(David Lochbaum says "yes".)
We start with our feature interview. David Lochbaum is an American nuclear engineer, whistleblower, and expert for the Union of Concerned Scientists. Lochbaum warns reactor design, and unreliable cooling systems, and poor oversight leave Americans with the same risk of multiple melt-downs experienced at Fukushima Japan. We'll talk about how to make U.S. reactors safer for all of us.
We also go over David Lochbaum's testimony to Congress May 13th. Lochbaum taught safety to inspectors at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) a couple of years ago. Now he points to obvious weaknesses in the U.S. nuclear watch-dog system. The high price for negligence becomes too obvious after the Fukushima accident in Japan.
You can download that Testimony here:
It turns out only a dozen or so U.S. reactors have the 8 hour battery back-up installed at Fukushima. Around 90 American reactors only have 4 hour battery back-up. "The Cavalry" (new power lines, new generators, something) has to arrive within 4 hours, or a reactor without power starts the clock toward melt-down, which can happen within 24 hours. Not a good situation.
The American spent fuel problem is even worse. Where the biggest fuel pond (at Reactor 4) has around 1300 fuel units, a lot of American reactors have more than 3,000! There are no battery backups for their cooling. Period. That old fuel should be put into "dry casks" as soon as possible.
The fuel in dry casks at Fukushima was not affected by the loss of power or the Tsunami. Robert Alvarez has calculated the U.S. could go on a crash program to transfer most spent fuel to dry casks, costing a paltry 4 billion dollars, and taking about 10 years, if we get going. Get a pdf of that report here.\
Spending less than $4 billion is cheap insurance, compared to a mutli-unit meltdown, and the risks when the spent fuel ponds (housed in the "attic" of many reactors) get hit with a hydrogen explosion.
All American reactors, Lochbaum tells us, are expected to have a plan for handling "severe" emergencies. But under the current regulatory system, those plans are more or less voluntary. And get this: NRC regulators are specifically forbidden to ask to see those plans. Lochbuam says we shouldn't wait for a bad accident to see if those plans are sufficent, or flawed. Then it is too late.
This is an easy fix for the NRC. Make those emergency plans mandatory and inspected.
You must hear this interview. Lochbaum does explain some emergency exercises held every 2 years (which local residents should know about). When I ask why the Japanese waited two months to admit they had melt-downs, Lochbaum reminds us it too FOUR YEARS for the operators of Three Mile Island to know they had a melt-down, or partial melt-down. They had to want for enough cool-down to lower a camera inside and look.
Otherwise, and I think this is a major flaw in this technology, if the gages and operating panels go down, as they did at Fukushima, there is no way to know what has happened inside, for months, or even years. That is just too opaque and risky, in my opinion.