EPA to Help Mainstream Media Obscure The Truth About Radiation Exposure to Americans
As Americans focus on March Madness and Dancing With the Stars instead of the radioactive plume spreading all across the country, the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is attempting to make the mainstream media cover up of the Fukushima cloud a bit easier.
The agency now notorious for its infamous claim that the air was safe to breathe after 9/11 is now seeking to raise the PAGs (Protective Action Guides) to levels vastly higher than those at which they are currently set allowing for more radioactive contamination of the environment and the general public in the event of a radioactive disaster.
PAGs are policies established by the EPA that guide the agency in enforcing the various environmental laws such as the Clean Air and Water Act in the invent of a radioactive emergency such as a nuclear/dirty bomb or factory meltdown like that occurring in Japan.
The EPA had already established PAGs in this area in 1992. They can be found here. However, the agency now plans to amend and revise these standards this year.
Because regulatory agencies form their own policies (although they can be directed by either the President or the Congress), there is no requirement to seek Congressional approval for these changes. All that is required is that the agency place the proposed changes in the Federal Register for public comment before it finalizes its draft into legal policy.
According to PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the new standards would drastically raise the levels of radiation allowed in food, water, air, and the general environment. PEER, a national organization of local, state, and federal employees who had access to internal EPA emails, claims that the new standards will result in a “nearly 1000-fold increase for exposure to strontium-90, a 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for exposure to iodine-131; and an almost 25,000 rise for exposure to radioactive nickel-63” in drinking water. This information, as well as the emails themselves were published by Collapsenet on March 24.
In addition to raising the level of permissible radiation in the environment, PEER suggests that the standards of cleanup after a radioactive emergency will actually be reduced. As a result, radioactive cleanup thresholds will be vastly lowered and, by default, permissible levels of radiation will be vastly increased in this manner as well.
As Michael Kane writes for Collapsenet, the current EPA numbers, as well as those generally agreed upon in the international radiation assessment community, all point to the fact that these increases in permissible levels would create a level of radiation where approximately 1 in 4 people would contract cancer from exposure to them.
The changes to the 1992 PAGs are not a new attempt by the EPA. The agency attempted similar changes in 2009 but the revisions were stopped largely by a barrage of FOIA requests and a lawsuit filed by PEER. However, in 2009 there was no massive radiation disaster the EPA needed to cover up as there is at the current time. In 2009, the EPA could afford to back off, regroup, and try again at a later date. Unfortunately, it is not likely to react the same way this time around.
As of the time of this writing, a toxic cloud of radiation has not only reached the US West Coast, but has spread all the way across the country to states like South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and Massachussetts. Both the US government and the mainstream media have largely denied any risk associated with the radiation and have actively engaged in covering up the extent to which it has spread across the country.
In the event of any real journalism, the revelation of the danger and scale of the Japanese radiation cloud could be disastrous for those who hide the truth from the people who are sure to suffer the consequences. Indeed, the revelation that a toxic cloud of cancer-causing particles is littering the United States (especially in real time) might even be too much for the average television- and sports-obsessed American to handle.
However, the lowering of safety standards for radiation contamination would be a major victory for those wishing to cover it up. After all, the talking heads would then be able to claim that the radiation levels are within the safety range set by the EPA.
No cause for worry.
Regardless of the motivation behind these new changes, they must be actively opposed. We cannot allow the veil to be pulled even further over the eyes of the American people. At the very least, we cannot allow an agency charged with protecting both the environment and the people who live in it to set standards alleviating itself of that responsibility.
Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Mullins, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University where he earned the Pee Dee Electric Scholar’s Award as an undergraduate. He has had numerous articles published dealing with a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, and civil liberties. He also the author of Codex Alimentarius – The End of Health Freedom
Records Show 56 Safety Violations at U.S. Nuclear Power Plants in Past 4 Years
Mishandled Radioactive Material and Failing Backup Generators Among the Violations
By PIERRE THOMAS, JACK CLOHERTY AND ANDREW DUBBINS
March 29, 2011
Among the litany of violations at U.S. nuclear power plants are missing or mishandled nuclear material, inadequate emergency plans, faulty backup power generators, corroded cooling pipes and even marijuana use inside a nuclear plant, according to an ABC News review of four years of Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety records.
And perhaps most troubling of all, critics say, the commission has failed to correct the violations in a timely fashion.
“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has very good safety regulations but they have very bad enforcement of those regulations,” said David Lochbaum, a nuclear scientist with the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists.
There are 104 U.S. nuclear power plants.
Lochbaum and the Union of Concerned Scientists found 14 “near misses” at nuclear plants in 2010. And there were 56 serious violations at nuclear power plants from 2007 to 2011, according the ABC News review of NRC records.
At the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois, for instance, which is located within 50 miles of the 7 million people who live in and around Chicago, nuclear material went missing in 2007. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined the operator — Exelon Corp. — after discovering the facility had failed to “keep complete records showing the inventory [and] disposal of all special nuclear material in its possession.”
As a result, two fuel pellets and equipment with nuclear material could not be accounted for.
Exelon did not contest the violation and paid the fine, a company spokesman said. “We took the learnings from that violation with respect to ways we can improve our spent-fuel practices,” Marshall Murphy said.
Two years later, federal regulators cited Dresden for allowing unlicensed operators to work with radioactive control rods. The workers allowed three control rods to be moved out of the core. When alarms went off, workers initially ignored them.
Murphy said the company concurred with the NRC’s determination. “ We have also taken a number of steps to ensure a similar event would not occur at any of our sites and shared the lessons from that with the industry,” he said.
