is as bad as Chernobyl now and might get worse. So I said this is already a level 7. Now Scott has proposed a level 8, which is actually probably what this accident could have become if the fuel pool had caught fire. They don’t have a level 8. So here’s Chu saying – witnessing three nuclear reactors blow up on television, telling us it’s no worse than TMI. And it was obvious to every nuclear engineer I knew that we had a Chernobyl on our hands. And if you read the U.S. Government transcripts, the NRC transcripts of the day of the – they were published a year after the accident, but that were occurring as all of this was going on, the NRC knew how bad this was and was as terrified as I was. But they didn’t tell congress and they didn’t tell the truth to the public, either. So operators of nuclear reactors are under extraordinary management pressure to keep the reactors running. They can make as much as a million dollars a day if the reactor operates. So this came from my expert report on TMI. The plant manager had a tape recorder running in his office when he called General Public Utilities, the owner of the nuclear reactor. And they were in Parsippany, New Jersey. So they’re 150 miles away from TMI. He taped the call at 7:30 in the morning. Well, the phone transcript made it clear that the plant manager knew how severe the accident was and wanted to begin an evacuation. But his bosses in Parsippany overrode him and basically made him knuckle under. Again, that’s in my expert report that never made it to trial. Okay. A similar situation developed in Japan. The Minister – METI – the economics ministry said three weeks after the accident that the top priority of the Japanese government was to save Tokyo Electric. Think about it. So from a political point of view, my overall conclusion is that nuclear power companies will systematically underestimate the severity of an accident and that public authorities will do the same. Lesson 4: People will die. As a result of the accident at TMI, people have died, regardless of what the NRC and industry says. Hundreds of thousands died at Chernobyl and hundreds of thousands more will die as a result of Fukushima Daiichi. When estimating the health effects, most researchers attempt to guess at the amount of radiation that’s released, but no one really knows what those numbers are. The health significance of these meltdowns is downplayed compared to the post-disaster financial repercussions of the meltdowns themselves. My favorite slide in the world – my favorite comic strip in the world is this one by Dilbert. The boss turns to him and says, can you do this feasibility analysis? “I can do it in 2 minutes. This is the worst idea in the world. Numbers don’t lie.” And then the boss says, “Our CEO loves the idea,” and Dilbert says, “Luckily, assumptions do lie.” So the message is what assumptions are these people using. And of course, when you look at the assumptions objectively, the doses are much higher. So the good science after the accident is not what’s on the NRC’s website. The NRC says there’s 10 million curies were released. And they’ve stuck by that story for 35 years. But in the case depositions, we got the GPU expert to admit that the NRC was wrong and that they were at least twice as high as the NRC. Then we also discovered this. Lake Barrett’s name was mentioned. Lake put this table together. He was an NRC guy and a friend of mine back in the 70’s. And he shows that in fact 36 million curies were released from Fukushima Daiichi. Then in his report, he divides that by 4, which is a 9 plus and they averaged it up to 10. So the bases for the NRC’s number is Lake Barrett’s estimate cut by four. And of course, Lake Barrett is now doing the same thing at Fukushima. He’s the point man telling people don’t worry, be happy. The real good science here was done by a guy named Steve Wing. Steve analyzed the Susquehanna data, the county data and the state data. Then he shows that there’s much higher incidence of cancer up and down the river as compared to the valleys. Now why is that? Well, there’s another expert in the trial, a guy named Ignes Verginer – Doctor Verginer, who showed that during the accident, there was a temperature inversion, a very severe temperature inversion. The air was flat so that the radiation releases didn’t go anywhere. They ran up and down the river valley. They were trapped in the river valley. So Verginer’s meteorology matches Wing’s epidemiology and they both match what I believe came out of the plant. Now I’ve got to get back to that pressure spike again. The pressure spike shows that 10 percent of the radiation in the containment was released, but in the trial, GPU said in the containment was something between a billion and two billion curies. Ten percent of that is 100 million curies, 10 times what the NRC estimated. That’s the good science. It’s not just TMI where scientists were ignored. We have – at Chernobyl we’ve got Alexi Yabokov who published a book showing a million people are going to die. And Alexi was the science advisor to Boris Yeltsin in the Soviet Union, certainly no lightweight. And then the saddest one is Yuri Vandeshevski . Yuri was thrown in jail for eight years because he published a report about Chernobyl heart, which is cesium attacking children’s hearts after the Chernobyl accident. Throwing scientists in jail and covering up or maligning their work does not change the facts; eventually, the truth comes out. Galileo challenged the orthodoxy and it took 400 years for public acknowledgement he was right. The children at TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima can’t wait 400 years. Okay, I’m getting there. In Japan, the Abe administration has recently passed the