Thursday, June 7, 2007

So, Spent Pools Are Safe? Not According To Experts

Lets me honest...for reasons of defense (military strategy), for corporate profits, communities hosting aging decrepid nuclear reactors are expendable in the eyes of the NRC. They stand prepared to watch us die in the name of greed, in the name of a Nuclear Renaissance that saves their jobs, and their agency. With the help of the NEI (Nuclear Energy Institute) they have manipulated and prostituted the models to spit out the result they want, numbers that serve their purposes, allow them to offer up to the public a lie that nuclear reactors and their spent fuel pools are safe, that there is no reason to deny a appolication for license renewal that will allow dangerous tritium leaking reactors to continue operation for another 20 years. Problem is, it is untrue.

Report after report tells us otherwise. Further, almost every governmental site you visit has us getting PREPARED for a serious incident and/or terrorist attack on a nuclear facility. Host communities have been stripped of our rights, are, being forced to accept the will or a corporate villian, a modern day robber baron out to rape society in the name of lining its own pockets with Gold. Wake up citizens of New York...legislation is not going to save us from Indian Point, but a million soul march through the gates of Entergy's Indian Point will.

Nation Unprepared for Radiological, Nuke Bomb Attack, Group Says

Report Underscores Medical Unpreparedness for Catastrophic Crisis

WASHINGTON, DC, SEPTEMBER 5, 2006 - On the heels of the recent circulation on a web site used by militant Islamists of Arabic-language instructions on how to make a radium dirty bomb, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) last week issued a report that states America remains dangerously unprepared to deal with the medical aftermath of a terrorist attack involving nuclear weapons, dirty bombs or explosions at nuclear power plants.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, was joined by other members of Congress and grassroots groups in launching a campaign to secure spent nuclear fuel at the nation’s nuclear reactors.

Markey says the Bush administration has not adequately secured spent nuclear fuel and that it is vulnerable to terrorist attacks, despite a report last year by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) which had already pointed out the vulnerability of spent nuclear fuel to terrorist attacks.

Indeed. The “Kimery Report” pointed out in April, 2005 that “the National Academy of Sciences [had] called for an examination of the security of spent nuclear reactor fuel rod storage ponds at each of the nation’s nuclear power plants because the highly radioactive material may be vulnerable to a terrorist attack.”

Nuclear fuel cycle experts impaneled by NAS at the request of Congress concluded in a largely classified 130-page report that if terrorists succeeded in even partially draining coolant water from a spent reactor fuel rod pool, an intense fire could be ignited that would release large amounts of radiation.

Less than a week after NAS called for an examination of the security of spent nuclear reactor fuel storage sites, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported three nuclear power plants - Vermont Yankee and Humboldt Bay in California, and Millstone in Connecticut – reported missing spent fuel, and that the accounting programs supposed to keep track of this spent fuel are deficient and poorly regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The unaccounted-for material from Millstone in 2000 was never found, while the unaccounted-for material at Vermont Yankee was found three months later in its spent fuel pool, but in a location other than that indicated by inventory records.

“In the post-9/11 world, it is unacceptable that the NRC would abdicate its responsibility to track nuclear materials,” Markey said.

“We need national tracking of nuclear materials that could be used to make a dirty bomb to make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands,” added Sen. Hillary Rodham-Clinton.

Markey and Clinton secured passage of an amendment to the Energy Bill that requires a cradle-to-grave, national tracking system for materials that could be used to make a dirty bomb in order to reduce the risk that terrorists could obtain these materials.

“The legislation requires the NRC to regulate radium for the first time. However, the NRC has made the short-sighted and ill-considered decision that controlling these materials is not a security issue and should not be a federal responsibility,” Markey’s office said in a statement. “Instead, they have deemed this a public health and safety issue and pushed responsibility for implementing the tracking system to the States, effectively eliminating the ability of the NRC to enforce compliance.”

In a letter to the NRC Chairman on June 22, Markey and Clinton called on the agency to abide by the stricter standard set by the law and make controlling these nuclear materials the federal security priority this threat requires.

On August 1, NRC responded to the two lawmakers by saying “states representing about 29 percent of all radioactive sources to be covered by the tracking system opposed (CA, FL, IL, MA, NY) and states representing about 17 percent of all radioactive sources to be covered by the tracking system were neutral about (AL, GA, LA, MS, NM, NC, RI, TN, UT, WI) the NRC’s move to shift responsibility for implementing and enforcing the tracking system requirements to the states.”

