Internal emails obtained by the UK Guardian show that British government officials colluded with nuclear power companies in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster to develop a PR strategy to downplay the severity of the event. Emails show the British government initiated contact with the nuclear industry about the debacle just two days after the earthquake and tsunami hit, and well before anyone knew the full extent of the disaster. The emails show close collusion between the power companies Westinghouse, EDF Energy, Areva and the UK government's Office of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to try to ensure that the disaster in Japan wouldn't interrupt plans to build new nuclear power plants in Great Britain. In one email, an official in the BIS department expressed concern that the Fukushima disaster had "the potential to set the nuclear industry back globally," and wrote "We need to ensure the anti-nuclear chaps and chapesses do not gain ground on this. We need to occupy the territory and hold it. We really need to show the safety of nuclear." The business department argued that Fukushima was "not as bad as the 'dramatic' TV pictures made it look." An official, whose name has been blacked out, told Areva "We need to quash any stories trying to compare this to Chernobyl." You can read all 136 pages of the emails here.
Most nuclear reactors built in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s were explicitly designed to last for 40 years, but an Associated Press investigation shows that owners of aging nuclear plants and their government regulators are now claiming the aging reactors actually have no particular life span, and can even operate for up to 100 years. AP found the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) relicensing rules contain no requirements that operators compensate for wear and tear on their reactors, and that the relicensing process relies heavily on paperwork supplied by operators and very little actual visual inspection of plants. AP also found that the NRC has repeatedly made compromises in plant safety rules, emergency planning and regulations to keep older reactors operating. The NRC's relicensing audits for aging plants often contain "identical or nearly identical word-for-word repetition" of the language supplied by operators in their license renewal applications. Despite the fact that repeated equipment failures have occurred at U.S. nuclear plants, relicensing the plants has become little more than a rote, rubber-stamp procedure. Joe Hopenfeld, a former NRC engineer who worked on issues pertaining to plant aging prior to retiring in 2008, corroborates AP's findings. "Everything I've seen [in regard to relicensing] is rubber-stamped," Hopenfeld confirms.
While the U.S. media has been occupied with Anthony Weiner, the Republican presidential candidates and Bristol Palin's memoir, coverage of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster has practically fallen off the map. Poor mainstream media coverage of Japan's now months-long struggle to gain control over the Fukushima disaster has deprived Americans of crucial information about the risks of nuclear power following natural disasters. After a few weeks of covering the early aftermath of Japan's earthquake and tsunami, the U.S. media moved on, leaving behind the crisis at Fukushima which continues to unfold. U.S. politicians, like Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, have made disappointing and misleading statements about the relative safety of nuclear power and have vowed to stick by our nuclear program, while other countries, like Germany and Italy, have taken serious steps to address the obvious risks of nuclear power -- risks that the Fukushima disaster made painfully evident, at least to the rest of the world.
George Kenney's Electric Politics (EP) podcast is one of the top ten political podcasts in the country. Produced once a week on Friday mornings and boasting a theme song written by BJ Leiderman (who also writes the music for NPR radio shows), EP is more than just a wonky political theory show. Kenney has informal, timely conversations with fascinating guests on hot topics. Recently Kenny spoke with Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) and a leading authority on nuclear fusion who has 37 years of experience in nuclear energy issues.
For people who assume that older nuclear plants in the U.S. are being replaced with safer, newer designs and that nuclear waste is now being safely and securely disposed of off-site, think again. The disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant -- and this interview with Dr. Makhijani -- will change your mind.
World Nuclear News, a pro-nuclear website run by the World Nuclear Association, is upbeat about the draft "Danish text" climate change agreement. The text, which was secretly drafted by the governments of the U.K., the U.S., Denmark and Australia, has provoked uproar at the COP15 conference in Copenhagen.
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the peak nuclear industry lobby group in the U.S., is an enthusiastic promoter of the idea of a "nuclear renaissance." NEI publishes NEI Nuclear Notes, a blog linking to stories hyping the prospects for an expanded role for nuclear power in a carbon-constrained world.