Safe Secrets Act, where scientists, journalists, anyone who talks about what they are measuring from Fukushima can be thrown in jail for five years. That certainly puts a damper on any scientist who wants to publish his data, and we routinely get information from scientists at Fairewinds. Japanese scientists are smuggling out information to us to try to avoid the Japanese censors. Not only is Abe involved, but you’ll hear about the IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency – and they’re portrayed in the mainstream media as a nuclear watchdog. In fact, their UN charter is they’re to promote nuclear power. And they’ve been making deals with hospitals in Japan saying that before the hospital releases any health statistics, the IAEA gets to review them. Well, radiation knows no borders. I think Fukushima taught us that, Chernobyl taught us that. The releases were a little smaller at TMI, but radiation knows no borders. Helen Caldicott wrote a book that shows iodine being picked up at farms 150 miles away from TMI. And she’s got the references to prove it. Okay, last lesson: nuclear risk is greatly underestimated. When the NRC does a cost/benefit analysis, they use something called PRA – probabilistic risk assessment. Those of us who criticize the agency call it PRAY – and the best example is a deck of cards. If I asked you what the odds of drawing a club or the ace of clubs from a deck of cards, you would know there’s 52 cards, there’s one ace of clubs; the odds are one in 52. Well, when the NRC does a PRA – a probabilistic risk assessment – they assume they know all the ways a nuclear plant can fail. But Fukushima, Chernobyl and TMI show us that you can’t predict all the ways. You don’t know how many cards are in the deck. And therefore, a PRA will fail. The problem is compounded because then the NRC turns around and underestimates the consequences of an accident if it occurs. In most NRC analyses, the accident consequences are on the order of 10 or 20 million dollars. Fukushima and Chernobyl are 500 billion dollars. So the NRC’s game with the probabilistic risk assessment is they underestimate the probability of an accident and if one occurs, they underestimate the cost to clean it up. Last major thought: The NRC estimates that the chance of an accident are one in a million and there’s 400 reactors. So if you take a million and divide it by 400, that says there should be, using the NRC’s analysis, an accident every 2,500 years. But the historic data shows there’s been five meltdowns in 35 years. That’s an accident every seven years. So if you’re a policymaker and you’re in your sane mind and you knew that the chance of a nuclear accident was one every seven years, would you build a nuclear power plant? The answer is no. But the policymakers, our politicians and policymakers, are heavily influenced by the nuclear industry, which convinces them that this 2,500-year probability is the real number. So our decision makers are being influenced, not by real data – I mean history says 35 divided by 5 is 7; instead, they’ll buy what the policymakers say, which is essentially a nuclear accident – between the time Jesus was born and now, there would have been one nuclear plant. That’s a long time, and that is the bases for political decisions. I think I’ll skip that. Okay. There’s one other piece and that’s – forget the money, let’s take the money off the table. This is a technology that can destroy the fabric of a country overnight. Gorbachev in his memoirs has said that nuclear power is – the accident at Chernobyl is what destroyed the Soviet Union, not Perestroika. And my conversations with Kan, he absolutely agreed that the fabric of Japan was torn – not completely yet – by the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. And yet we’ve got Indian Point 26 miles from New York City. What would that do to the fabric of America if there was an accident? This is a technology that can destroy a culture overnight. Okay, conclusion is that former Premier Gorbachev, former Prime Minister Kan, two other Japanese prime ministers, Germany’s President – Chairman Merkel and the former Chairman of the NRC Greg Gaskell, all agree that nuclear technology is something that was okay in the 20th Century, but moving forward, there are better alternatives for us. And it’s interesting, because Gorbachev is a communist, Kan is what we would call a democrat; the other two guys are what we would call republic and Merkel was very conservative. And across that broad political spectrum, they’ve come to the conclusion that moving forward we should not build any new plants and we should phase out the ones we’ve got. So this isn’t Arnie Gundersen up here. There’s a consensus building among world leaders that whatever we did in the 20th Century was okay for the 20th Century, but we don’t have to repeat it in the 21st Century. There are better alternatives moving forward. Renewables are doable and I urge you look at the Amory Lovins site and Arjun Makhijani site to understand that by 2050 we can wean ourselves from this type of energy system and completely change to a distributed energy system which doesn’t need these huge nuclear power plants. One shout-out and then I’ll shut up here. There was somebody who saw this with great clarity in 1980, and his name was Henry Myers – Dr. Henry Myers. Henry worked for Moe Udall. He was a science advisor. And the seminal work on the coverup by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and GPU of the consequences of the accident, is 100-page report written by Henry Myers. He’s my hero on the Three Mile Accident. And he’s still alive in Maine, as a matter of fact. Okay. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak tonight.
