Martin Wolf – Local Talk News June 27, 2011
In the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japanese officials assured everyone that everything was alright; everything was under control, that the problem was limited and controllable. It took a few days for that lie to fall apart.
This time, it may be our turn. Something bad is happening in Nebraska. A state of emergency was declared for two counties where two nuclear plants are located – one at the Fort Calhoun nuclear facility and one at the Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownsville. Due to flooding from the Missouri River, some kind of emergency event is happening or about to happen there. The government is telling us not to worry, that there are just some precautionary measures going on to prevent a disaster from happening because of the flooding.
Makeshift barriers have been erected at the Fort Calhoun plant because the current river level is two feet above the ground level of the plant. At the Cooper facility, another three inches of water and the facility will be closed. There were two tornadoes in the area a few days ago with winds of 85 mph.
Without the barriers, the plants would be, as we call it, under water, which is part of what caused the problem at Fukushima. Water plus radioactivity creates radioactive water, or radioactive steam, which radiation can turn into hydrogen and oxygen which have a habit of, as we call it, exploding.
The government is telling us not to panic. All is under control, just like in Japan. But here are a few troubling inconsistencies. One, the Red Cross shelter next to the Fort Calhoun plant has been closed. They claim it was due to “decreased need.” During a flood? Now there is a no-fly zone around the plant. Then there is the disturbing news that the spent fuel rod pool was so full that they store the surplus fuel rods in a dry storage area outside the safety of the pool. How long will that area stay dry and what happens if it gets wet? One reporter claims the dry storage bunker is now half-submerged. One of the intake structures is prone to flooding that could affect the water pumps. Non-functional water pumps? Does that sound familiar?
Keep in mind that some flooding was deliberately caused by the Army releasing water from reservoirs to protect them from failing. This has flooded levees. The Army has in the past dynamited levees to direct the water elsewhere – like where poor people live and work – to protect the areas where rich people live and work.
The Russians are concerned. They are reporting that on June 7, there was a nuclear accident at the plant due to the flooding and that the Obama administration has ordered a news blackout. They think there’s a Level Four emergency that is being concealed.
Fort Calhoun is probably not a lot like Fukushima – for one thing, the reactor itself is shut down, so the danger is mostly with spent fuel rods, rather than a meltdown of the reactor itself. Not that fuel rods can’t melt down too – they can. But if something happened, we should be told, right?
Some independent sources reported a fire in an electrical switch room at the plant on Tuesday that shut down the cooling pumps. The accident was corrected in about 90 minutes and there was no large increase in temperature at the pool. So no big deal, right?
Well, the weather report for Nebraska says rain Wednesday (when I wrote this) and a lot more on the weekend. Levees are being breached, dams are overflowing, there’s still a tornado threat, some residents are being evacuated, and the river is still rising. So maybe it is a big deal.
An Associated Press investigation concluded that radioactive tritium has escaped from about three-quarters of our commercial nuclear power plants. The weak spot in most nuclear plants are pipes, and pipes have a habit of leaking or bursting. They believe that when most plants fail to meet standards, the government just lowers the standards or chooses to not enforce them. Isn’t that a comforting thought?
We have a nuclear plant close to us at Indian Point, New York, which was erected near two earthquake fault lines. Whoops.
In Japan, the internet gave us more reliable news than the mainstream media, and a lot sooner too. The Hawaii News Daily was reporting on this accident since June 14, but regular media seem slow or unwilling to investigate. For example, early CNN reporting mentioned a flooding risk to their stadium but never mentioned the nuclear power plant. So, is this a National Enquirer style false panic story, or a real conspiracy theory full scale news event? I guess we’ll find out by next week. You can’t hide something like this forever. Japan tried, and failed. Until then, carry an umbrella, and maybe a Geiger counter.
Marvin Wolf is a Newark attorney and a regular contributor to Local Talk. This article provides legal information, news, satire, and individual opinion, but not legal advice.