I am sad, angry and feeling more concerned than ever, in the face of what I learned from the webinar that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held recently. It only confirmed that an industry that is responsible for handling the most deadly substance known to mankind is "asleep at the switch" (see story in Union Tribune). This is such bad news that I wouldn't blame you for not reading any further, but if you do, I promise to give you something to be thankful for also.
Although this is a welcomed but rare case of the NRC being critical of the industry at all, it doesn't go nearly far enough. All of the most important questions the public asked were
ignored or answered casually, based on unsubstantiated opinions and wishful thinking. The speakers seemed uninformed or perhaps even in collusion with those they are supposedly regulating. They bantered back and forth, speculating on things that they really should be a lot more certain about, cherry picking from written questions that they felt like answering.
The most obvious and unavoidable concern people had was about the lack of a contingency plan in case the thin canister containing 49 tons of extremely lethal nuclear waste had actually fallen 18 feet to the bottom of the concrete vault it was being lowered into. Their condescending response was simply that they did not need to analyse that possibility because, "if the procedures are followed correctly, that situation will never happen", ignoring the fact that it certainly almost did happen. That pretty much characterizes the entire proceeding.
So what is there to be thankful for? Three things. One is that a person of great character and integrity decided to risk his job to inform the public that this near miss even took place. Another is that a radiation technician was not "asleep at the switch" when he noticed there was a problem and halted the process just in time to prevent the transfer cask from being moved, which would have tipped the canister off of the quarter inch ledge it was perched on. Lastly, I am thankful for the amazing response from the public, who overwhelmed the webinar's 500 line capacity.
I'll leave you with this video (less than three minutes long), where the person being interviewed was the man in charge of the NRC during the Fukushima disaster. His hard earned insight and wisdom gained from that experience apparently gave him the power of prediction. It was recorded on August first, two days before this incident took place. It has only had 291 views at this time. Let's each take it upon ourselves to raise awareness with various officials, others we know, especially those we care most about, and make that number a lot higher, by forwarding this email to them and sharing on social media.
|KPBS Interview With Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chief Greg Jaczko