It’s summed up in the emphasized third sentence – if nuclear power plant owners followed every safety precaution, they couldn’t make any money. Neocon Republicans love to spread fear by doting on lurid tales of the destruction that could be wrought by a ‘dirty-bomb’ nuclear device in the hands of a terrorist – so far, ‘peaceful’ nuclear power has killed more people than Al-Qaeda, but you won’t hear the GOP complain; they are, after all, a paid arm of the nuclear power industry.
“…[I]t’s been normal for this company in the past [lying to the public]. It’s normal for the industry to some extent.
“It’s a highly ideological industry, and it also involves a lot of concentration of political power, as well as physical power. And those institutions become very powerful, very close to the regulators, and an adversarial culture develops where they’re constantly pushing against the safety measures, because that`s where the money is.
“If you did every single thing that you — that was possible to make it safe, then you couldn’t make any money.”
— Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” March 16, 2011, talking about the Japanese nuclear plants. [Emphasis mine.]
“Nuclear plants the world over must be certified for what is called ‘SQ’ or ‘Seismic Qualification.’ That is, the owners swear that all components are designed for the maximum conceivable shaking event, be it from an earthquake or an exploding Christmas card from Al Qaeda.
“The most inexpensive way to meet your SQ is to lie. The industry does it all the time. The government team I worked with caught them once, in 1988, at the Shoreham plant in New York. Correcting the SQ problem at Shoreham would have cost a cool billion, so engineers were told to change the tests from ‘failed’ to ‘passed.’ ” [snip]
“These [Japanese nuclear] plants are now releasing radioactive steam into the atmosphere. Be skeptical about the statements that the ‘levels are not dangerous.’ These are the same people who said these meltdowns could never happen. Over years, not days, there may be a thousand people, two thousand, ten thousand who will suffer from cancers induced by this radiation.” [snip]
“It would be irresponsible for me to estimate the number of cancer deaths that will occur from these releases without further information; but it is just plain criminal for the Tokyo Electric shoguns to say that these releases are not dangerous. …The carcinogenic isotopes that are released at Fukushima are already floating to Seattle with effects we simply cannot measure.”
— Greg Palast, investigative journalist and former nuclear plant inspector, from “The No BS Info on Japan’s Nuclear Operators,” March 14, 2011.
When I was in college they built a nuclear plant on the lower Hudson, My physics teacher insisted it was designed to be safe. At the same time the news was filled with reports of parking garages collapsing because contractors left the re-bar out or cheapened up some other part of the project.
I asked why we should believe that this project would be any different.
The waste pools on these Japanese plants were built in the same buildings ABOVE the main reactor. Didn’t anyone at the time think this was a weird idea? Any problem with one would necessarily affect the other.
This kind of thing is epidemic all over the country. Builders and owners trying to increase their profits by using cheaper materials than specified. In the 27-story building where I used to work, the wallboard was so thin you could lean against it and leave a dent, if not a hole. The copper water pipe was made of ‘scraps’ of different sizes, which were then soldered together, completely against city code and common sense. When it got cold, the pipes froze at the joint where a pipe of one dimension was soldered to a pipe of a smaller size. That meant no water on that line. Then, when the pipe was defrosted, the solder blew out and the pipe fell apart and a pipe of the proper size had to be found and fitted, meaning the walls had to be torn open and then replaced. It cost a small fortune to redo the water pipes this way, but it sure saved the builder a ton of money. Did I mention that the construction company responsible had considerable political clout and were never prosecuted for any of this?
According to a friend who was a pipefitter in some of these nuclear plants, such nightmares as described by Greg Palast were commonplace. He’s surprised there haven’t been more accidents. Since he was union and the buidler would have a hard time firing him, he sometimes put in the material specified in the bluepirnts and required by law, knowing that when the owner found out, it would be too late to go to cheaper materials, unless the builder wanted to spend even more money and further cut into his profit margin which, of course, they never did. When he retired a few years ago, the union was much weaker than it once was, and scab labor was allowed to work with the union guys. The scabs, not surprisingly, didn’t care about anything and, half the time, weren’t fully competent to do the work. These newer nuke plants should be having problems in the near future.
What’s happening in Japan has shown that even IF procedures are followed. Even if there are redundant safety features. Nature has a way of wiping them out. Nuclear fuel is too hot to handle.
The Rachel Maddow show has been doing a good job of making the problems and processes clear, w/o a lot of hype.