The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Now with the pandemic, it is a free-for-all for the nuclear operators 

COVID Infects World Nuclear Plants, May 27, 2020, by Alex Smith,  Radio Ecoshock, “……….During this pandemic, the nuclear industry is another disaster not just waiting to happen, but already dancing with it. Some reactors have been shut down due to the pandemic. But most atomic companies demanded to stay open.

They call themselves essential services, despite a glut of electricity priced well below what the nuclear industry can match. In many countries, taxpayers are paying billions for mal-investments in nuclear power. In America, the private operators and their investors demanded the federal government top up user bills in order to compete with electricity from cheap wind and natural gas. They want safety regulations cut back, inspections and rules developed after major nuclear accidents to be relaxed.

In America, the Trump Administration is ready to help. Three of the 5 commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were nominated by President Trump. Along with other environmental protection rules, the Trump Administration has been dropping safety requirements at nuclear plants. Now with the pandemic, it is a free-for-all for the nuclear operators – as they struggle to avoid painful bankruptcies across the nation.

In just one small example, the former on-site nuclear plant inspectors, found in all nuclear power plants by law, are now making their “inspections” over the phone. There is fear of massive absenteeism of nuclear employees as the pandemic infects workers and their families or contacts. In Georgia, 120 nuclear plant workers had to quarantine. American companies admit they have plans to keep emergency staff, thousands of them, at the reactors in a 24/7 lock down, sleeping on cots. But they won’t say if that is already happening or where. During this pandemic, a nuclear reactor in the United States is sunk down in ground flooded in Michigan. You probably did not hear about that. We will ask big questions about nuclear safety during the pandemic with our guest Grant Smith, Senior Energy Policy Advisor with EWG, the Environmental Working Group.

But it is not just America. The international scene is just as scary. Many companies said they had pandemic plans, but few did, or no plan on this scale. A few reactors in the UK and France were closed down because they could not be operated safely during a pandemic. Almost all the rest stay on, full power, despite workers getting infected, and essential supply chains in doubt. The Russian state atomic company Rosatom brags “Nuclear Is Not Afraid of COVID-19”. Construction on the first nuclear power plant in impoverished Bangladesh is continuing, they say, even though a few hundred Russian nuclear construction experts were called home during the pandemic. I guess it is up to the Bangladeshis to build it completely safely. Rosatom reports construction of new reactors in Egypt and Turkey continues through the pandemic.

Russian nuclear operators have been infected with this virus. Probably every country with a reactor or nuclear weapon has these infections and risks, without reporting it. What could go wrong? I summarize carefully worded reports that explain so much. A nuclear accident during a pandemic would be a dire twist in history. Maybe with a bit of sunlight and public voice, we can avoid that?

The industry reports terrorists threatened to attack nuclear facilities during this plague. Experts point to spikes in attempts to hack nuclear control systems, even while some reactor employees work from home computers. I hope they are not using Windows 10 with botched and hackable updates.. In all countries, from Finland to Canada to Australia, the problems or policies meant to cope with nuclear-sized risks during this pandemic are shrouded in secrecy.

A watchdog group reports major decisions approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission require, by law, public consultation and information. The pandemic has excused all that, the brakes are off, the deregulators are not regulating. The NRC claims it rules the operation of nuclear plants, but not worker health. The NRC has not provided a public plan for nuclear plants during COVID-19. Other national governments are distracted. They are already politically and financially enmeshed in the nuclear game. That leaves safety up to nuclear plant owners and investors, the unseen wealthy and their CEOs, the ones already facing oblivion as dangerous aging reactors shut down one after another, and wind power blows them away.

I’m Alex Smith. This is Radio Ecoshock. Before I cover the convergence of a pandemic, climate change, and grave nuclear risks in many countries, let’s start out with our guest in America. ……

June 1, 2020 - Posted by | business and costs, health, politics, safety, USA

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