F: Thank you, Arnie. Questions for Arnie Gundersen – any questions? Holly?
Holly: This seems to be a very bit switch from dedicating your life to nuclear energy to dedicating your life to phase out. Is there any – I mean you talked a little bit about going through the data. But was there an “aha” moment in your life?
Arnie: Well, it was more like getting hit on the head by a 2 x 4. I was a senior vice president in 1990. We were a nuclear licensee. I found violations in the license. I told the president of the company and he fired me. I went to the Nuclear Regulator Commission. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission deliberately botched the audit and was taking bribes. I went to John Glenn and John Glenn opened a congressional hearing and actually fired up the inspector general, and the inspector general found that the NRC had deliberately botched the inspection and was taking bribes. And so I was exonerated in congressional testimony. My wife and I were sued for 1-1/2 million dollars. We were driven into bankruptcy, foreclosure, lost the house, lost everything. And the NRC didn’t lift a finger. And this is what’s called a slap suit, when you’re sued for a million and a half dollars for telling the truth. The NRC didn’t lift a finger. So if there’s a turning point in my life, that fork in the road for Robert Frost, that was it. 1990. So by ’93 when I got reading the data from TMI, I looked at it with different eyes.
Holly: So up to that point, you were ??24:47
AG: Oh, I bought this thing hook, line – I actually – even after I got fired, I thought the NRC was going to come and help me. So when I filed my report with them – and I’ve said this before. It was like being in a fort surrounded by Indians and the cavalry comes over the horizon – ahhhh, they’re coming – the NRC is coming. And when the cavalry comes over the horizon, they start shooting at you, too. That’s pretty much the standard. Dave Lochbaum had the same problem – there’s dozens of nuclear whistle blowers who’ve had the NRC support the industry. It was a fundamental change in my life.
F: Other questions. Yes.
M: I saw the slide on the pressure gauge inside the containment building. Where did that data come from? Whose data was that?
AG: That’s GPU data. It came out in the trial but it’s also – you can find it elsewhere. I mean it’s not like it’s privileged from the trial. And remember, we were talking earlier about the hydrogen bubble. That was – this spike was a Wednesday thing. That hydrogen bubble happened on Friday and Saturday. So the fear of the explosion actually happened two days after the explosion actually happened. And we’ll be posting this – the Power Point and the real text that I – on the Fairewinds website so you can pull it down.
F: Is there another question up here? Yes, go ahead.
M: I believe in your five points. I’m still pro nuclear power. And I’m waiting to see if any part of the presentation will include the economics of nuclear power and the demand for electricity. If we took all your precautions and shut down the plants or didn’t modify the plants to kind of eliminate your five points and just go about it and we shut down the plants, where are we going to get our power from? I know there’s solar and wind but that’s –
AG: I hear that a lot. It’s a legitimate question –
M: You still need central power somewhere and the alternative of coal is not going to replace nuclear power. So how do you put that into perspective.