NRC said it “will also implement the tracking system in an additional 16 states representing about 20 percent of all radioactive sources to be covered by the tracking system. These states do not have agreements with the NRC that would enable them to implement the tracking system.”

Under the NRC’s plan, states would be expected to oversee and enforce their own implementation of the tracking system, and absorb the cost of doing so. Furthermore, under the current proposal, if a radiation source is shipped from one state to another, the recipient state would not be notified that it now had an additional source to track. Ten states do not currently have 24/7 capability to access tracking source database information to begin with.

After reviewing an early copy of the report, Markey, who also is co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation, stated, "this important report confirms that the lessons of Hurricane Katrina have still not been learned, and that the Bush administration has done no coherent planning to prepare for a nuclear attack or accident. From its failure to follow Congress' direction to stockpile potassium iodide (KI) tablets within 20 miles of all nuclear reactors, to its efforts to cut funding for the WMD first responder program, Metropolitan Medical Response System, to its failure to adequately fund the public health system, the Bush administration has engaged in a shortsighted, dangerous and misguided approach to nuclear emergency response preparation."

HSToday has been at the forefront in bringing attention to the serious unpreparedness of the nation’s emergency medical care system to deal with a catastrophic terrorist attack or natural disaster.

(See, “The Trauma in National Trauma Care,” in the May, 2004 HSToday; “Emergency Preparedness: Intensive Care Needed,” in the July, 2005 HSToday; and, “Responding to Avian Flu: It’s Not Too Late,” in the Jan., 2006 HSToday. Also see previous “Kimery Report” dispatches which deal with medical emergency preparedness issues)

Dr. Ira Helfand, one of the co-authors of the new PSR report, “The US and Nuclear Terrorism: Still Dangerously Unprepared,” explained that “we found that the US government lacks a workable plan to respond to the likely medical needs,” noting, “thousands of American civilians injured by a nuclear terrorist attack could survive with better preparedness.”

Among the report’s other major findings:

The US has no system for determining whether people should try to evacuate or take shelter at home or work after an attack;

No central coordinating authority has been designated to step in to direct response and rescue efforts;

Plans for establishing field medical care, mobilizing health care personnel, and deploying supplies to the site of an attack are inadequate; and

The US public health system, which would bear a large burden in responding to nuclear terrorism, is under-funded and under-staffed.

In the Nov. 30, 2005 “Kimery Report,” “ ‘Dirty Bomb' Threat Grows, Counterterrorist Authorities Say,” it’s noted that the BBC movie, “Dirty War,” which depicted an attack in downtown London with a dirty bomb, realistically illustrated the emergency health care chaos that will ensue as hundreds of thousands of panicked citizens – injured or not - clamor for hospitalization, a situation US hospitals are unprepared. But, then, the alarm over the lack of surge capacity for handling the magnitude of injured in a catastrophic disaster has been sounded by health care authorities, as HSToday has reported.

“The Institute of Medicine report, “Hospital-Based Emergency Care: At the Breaking Point,” describes a system on the verge of collapse, with overcrowding a daily reality. The number of emergency rooms is in decline, and it is routine for patients to be routed to other facilities,” wrote Tim Stephens of the Washington, DC-based Rescobie Associates, in a fact sheet on national medical preparedness.

Continuing, Stephens, a consultant on emergency preparedness, said “even if patients reach the hospital, the situation is barely improved, the number of pathogens in these structures is alarming. As [HSToday Senior Correspondent and Online Editor] Tony Kimery has pointed out, ‘… just as there has been a disconnect in linking the crisis in the nation's trauma care system and hospital surge capacity to homeland security preparedness, so too is there a continuing disconnect between the potential catastrophe that could occur from rampant HAIs [hospital acquired infections] following a homeland security crisis and the recognition of this possibility.’ ”

“The nation cannot risk the consequences of not being well-prepared,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. “There must be a top-to-bottom upgrading of US nuclear terrorism prevention and response planning.” Dr. Redlener recently wrote, Americans at Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do Now.”

Dr. Walter Tsou, past president of the American Public Health Association, said, “obviously we cannot overlook the value of preventing such a disaster in the first place. The ability of terrorists to acquire nuclear material or to strike a nuclear facility represents a real threat, and emergency preparedness officials must incorporate that threat into national planning.” Dr. Tsou previously served as Health Commissioner for the city of Philadelphia and Medical Director of the Montgomery, Pennsylvania, Health Department.

HSToday has reported that the linking of emergency medical preparedness – especially trauma care – to homeland security has been grossly short-sighted.

