The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Fukushima and U.S. Nuclear Reactors

May 30, 2011

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) just issued assurances that 23 reactors in the U.S. with the same design as those at Fukushima are updated and now safe!

This kind of assurance from nuclear regulators is nothing new. Japanese authorities gave similar assurances before their disaster, and the NRC has a history of looking the other way, despite highly dangerous conditions at nuclear power plants.

For example, the New York Times reported in 2007 that corrosion was thinning pipes at the Byron nuclear plant located 100 miles south of Chicago. Instead of fixing the pipes, Exelon, the plant operator, repeatedly lowered the minimum thickness it required for safe operation. Finally, a brush ripped a pipe apart during a routine cleaning, causing water to leak, and the plant to shut down. It was later discovered that the NRC had not inspected the pipes for at least eight years and “did not notice” that Exelon kept lowering the pipe thickness standard.

According to David Lochbaum, who heads the Nuclear Safety Project with the Union of Concerned Scientists, the NRC tends to tolerate violations: “Otherwise, nearly all the U.S. reactors would have to be shut down.”

What makes these nuclear power plants so unsafe is the corporate drive for profit. The federal regulators, who regularly give these power plants their good housekeeping seal of approval, are little more than window dressing.