Midwest Flooding Leaves Nuclear Reactor in Peril
By Pat Shannan
The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in eastern Nebraska, on the disappearing banks of the flooding Missouri River, has been at a Level Four emergency since early June, and the mainstream media is mysteriously quiet about it. Except for local Omaha TV coverage, little has been reported, and the mainstream continues to minimize this story.
An electrical fire in the basement on June 6 caused evacuation of the plant, and a large section was rendered inaccessible because of poisonous gases being emitted. The next day, the rising river waters caused the plant’s basement to flood.
Outspoken Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with long experience in containment, is warning of the perils and is particularly concerned about the possibility of a dam breaking and the complete wipeout of the plant.
He testified last year before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards on the potential of disasters spreading radioactive material far and wide.
Considerable amounts of toxic waste have been accidentally spilled into the Missouri River in recent days, and the water (already surrounding the building) is expected to rise another five feet this summer.
Officials say there is no threat to plant employees or the general public, but locals are concerned that officials always say that. The Omaha Public Power District made the same declaration in late May, but now the situation has worsened significantly.
On June 19, plant officials declared a “Notification of Unusual Event,” due to flood water levels of 42.5 feet or 899 feet above sea level. (The plant was built at 903 feet above mean sea level, which is 13 feet above the natural grade.) If the river’s level increases to 900 feet above sea level, plant personnel will barricade internal doorways as another layer of protection for facility equipment. At 902 feet above sea level, the plant would be taken offline as a protective safety measure.
Radiation is still streaming from Japan’s Fukushima disaster nearly four months after the disaster, and its owners have finally admitted that meltdowns indeed did occur, releasing deadly radioactivity that winds and ocean currents are spreading worldwide.
The World Health Organization, the American Nuclear Society and other so-called watchdog groups such as the Nuclear Energy Institute have all joined the denial group. “For anyone outside Japan there is currently no health risk from radiation leaking from the nuclear power plant,” insists Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman.
“They’re lying,” says Dr. Janette Sherman, a toxicologist and contributing editor of the book Chernobyl: The Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment.
Using medical data obtained between 1986 and 2004, its authors calculated that 985,000 people died worldwide from the radioactivity discharged from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Dr. Sherman says Fukushima will have just as big an impact.
The Fukushima disaster will have a comparable toll, expects Dr. Sherman, who has conducted research into the consequences of radiation for decades.
Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, added: “The absurd belief that no one will be harmed by Fukushima is perhaps the strongest evidence of the pattern of deception and denial by nuclear officials in industry and government.”
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(Issue # 27, July 4, 2011)