The Unspeakable Subject?

Submitted by Lee Batdorff on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 00:08.

The Fukushima Dailchi nuclear crisis in Japan has been re-rated to be a level 7 nuclear disaster*, the same level as the Chernobyl Ukraine nuclear disaster of 1986. While the dispersement of radiation from the nuclear power plants in Fukushima is said to be much less than Chernobyl, the Tokyo Electric Power Company and Japanese civil authorities have yet to “stabilize” their troubled reactors. The future level of radiation contamination in Japan and nearby nations is unknown at this time as is how long this crisis will continue.

*Reuters 2011/04/12 - Japan raises nuclear crisis to on par with Chernobyl

On this gloomy note it is time to make take a look at the history of how nuclear power was instituted in this nation. It was not a decision made in the public sphere. While some activists were well educated in the problems of nuclear power, the hearings to establish the plants examined only the financial side of building nuclear power plants.

This is according to the late Evelyn Stebbins of Rocky River who was a dogged citizen intervener in federal nuclear power hearings on both the Davis-Bessie and Perry nuclear power stations. The question of safety on nuclear power could not be brought up at hearings because, “they've already decided that nuclear power is safe.”

A rare example of coverage of her warnings and the warnings of others about the problems of nuclear power where first published in a Cleveland newspaper starting in 1978. This was four-and-a-half months before the Three Mile Island near-explosion near Harrisburg Pennsylvania occurred, and nine years before the Chernobyl explosion.

The Unspeakable Subject: Why CEI wants to stop talking Nuke was the cover story of the November 16, 1978 edition of the Cleveland Express, a locally owned fledging alternative newspaper with a free distribution of perhaps 10,000 newspapers.

In 1978 few media outlets touched the subject of nuclear power in a substantive way. Few wanted to acknowledge the problems of a technology that was presented to us with so much promise since the early 1960s.

About 15 years before the story in the linked PDFs below was published, I was about 13 years old. Coming over the TV was a slogan presented by the electric utility companies that nuclear power was going to be, “Too cheap to meter.” I visited the New York World's Fair in 1964. Nuclear was just one of the marvelous technologies of our future. (Another technology was a machine that would grind through jungle, rip down the trees and everything else and somehow reconstitute this biomass into paved highway!)

When I was 14, I witnessed on TV Dorothy Fuldheim, a revered older commentator on WEWS TV, showing an image of a design for one of several floating nuclear reactors that were proposed to be stationed in Lake Erie to heat up the water and make Cleveland a tropical paradise!

The reactor's ball shaped iron clad design burned into my brain! This was around 1965 and Cleveland leaders and commentators were drawing at straws to stop the city's decline. When I heard Fuldheim and saw the image, it was an experience of failed cognitive dissonance for me. I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know what.

It is notable that the owners of nuclear power plants are indemnified of any financial responsibility for a nuclear accident currently at any losses over $12.6 billion through the Price–Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act which was first passed by the U.S. Congress in 1957. Without this act, there would be no nuclear power industry in the U.S. This is because no utility would build a nuclear power plant that had unlimited liability. Wikipedia on Price-Anderson Act.

PDFs, linked below, are of pages published in the Cleveland Express on November 16, 1978. They are of the first two of a series stories published over several months on the nuclear power industry.

The Unspeakable Subject? - cover page

The Unspeakable Subject? - continued on inside page

What a waste! - inside page



I remember living in fear as the nuclear reactors were constructed on the shores of Lake Erie.

It still terrifies me--I am glad that you retained the paper copies of your articles from 1978 to reproduce here, Lee.  It's time that folks revisited our local history.  We keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over, again.

The Unspeakable Subject? - cover page

The Unspeakable Subject? - continued on inside page

What a waste! - inside page




interesting story, Lee

Thanks for sharing. :)

Homer at the Springfield Nuke Plant


This was sent to me via email from Paul: thanks for the links.....[forwarded below]. I'm reminded of the classic Simpson episode where Homer [as usual] screws up something at Springfield's nuke plant, and they radiate the lake by the reactor. Marge brings home some fresh fish 'catch of the day', serves it up, and Bart yells....."yummy! Three-eyed Fish!!"


No free passes for nuclear plants

The Cleveland Plain Dealer's May 19th 2011 editorial “No free passes for nuclear plants” is in striking contrast to coverage of the nuclear industry given by the newspaper back in the 1960s and 70s when the big investment was made in nuclear power in an era when few if any major U.S. newspapers gave the subject a serious look.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer's May 19th 2011 editorial “No free passes for nuclear plants” is in striking contrast to coverage of the nuclear industry given by the newspaper back in the 1960s and 70s when the big investment was made in nuclear power during an era when few if any major U.S. newspapers gave the subject a serious look.

