Beyond Nuclear International

Residents around TMI exposed to far more radiation than officials claimed

Researchers under gag order couldn’t investigate true health impacts after Three Mile Island nuclear disaster

By Cindy Folkers

Residents around Three Mile Island were exposed to much more radiation from the nuclear disaster than was claimed by officials, a fact that was kept from researchers and the public for years.


Residents at the time had questions about health risks but the fund established to pay for public health research related to the disaster was under a research gag order issued by a court. (Photo: Child Aloft by Robert Del Tredici)

After the Three Mile Island reactor core melted and radioactivity was released to the surrounding population, researchers were not allowed to investigate health impacts of higher doses because the TMI Public Health Fund, established to pay for public health research related to the disaster, was under a research gag order issued by a court. If a researcher wanted to conduct a study using money from this Fund, they had to obey two main parameters set forth by Federal Judge Sylvia Rambo, who was in charge of the Fund.*

  1. Those studying the health impact of Three Mile Island radiation emissions were prohibited from assessing “worst case estimates” of radiation releases unless such estimates would lead to a conclusion of insignificant amount of harm — that being “less than 0.01 health effects”. 
  2. If a researcher wanted to claim more harm or investigate a worst-case scenario, an expert selected by nuclear industry insurers would have to “concur on the nature and scope of the [dosimetry] projects.”

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Too cheap to meter now needs a bailout?

Forty years since the nuclear accident, Three Mile Island needs to close

By Eric Epstein

It wasn’t that long ago when Pennsylvania legislators proclaimed that the market was best suited to determine what energy technologies should move Pennsylvania forward.

And it wasn’t that long ago that nuclear power generators, after receiving $9 billion from ratepayers, embraced the marketplace and deregulation.

Now two nuclear corporations, Illinois-based Exelon Energy and Ohio-based First Energy no longer believe in the Pennsylvania marketplace. These corporations want to charge consumers a nuclear tax, and ship the profits to Illinois and Ohio. Not the good neighbor policy most of us had in mind.

Remember Three Mile Island?

Three Mile Island Unit 1, the current bailout candidate, became operational in 1974. Like most nuclear plants, it  was behind schedule and over budget. Unit-2 came on line in 1978, and was also behind schedule and over budget. Hostage ratepayers paid $1.1 billion in 1970s dollars to build Three Mile Island.

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Why didn’t the US “ground” its Fukushimas?

Ralph Nader calls out FAA “tombstone mentality” and it’s the same story at NRC

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Ralph Nader* the country’s leading consumer advocate, hit the nail on the head last Wednesday when he labeled the United States Federal Aviation Adminstration’s (FAA) hesitance to ground the Boeing 737 Max 8 an example of “tombstone mentality.” Even after two planes of that model crashed under suspicious circumstances that suggest the aircraft’s automated software systems over-rode manual control by pilots, Boeing insisted there was no problem with the design. The FAA, which Nader called a “patsy”, did nothing until insurmountable pressure forced Boeing’s and the aviation agency’s hands and both the Max 8 and Max 9 models were grounded in the U.S.

Nader is no stranger to this “tombstone mentality,” not only in the airline industry, about which he wrote a book — Collision Course: The Truth About Airline Safety — but in the automobile and nuclear industries, among others. His Critical Mass Energy Project, created in 1974, was the largest nationwide anti-nuclear power movement ever created in the US.

Why was there a delay in grounding the Boeing 737 Max 8s? Even if, after exhaustive investigation, no fault is found with the plane itself, shouldn’t even the possibility of doubt mandate precaution? Was it Boeing’s major role in the U.S. military industrial complex, including nuclear weapons, that shielded them from risking reputation and profit? 

According to Nader, Boeing has some 3,000 orders for the new plane from around the world. There is a lot at stake for the company. But, Nader told Democracy Now!, “Boeing is not going to get away with this, because this is not some old DC-9 about to be phased out. This is their future strategic plan. And they better own up.”

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Cracks in a nuclear reactor are never good. 370 is downright alarming

Note: since this story was first published, EDF has announced it will restart Hunterston B reactor 4 on April 30 and Hunterston B reactor on June 29, later than previously planned.

Clouds of radioactive contamination could fall out over Scottish cities

By Pete Roche

Residents living near one of Scotland’s two remaining operating nuclear power stations have been alarmed by proposals to re-start two reactors closed since March and October last year, both of which are showing a growing number of cracks in their graphite cores. 

The reactors — at Hunterston B nuclear power station in Ayrshire, Scotland, about 35 miles from Glasgow — were shut down last year so the cracks could be inspected. But in November 2018, the investigative news site, The Ferret, revealed that more than 350 cracks had been discovered. The cracking issue has been known about since at least 2006 when cracks in the graphite bricks started to appear as a result of neutron bombardment during fission over many years.

Fairlie talk on Hunterston

Dr. Ian Fairlie briefing the Scottish Parliament. (Photo: Rob Edwards/Twitter)

“Experts have warned that the cracks could lead to a “catastrophic accident” releasing clouds of radioactive contamination over Glasgow and Edinburgh,”  wrote Rob Edwards on The Ferret news site. “But Hunterston’s operator, EDF Energy, insisted that the reactor was safe – and is bidding to relax safety standards so that it can be restarted.” 

EDF insists that Reactor 4 will return at the end of March 2019 and Reactor 3 will be back online at the end of April, but these dates will depend on gaining permission from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), which is by no means certain.

Graphite moderator cracks cannot be repaired: if their number exceeds a certain limit, the reactor must be closed.

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Fukushima child evacuee speaks out

After “so much pain and sorrow”, a call to end nuclear power

By “Yumi”*

Dear citizens and friends,

My name is Yumi, I’m a high school student now living in Kyoto, Japan.

First, look at this photo of my scribbled note on a sheet of paper.

Yumi's letter

It reads, “I have been through so much pain and sorrow. So I have the RIGHT to speak out: ‘Zero nuclear power! No nukes! No bringing in radioactive contaminated waste!’ I am a child evacuee from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.”

I wrote it when I was an elementary school student soon after my mother and I were evacuated together from Fukushima to Kyoto.

In nearby communities my mother was crying out against nuclear power and telling the public how she had struggled to evacuate from the nuclear disaster.

At that time, being an elementary school student, I had no choice but to accompany her and listen to her speeches.

As a kid, her stories of the nuclear power accident were too difficult to understand, and to be honest, all a bit boring.

I remember a drawing pad and writing utensils I always used to take with me to pass the time drawing pictures.

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A Fukushima vigil

The mothers of Fukushima will join a series of events that urge the world to renounce nuclear power

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Every Friday morning, a group of Japanese residents living and working in the UK gather outside the Japanese Embassy in London, and in front of TEPCO’s London headquarters. They are there to remind their government, TEPCO, and the world, that the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear power disaster is not over and its consequences will reach far into the future.

Now, as we arrive at the eighth anniversary, the group, along with other UK partners, is preparing to hold its annual series of events to once again raise the profile of a disaster the nuclear industry would like us to forget and the Japanese government tries to pretend is over.

The group calls itself Japanese Against Nuclear UK (JAN UK) and, says its website, it was “formed on the 3rd August 2012 with a desire to better inform the public in the UK and Japan about the damage caused by nuclear power and to highlight the catastrophic effects of nuclear accidents, as well as to make the public aware to the continued failings and ongoing suffering from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident and the consequences for Japan and the world.”


Protest at the UK Parliament. (Photo: JAN UK)

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