What Are Other People Saying About the Unfolding Nuclear Emergency?
A variety of notable people are calling for a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power facilities, changes in nuclear safety measures, and other responses in light of the unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan.
*Last Updated on March 14, 2011*
Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) has called for a moratorium on the construction of nuclear power facilities in the United States.
“I think it calls on us here in the U.S., naturally, not to stop building nuclear power plants but to put the brakes on right now until we understand the ramifications of what’s happened in Japan,” Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut and one of the Senate’s leading voices on energy, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has called for a moratorium on new nuclear reactors in the United States.
- “The unfolding disaster in Japan must produce a seismic shift in how we address nuclear safety here in America.”
- “We must ensure that America’s nuclear power plants can withstand a catastrophic event and abide by the absolute highest standards for safety.”
- Rep. Markey also called for a moratorium on all new reactors that could be placed in seismically active areas until a top-to-bottom review of design resiliency, emergency response, backup power to prevent a meltdown during long electricity outages, and evacuation plans has been conducted. Rep. Markey has also demanded a safety review of the 31 reactors in the United States that are the same design as those currently experiencing major failure in Japan.
Congressman Markey (D-Mass.) has also asked the NRC not to approve a new reactor design until serious safety concerns are addressed.
- Rep. Markey wrote to Chairman Jaczko urging the NRC not to approve Westinghouse’s design for a new nuclear reactor design, known as the AP1000, until serious safety concerns have been addressed. Rep. Markey’s letter referenced concerns raised by one of the Commission’s most long-serving staff that there is a risk that an earthquake at the AP1000 could result in a catastrophic core meltdown.
- “If the NRC approves the AP1000, then it may have widespread use throughout the United States, making questions about its safety of crucial national importance,” said Rep. Markey earlier this week. “Taxpayer dollars should not be spent on reactors that could be at risk of suffering a catastrophic core meltdown in the event of an aircraft strike or a major earthquake.”
Congressman Markey warned that a nuclear accident like the one occurring in Japan could also happen in the United States.
- “I am also struck by the fact that the tragic events now unfolding in Japan could very easily occur in the United States. What is happening in Japan right now shows that a severe accident at a nuclear power plant can happen here,” said Rep. Markey.
David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists has commented in the New York Times about how engineers never envisioned the scale of the one-two punch from Japan’s earthquake and Tsunami:
- David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer and the director of the Nuclear Safety Project of the Union of Concerned Scientists, suggested Sunday that while emergency preparedness and safety redundancies were built into the DNA of every nuclear plant in the United States, the string of events that damaged the Fukushima plant was beyond the sort of situations imagined by nuclear regulators and plant designers.
- “The real situation they found themselves in is not really planned for,” Mr. Lochbaum said. “Those plants are designed to be highly resistant to damage by earthquakes, and as immune as possible to tsunami. The problem was the one-two punch. We design against these sorts of things in isolation, and the combination is a little beyond what they would have anticipated.”
- Mr. Lochbaum added that other potential problems exist in nearly every region. “The Midwest has tornadoes, parts of the gulf experience hurricanes. There are places in the North where severe ice has caused problems. They all share the common thread of Mother Nature challenging the plants.”
Jonathan Parfrey, head of the Green LA coalition and a former director with Physicians for Social Responsibility,released a statement about the health risks of nuclear power.
- The National Academy of Science’s latest report on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation, BIER-VII, says that the smallest dose of low-level ionizing radiation has the potential to cause health risks to humans.
- Here’s the problem — radioisotopes enter the food chain. The radioactive variety of iodine, I-131, is readily absorbed by the thyroid. It is a strong gamma emitter, and once perched in the thyroid, I-131 slices-up the DNA of healthy cells, converting them to malformed cancer cells. Other isotopes pose a threat. Strontium is metabolised in the body as calcium and cesium is absorbed as potassium. Once ingested, these cancer-causing radioactive agents become part of our bones.