AG: That’s a good question. First off, there’s two really good books, “Reinventing Fire” by Amory Lovins and “Carbon Free, Nuclear Free by 2050” by Arjun Makhijuni are two books that speak to that. But this concept of distributed generation versus central station power is – I think 100 years from now it’s not going to be pro nuclear, anti nuke. The battle that’s being fought now in the beginning of the 21st Century is a change in the paradigm between the old central station power and the new paradigm which I believe is happening, which is this paradigm of distributed generation. And I’m not suggesting shut every nuke down now, but I – like Yasco and like Merkel, for that matter – Merkel shut down the nine oldest but she kept the 20, 22 other ones and they’re gradually phasing them out by 2022. So I think that there will be bumps in the road to get to a distributed generation system is sure, but we’ve already seen the cost of solar drop below the cost per kilowatt of nuclear. Nuclear’s going up and solar’s still coming down. Then we’re also seeing now that battery technology is coming in at around $1,000 a kilowatt – I’ll have to think about that - $1,000 a megawatt. Yeah. So the combination of solar plus battery is roughly equal now to nuclear. So the economics are roughly equal. And what makes the 21st Century different than the 20th Century is the computer. We can begin to share – shift load like we couldn’t before. In a peak, we’ll be able to turn your freezer off for 15 minutes to drop the peak. We can shape the peak any more. Amory says this concept of base load is really a 20th Century paradigm as opposed to what we can do with load shifting in the 21st century. And the big difference is the computer. It’s the same with central computers and phones and all that stuff. We’ve gone from a central system to a distributed system with our phones and our computers and the last bastion of that battle from centralized to decentralized is the power industry. And my position is that building more nukes now is like building the Maginot line. Now it’s fighting the last war and the new paradigm is a distributive system. Will there be bumps in the road? Sure. But the good news is we’ve got Germany out there to screw up before we do. They’re in the process of – three months ago, they had (part 3 begins) a day – sometime in October – they had a day where at the peak, they made 66 percent of their power from renewables. And for the day, they made 33 percent of their power from renewables. And they’ve only been at it for three years. Now it was a great day. It was a windy day and it was a sunny day. So they still have a long way to go, but here’s a developed industrial country that got 66 percent of its peak load from renewables already. So I think that same commitment that we built 100 nuclear plants in essentially 10 years, if we did that and committed ourselves to a large infrastructure in transmission lines, because if the wind isn’t blowing in Texas, it’s blowing in North Dakota and things like that – if we did that with the same investment and the same commitment to it, we could be carbon-free, nuclear-free by 2050. Yes.
M: Three-part question.
AG: Short three-part. What about one part?
M: What is the greatest safety concern 1:10 reactors? What role does government 1:14 predict when the next accident?
AG: You know, my wife and I did this. Three weeks before the accident at Fukushima, my wife and I were walking through the neighborhood. Old people walk at night. And so we were just walking and it was snowy and all that stuff. And she said, where is the next accident going to be. Because I do a lot of expert reports and they’re all pretty scary. And I said, I don’t know where but I know it’s going to be in a General Electric Mark 1. And son of a gun, all the Fukushima reactors were General Electric Mark 1’s. So the mark 1 reactor concept is known to still be a weak link. We have 23 in the U.S. As a matter of fact, Chuck Casto NRC director, said on a telephone call, it’s the worst containment in the world, and we’ve got 23 that are still operating. So that concerns me. The other one are the Westinghouse Ice containments, which are really hokey. They rely on all sorts of buckets of ice and the steam is supposed to go up through them. I think I’m more worried about the Westinghouse Ice containments than I am about the Mark 1’s at this point.
M: Any prediction for timing?
AG: No. I don’t even want to go there. Last time I did that, one happened in three weeks. No, no, no, I don’t want to do that again.
F: I think we have time for one more question. I know that your hand was up.
M: Arnie, I just wanted to ask you a question about accountability of the nuclear industry. And perhaps a short statement. Following Fukushima – well, actually, leading up to Fukushima, according to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the effects of atomic radiation, that the standard for evacuation is 1 millisievert per year. If you get above that, if you’re exposed to that, you’re supposed to move. Following the Fukushima accident, the Japanese government raised the standard to 20 millisieverts per year. You spoke about the fact that you could not take your case to trial. We see hundreds of thousands of Japanese now living in contaminated lands where they should have been evacuated. So how is the industry immune, not only to accountability, but even to the standards according to the United Nations now.
AG: We’ve got a system where we capitalize the benefits and we socialize the risk with nuclear. In the U.S., it’s Price Anderson. If there’s a big accident, we all pay as opposed to that – at least when the Gulf oil spill, BP’s still on the hook; whereas if there was a comparable magnitude accident – nuclear – the owner of that reactor would be off the hook and the taxpayers would be paying. So we’ve got a system where we capitalize the profit and socialize the risk. But the issue of dose is truly frightening and that’s really IAEA pressure is coming in on that. The Japanese – what’s 20-fold – a 20-fold increase of what was allowable. Before the accident, you shouldn’t move back into an emergency zone if it was more than 100 millirem above background. Then the Japanese changed that to be 2,000 mililrem. Just kind of unilaterally, they changed the criteria. And Japan is really being driven by the banks. I had a discussion on that that I skipped. What’s happened is, they shut 50 nukes down. And they’ve had them shut down for three years. Where’s the money coming to keep the staff and the plants there? The banks are loaning money into these large nuclear utilities, and they want their money back. And there’s enormous pressure on the Diet to start these plants back up so the banks can get their money. Let’s eat. Thank you.