“In both violations, neither employees or the public were ever jeopardized, but we take them seriously, we always look to learn from them, and we do that going forward.
Still, Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists said, “This event is disturbing. In August 1997, the NRC issued information … about a reactivity mismanagement problem at Exelon’s Zion nuclear plant,” which was retired the following year.
“It was an epoch event in the industry in that other plants owners noted it and took steps to address [the issue]. Yet, a decade later, Exelon’s Dresden plant experiences an eerily similar repetition of the control-room operator problems.”
The lost material was almost certainly shipped to a licensed, low-level waste disposal site, Lochbaum said.
At the Indian Point nuclear plant just outside New York City, the NRC found that an earthquake safety device has been leaking for 18 years.
In the event of an earthquake, Lochbaum said, the faulty safety device would not help prevent water from leaking out of the reactor. A lack of water to cool the fuel rods has been the most critical problem at the Fukushima plant in Japan after the recent earthquake and tsunami.
“The NRC has known it’s been leaking since 1993,” Lochbaum said, “but they’ve done nothing to fix it.”
While declining to address specific violations, Roger Hanna, a spokesman for the NRC, said “we do require plant to comply, and we do follow up for corrections” when violations are discovered.
But NRC records examined by ABC News show that such incidents are not uncommon: In June 2009, at the Southern Nuclear Operating Co. Inc. in Birmingham, Ala., the emergency diesel generator — which would be used in the event of a disaster — was deemed inoperable, after years of neglect.
“Cracks in the glands of the emergency diesel generator couplings had been observed since 1988, but the licensee did not recognize the cracking was an indication of coupling deterioration,” according to the NRC report. On April 19, 2010, the NRC cited the Tennessee Valley Authority Browns Ferry nuclear plant near Decatur for failing to provide “fire protection features capable of limiting fire damage.”
The NRC fire protection regulations in effect today were developed as a direct result of the Browns Ferry fire on March 22, 1975.
In June 2010, Duke Energy, operators of the William McGuire nuclear plant in Mecklenburg County, N.C., was cited by the NRC after a contract employee was caught using marijuana inside the protected area.
NRC safety records show that inadequate emergency planning was a recurring problem in the industry from 2007 to 2011. Violations included unapproved emergency plans and plan changes, inadequate fire planning and precautions, falsified “fire watch” certification sheets,” inadequate flooding precautions, an insufficient tone alert radio system to notify the populace in a potential emergency and faulty assessment of containment barrier thresholds.
Corroded water pipes and cooling problems were also recurring issues.
Japan’s Nuclear Lessons Will Get Applied Right Away, U.S. Regulator Says
By Jim Snyder and Simon Lomax – Mar 29, 2011 1:56 PM ET
Nuclear-power plant regulators will apply lessons from Japan’s reactor crisis immediately without delaying until licenses are renewed, the head of operations at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.
“We won’t wait” to order fixes at the 104 U.S. reactors, Bill Borchardt, the executive director for operations, said after briefing the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. Borchardt told senators there was “no technical reason” that the crisis in Japan would affect license renewals.
Licenses for commercial U.S. reactors were limited to 40 years “based on economic and antitrust considerations,” not because of technology, according to the NRC’s website. Under U.S. law, the NRC may extend licenses by 20 years if the operator shows the unit can be operated safely.
The agency has approved license extensions for 63 reactors, or 60 percent of the fleet. Applications for licenses at 19 existing reactors are under review, according to NRC data.
The commission’s safety study that started last week will examine whether operators should be required to improve the capabilities of batteries that keep cooling systems running when electricity is lost, Borchardt said.
Cooling systems lost power and backup generators failed, allowing radioactive fuel rods in reactors and storage pools to overheat after the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami disabled the reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima plant. Workers used helicopters and fire trucks to douse the Japanese plant with water to avert a meltdown.
Restoring Cooling System
Peter Lyons, the acting assistant secretary for nuclear energy at the U.S. Energy Department, said cooling systems hadn’t “been adequately restored” in Japan.
Radioactive water found in the basement of a turbine building that serves one of the reactors is “a result of the water that they’ve been injecting” to keep nuclear fuel rods cool, Borchardt said.
“The water is the result of the ‘bleed and feed’ process that they have been using to keep water in the reactor cores and in the containment of the units,” he said. “The exact flow path of that leakage has not been determined.”
Borchardt said the situation at Fukushima “continues to further stabilize” as workers reconnect the damaged plant to the power grid.
“I think it’s headed in the right direction,” Borchardt told reporters.
A U.S. recommendation that Americans living within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the damaged plant leave was a prudent decision based on a Nuclear Regulatory Commission assessment of dangers, and fear that the fuel was damaged and the pools holding spent rods were empty or low on cooling water, he said.
Borchardt said the U.S. will evaluate its own emergency response procedures, including evacuation plans, during the reactor review. U.S. law requires a plan for moving residents living within 10 miles of a nuclear plant in an emergency.
Regulations setting the capability of back-up batteries vary by site, Borchardt said. Batteries at U.S. plants last from 4 hours to 8 hours. Regulators will review whether the Japan experience warrants a stricter requirement, he said.
The U.S. should freeze license renewals and permits for the construction of new nuclear reactors, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group said today in a report.
Nuclear power plants pose “inherent dangers” that can’t be overcome with safety measures and the U.S. “must move away from nuclear power and toward safer alternatives,” such as solar panels and wind turbines, the Boston-based advocacy group said in the report.
To contact the reporters on this story: Jim Snyder in Washington at [email protected]; Simon Lomax in Washington at [email protected]