Items that were the concerns of anti-nuclear activists in the 1970s, such as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's dubious record of objectivity in dealings with nuke-operating electric utilities, are now the subject of extensive coverage and lead editorials in major newspapers.

Of course the controversial rust hole discovered in the lid of FirstEnergy Corp.'s Davis-Besse plant in 2002 was a wake up call for Ohio newspapers to this subject. The NRC didn't discover this problem until a rust hole had eaten, over several years, almost completely through the reactor's containment structure. To solve the problem FirstEnergy had to replace the complete top of the containment structure at huge expense.

Unfortunately human-operated major newspapers are little equipped with foresight on some issues because some of their major advertisers depend on curtailed scrutiny in “power-elite” newspapers.  This seems to be especially true when these advertisers concerned with the same issue are from several industries. Both electrical utilities and major banks are major newspaper advertisers and these two industries drew a bargain with the devil and developed nuclear power before thoroughly testing the technology.

Back when the nuclear industry got started, amidst activists calls to watch where we were going with this dangerous technology, most major newspapers, including the Plain Dealer, did not report this deal with the devil.

Thank God we have those Nucs in the Midwest

Thank God we have those Nucs in the Midwest. If all the power being generated by nuclear power plants today (and since the 1970s) was generated burning coal, which is the only real technology we have broadly deployed for power since then, WE WOULD BE SO DEAD IN OHIO TODAY.

We are pretty dead, none the less... but nobody in Ohio has ever been hurt by nuclear power and all 1,000,000s of us are hurt by burning coal 24x7, and many of our loved ones die daily as a result.

I can't wait to see industry get real about nuclear again. Until then, I'll be driving development of the biofuels sector, which has been completely neglected since the 1930s... thanks to corruption by the even more polluting and harmful petreoum industry, for the past century.

Certain regions bear a greater responsibility for producing GHG emissions - The United States Midwest is one such region!

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The best effort toward safe nukes

As it stands now, most nuke power plants, like most coal fired plants, are going nowhere.  Nukes are amidst a license renewal process right now and it better not be slip shot. The editorial boards of the New York Times, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer are concerned with the apparent sloppy nature of how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been approaching the relicensing process.  If one of these plants goe out of control because of an accident, and thousands of people have to move out of their homes in areas that become contaminated with radiation, (as has happened in Japan), then nuclear power will become very unpopular indeed.  People will want their local nukes to be shut down and the carbon savings incurred by using nukes could be lost.  It is better to make the best effort toward a safe nuke instead of a slipshot effort.

I have no problem with good science - I like science

I have no problem with good science - I like science.

The Japanese meltdown seems to be a result of poor design (multiple reactors piled on top of each other, near the seashore and a fault line, surrounded by dense populations, without viable backup power), poor emergency preparedness, and poor management - a utility and nation that did not take proper care of nuclear material and their people (and the rest of the world).

The county got old, fat and lazy and rested on its past accomplishments, from the 1970s.

Now they acknowledge they must rebuild their power systems from scratch. Little late, huh?!?!

I've analyzed legal services for a bunch of utilities including some in Ohio - American utilities care very much about safety and I would be surprised if we have any situations as dangerous as the one melting down in Japan. Northeast Ohio may have it the worst of anyone, and we ain't contaminated... they caught the defect before it became a leak.

Let me know if you see differently - I'd love to know what the NERC thinks are our most dangerous plants in America today... especially based on changing threats of natural disaster from climate change?!?!

Mad in Japan. The country has been in decline for decades and busted. We all suffer.

I have a problem with bad science that absolutely kills and harms the world, like burning coal with abandon as we do.

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Price energy at its true cost!

Because of public unpopularity that developed after the incident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in 1979 development of commercial nuclear power stopped in this country.  I understand there have been some new "safer" designs for nuclear power plants, such as gravity powered shut down of the reactor core that does not require electricity.  Of course the public scare has been on for decades so these designs have yet to be much utilized.

Then there is the problem of handling radioactive waste generated in the plants.  Right now waste from U.S. nuclear plants are stored in pools that require circulating water to carry away the heat.  Damage to these pool systems at the troubled Japan nuclear plants may be the their biggest problem.  I've read that these pools at U.S. plants hold spent fuel rods in denser formations than the Japanese plants.  If a shut down of electricity occured at a U.S. plant as it has in Japan, the fuel rods over heating could be a problem considerably worse here than in Japan. (Hydrogen generated by overheated fuel rods created the explosions at the nuclear plants in Japan breaching the sheds over the cooling pools.)

