In a fit of righteous house-cleaning, Republican lawmakers and Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners are ganging up on NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko, trying to get him removed from his position. They are upset that he put the NRC into emergency status when the nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima were unfolding.
They complain that he was lusting after the dictatorial powers that are inherent to the chairman after such a declaration to the detriment of the other commissioners. In all likelihood they are far more upset about his suggestion that the Japanese evacuate a 50-mile zone around Fukushima soon after the reactors failed. His detractors hrumffed about his shooting from the hip without sufficient data to back up his assertion.
Over time we have learned that the radioactivity releases in the area around the melting reactors were at much higher levels than either the Japanese government or Tokyo Electric admitted at the time.
Citing the lack of absolute scientific proof is rapidly becoming an easy excuse for polluters, poisoners and their regulators to escape culpability for their increasingly brazen assault on our collective health and well-being.
The NRC and other nuclear cheerleaders would not like Americans to hear about a 50 mile evacuation zone and then to start thinking about what that might mean here at home. They want the idea of any nuclear catastrophe to be contained and isolated, not a globally interconnected event with worldwide health and safety ramifications. The Obama administration is already spending tens of billions of our dollars subsidizing the building of new nuclear power reactors. The last thing they want to deal with is an informed public, complaining about their safety.
But that is just what we need to give them. We need to let them know that while they may engage in their charade of regulation and governing, but we the people will no longer accept rubber stamp approvals of license extensions and power up-rates. We are going to enforce the will of Vermont and ensure that Vermont Yankee shuts down next March. Along the way, we will reinstate the proper valuation to common sense and sensible assessments.
If Jaczko’s advice about evacuating had been heeded, how many Japanese children might have been spared their upcoming encounters with cancers and next-generation genetic deformities, which will be the result of their radioactivity exposure in the weeks and months after the accidents?
These will not be the questions considered as our august leaders consider the fate of the NRC chairman. Instead they will hear some character assassination, sanctimonious words about the integrity of our regulatory system and blather about the need for transparency. The entire process will be successful only if it takes everyone’s mind off of the inconvenient truth that Fukushima is an ongoing disaster. The reactors there are still leaking and the extent of the core damage, as well as questions about ocean and geologic damage is still unknown.
These facts bump uncomfortably against the cherished American myth of endless ingenuity and engineering supremacy. The NRC tells us that American standards are better and our procedures are superior. But the facts provided by our own American companies belie those claims. Our local hero Entergy Nuclear alone has provided an epic trail of accidents, mishaps, misinformation and obfuscation that is enough to give anyone pause about the wisdom of this current anti-free market government push for more nuclear reactors.
The nuclear industry relies on the NRC to provide cover and to assuage the public’s justified fears about nuclear power. Jaczko’s unorthodox stab at truth telling was a shock to their system and they want to clear him out. The NRC’s job is to send one message: the accident/radiation release/contamination has no impact on public health and safety. Worry not.
But worry we will. For the NRC has shown itself to be an advocate for the industry while it tries to placate the public. As the NRC has lost more and more credibility, the people of Vermont and surrounding states, through town meeting votes, legislative votes and gubernatorial elections have been advocating for ourselves, using these political processes to build our credibility as the governed giving our informed consent. The State of Vermont has recognized this. Our legislators have legally shut the door on Vermont Yankee’s license extension and will defend us against Entergy’s opposing lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court.
We should be proud of our government and of ourselves. In the face of a dysfunctional system of industry and federal government collusion, we are making our own way. Let them worry about their industry’s image problems if they wish. We will be taking care of our own business, closing Vermont Yankee as scheduled in March 2012.