NUCLEAR POWER in the USA
-a child of the US imperialist military-industrial complex; profits and service to corporations and the military come before people
Nuclear reactors are dangerous, however used, because of their potential for colossal explosions. For this reason, both nuclear weaponry and nuclear energy have been sharply criticized from the very beginning of the development of this technology. Objections to science being subordinated to both military and commercial interests abound. Nevertheless, nuclear armed weapons and nuclear power stations have proliferated.
Never mind trying to restrain the nuclear power industry, both weapons development and energy supply, there is even staunch resistance to safety regulations and disaster management. Why? First, nuclear technology is a huge and very lucrative industry. Profitable businesses maximize productivity by cutting corners on labour and tools. Second, the ruling powers desire nuclear weaponry as a form of defense of their power and status.
Much of contemporary technology was created in military laboratories before being commercialized, from computerization and communications, to chemical toxins and nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion was experimented with during World War 2 when the US air force caused hundreds of thousands of immediate and delayed human deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. German scientists at the behest of their Nazi masters may have started the development of nuclear weapons; this is the official reason why the US created the Atomic Commission and began the Manhattan Project under the supervision of physicist Dr. Oppenheimer and US Army Colonel Leslie R. Groves to achieve nuclear fusion and nuclear arms.
It is ironic that nuclear power was seen as a clean energy source as the environmental movement grew from the 1960s on. This became a key selling point. Plans to build nuclear power stations all over the US and in other countries were soon under way. There are currently 60 nuclear power stations with 98 nuclear reactors in 30 states in the USA. Has everything gone smoothly, without incident? Far from it, as everyone knows.
There have been three major nuclear power station accidents in the world. The first was the Three Mile Island station catastrophe in Pennsylvania. It happened in 1979 because of a failed water pump, which prevented cooling while causing so much hydraulic pressure that a pressure release valve malfunctioned as well. Reactor number two melted down and a radiation leak occurred. There were no directly resulting deaths or injuries.
The second nuclear power station disaster was Chernobyl in the Ukraine, USSR, in 1986 when explosions occurred due to a deliberate shutdown safety and emergency mechanisms for the purpose of safety improvement, ironically. There were 42 immediate and delayed deaths and thousands of people were forced to evacuate
The latest tragedy was the worst ever. About 100,000 people around the Fukushima Daiichi power station were forced to flee after an earthquake was followed by a devastating tsunami which flooded three reactors, causing a failure in their cores resulting in hydrogen explosions, and damaged a fourth in 2011. The surrounding waters and air were contaminated. By 2012, it was estimated that 573 people died in 13 municipalities.
Former Chairperson of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Gregory B. Jaczko, was one of the nuclear physicists who arrived on the Fukushima scene to assess the accident. In his 2019 book, Confessions of Rogue Nuclear Regulator, he explains the both the recalcitrance and hubris of nuclear power engineers who, prior to the Fukushima disaster, has believed that neither flooding nor hydrogen explosions in the cores were possible.
The occurrence of smaller accidents in the US had been compelling him to seek changes. For example, he tried to stop the use of parts made with Alloy 600, which had been identified as substandard since the 1980s. The leak at the David-Besse station was caused by inferior parts whose alloys could not withstand the chemical processes inside reactors, namely exposure to boric acid. Jacko’s three-year experience in the NRC taught him about the internal and external resistance to technical safety improvements and regulation. He made several efforts to enhance safety controls but was blocked and even punished and belittled for trying. In sum, the NRC functions more to protect the industry, he states, than to ensure public safety.
Many citizens’ organizations have been advocating for restraint, technical safeguards and better emergency measures to address the possibility of nuclear accidents, organizations in the USA and around the globe. One concerned citizen in New Hampshire learned that regional evacuation plans would not protect persons with mobility problems. Moreover, local police officers confided that emergency personnel were not properly equipped to carry out existing emergency evacuations (Stephen Comley, Sr., unpublished manuscript entitled No Evacuation Possible). While butting heads with the state authorities and mainstream media to sound the alarm about the evacuation issues, he consulted engineers at a local nuclear power plant. That is when he learned of the continued use of counterfeit and substandard parts in the plant. Use of these faulty parts was widespread in nuclear plants around the country. Comley therefore created a non-profit, whistleblower protection organization, from which he gathered and spread information, much to the deep consternation and ire of the industry and its defenders among the political elite. For over 30 years, he has been ignored, ridiculed, persecuted and defamed for his honest and conscientious concern. He has suffered family conflict, social isolation, health setbacks for his trouble.
After leaving the whistleblower organization in he hands of someone else, Stephen Comley, Sr., was dismayed when the new leader of this group failed to make any statement with respect to the Fukushima accident. It was his feelings for the victims of that accident that Comley joined the ILPS Peace Tour to Japan in 2014. He joined activists of the Asia Wide Campaign against US Domination and Aggression and others at the commemorative street action at Hiroshima memorial park and followed them to the ceremony at Nagasaki. It was then that he came to see the connection between the US military and the US nuclear power industry, he told us. Since then, he has also learned the value of grassroots organizing and found more allies among progressive groups and the alternative media.