There is a way to stabilize this waste.  During its construction I've seen a kiln at a former nuclear fuel recycling plant in West Valley New York, about 100 miles east of here, designed to fire liquified radioactive waste into ceramic "logs."  While very radiocative, the logs aren't likely to liquify and contaminate the environment.

All of this, of course, will be done at great expense.  The kiln, for instance, utilized a vast amount of stainless steel and other expensive features.

My prefered solution to the energy/pollution problem is conservation. Far more needs to be done for conservation and co-generation of power (using heat from one industrial facility to power a second, nearby industrial facility). 

Technology is one of the answers to increasing conservation. Without scientific discovery we would have no high effency light emiting diodes.  We need to move on from florescent light sources, with their dose of Mercury, onto wide use of LEDs. (I haven't heard of any environmental problems with LEDs.)

Another answer is to price power usage at its true cost reflecting pollution, atmosphere warming, and clean up costs. Consumers will become very careful how they burn electricity if the true cost of the power source is reflected in their bills. Coal produced power should be priced much higher than now to reflect the full cost. Once this is done, then true "green" power sources such as wind and solar energy sources will become competitive without other incentives.


I've heard DOE Secretary Chu speak about some advanced nuclear

Best posting on realNEO in years. I learned and agree.

I've heard DOE Secretary Chu speak about some advanced nuclear initiatives he has proposed for America and they seem timely and necessary - most involve addressing "spent" fuel that still has energy potential, and poses long term storage problems. Those challenges seem to fit together, with some promise.

On the cost side, with nuclear... we have lots of uranium mine tailings to clean up out west, so bioremediation is in the works, with hemp. America may need to replace Obama (and so Chu of course) to proceed with that in most of America, but I hope to see progress at the state-rights level with hemp bioremediation (and biomass production) in some states not overly burdened by Obama tailings.

There are many nuclear initiatives ongoing around the world and I expect solutions to some of the fuel disposal issues you raise - we have left this industry high and dry and are seeing the dangers coming to our surface - now we need to invest in moving it to a move stable and sustainable state.

And, DEMAND SIDE MANAGEMENT IS CRITICAL - we can reduce consumption dramatically. 

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Japan's Tepco confirms meltdowns of 2 more Fukushima reactors

Japan's Tepco confirms meltdowns of 2 more Fukushima reactors


TOKYO | Mon May 23, 2011 9:25pm EDT

TOKYO May 24 (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co , the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disabled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, confirmed on Tuesday that there were meltdowns of fuel rods at three of the plant's reactors early in the crisis.

It had said earlier this month that fuel rods in the No.1 reactor had melted, but officials of the utility, known as Tepco, confirmed at a news conference that there were also meltdowns of fuel rods at the plant's No.2 and No.3 reactors early in the crisis.

Engineers are battling to plug radiation leaks and bring the plant northeast of Tokyo under control more than two months after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and deadly tsunami that devastated a swathe of Japan's coastline and tipped the economy into recession.

The disaster has triggered a drop of more than 80 percent in Tokyo Electric's share price and forced the company to seek government aid as it faces compensation liabilities that some analysts say could top $100 billion.

The Tepco officials said damage to the No.2 reactor fuel rods began three days after the quake, with much of the fuel rods eventually melting and collecting at the bottom of the pressure vessel containing them.

Fuel rods in the No.3 reactor were damaged by the afternoon of March 13, they said.

They repeated that the tsunami that followed soon after the quake disabled power to the reactors, knocking out their cooling capabilities. (Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Michael Watson)

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U.S. Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act is too skimpy!


Some analysts say that the damage done by the accidents at the Japanese three nuclear stations could top $100 billion.

In the U.S. nuclear plants are covered by the Price–Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act which leaves the nuclear industry, and its insurers, liable to cover only $12.5 Billion for any single accident and anything more apparently covered by the U.S. Federal Government.

Wikipedia on the U.S. Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act

Seems at least $80 billion short per claim

Seems at least $80 billion short per claim. Wonder if the cost of nuclear accident insurance has gone up this year?

Probably best to make sure we avoid meltdowns here. Smart, capable local and state government would help... their failure to monitor pollution here has killed far more than all nuclear accidents in the world ever... right here in Ohio.

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