To evaluate national readiness, PSR created casualty maps for three plausible nuclear terrorism scenarios – a nuclear weapons blast in lower Manhattan, an attack on a nuclear power plant near Chicago, and detonation of a dirty bomb near the White House – and evaluated the medical and public health consequences. The authors then examined steps that should be taken to try to minimize deaths and injuries.

PSR offered a “prescription” for what it called “dangerous deficiencies in planning, organization and communication,” which includes:

Designating a central coordinating authority and clear chain of command that would be activated in the event of a nuclear terrorist attack to direct response and rescue efforts, then practicing for most likely scenarios;

Prepositioning radiation protection and monitoring equipment in high-risk target areas, training first responders in emergency duties, and creating a National Disaster Medical System;

Establishing a plan for communicating evacuation or sheltering decisions to the public, coupled with advance education to avoid confusion in the chaotic aftermath of an attack; and

Prepositioning medical care and radiation protection supplies near high-risk areas.

Meanwhile, Markey accuses the Bush administration of blocking distribution of iodine tablets to families living around nuclear power facilities.

“The Bush administration is operating in a pre-9/11 world when it comes to security of America's nuclear power plants. Potassium Iodide [KI] is a critical drug that can protect American families from absorbing deadly radiation that could be released if a nuclear power plant was successfully attacked by terrorists,” Markey said. “In 2002, we doubled the area around nuclear power plants where KI pills would be automatically distributed to families, but the administration has been incapable or unwilling, to fulfill its legal and moral obligations to Americans living within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant.

Markey urged President Bush to issue long-delayed guidelines that carry out a key provision in the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, authored by Markey, which extended the mandated distribution area around nuclear power plants for potassium iodide pills from 10 to 20 miles, doubling the area where residents will be given KI pills for their families. Thyroid cancer was significantly reduced, particularly in children, following the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident because authorities in Poland and elsewhere had pre-distributed these inexpensive pills that block the amount of radiation that can be absorbed by an individual when taken within a few hours of the exposure.

On August 18, Markey reminded Bush in a letter that, “from the public comments of your Administration, I know that you fully appreciate the vital role of potassium iodide in our emergency preparedness efforts. In the White House's June 6, 2002 proposal for the Homeland Security Department, potassium iodide was called a ‘crucial drug’ which ‘helps prevent thyroid cancer in the event of exposure to radiation.’ Further, the White House document called for the end of the ‘artificial ten-mile barrier to treatment.’ Days later, on June 10, 2002, then-Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge called the potassium iodide distribution process, ‘confusing, to say the least.’ He continued, ‘We need to eliminate as much of the confusion as possible.’

“Section 127 of the 2002 Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act directed you to establish a program to make potassium iodide available to state and local governments for distribution to all persons living within a 20 mile radius of a nuclear power plant. Previously, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission made potassium iodide available only to state governments for distribution to persons living within a 10 miles radius of such plants, and only when the states requested it. I offered the amendment to establish this program during the House Energy and Commerce Committee markup of this legislation. My amendment was accepted by the Committee, and, in modified form, by the House-Senate Conference on the Bioterrorism bill.”

Continuing, Markey’s letter to Bush states, “Section 127 (c) of the 2002 Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act required that ‘not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President, in consultation with individuals representing appropriate Federal, state, and local agencies, shall establish guidelines for the stockpiling of potassium iodide tablets, and for the distribution and utilization of potassium iodide tablets in the event of a nuclear incident. Such tablets may not be made available under subsection (a) until such guidelines have been established.’ Now over three years overdue, the guidelines have still not been finalized.

“Draft guidelines were prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services and published in the Federal Register almost a year ago, on August 29, 2005. I note that at that date, the guidelines were over two years overdue. I wrote you on February 22, 2006 to express my concern that the final HHS regulations reportedly were being held up due to spurious objections and arguments raised by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear utility industry.”

In an August 10 letter from Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt, Leavitt states "We are not aware of any 'alternative and more effective prophylaxis or preventive measures' that could be offered in place of potassium iodide in conjunction with other protective measures, and the President has not invoked subsection (f) of the Act. HHS has therefore proceeded with finalizing the KI distribution guidelines. It is my understanding that the final guidelines for potassium iodide stockpiling and distribution are pending at the White House Office of Management and Budget. It is further my understanding that OMB has had the final guidelines under review since February 2006 - when I last wrote you regarding this subject.”

Markey urged the White House “to immediately order the Office of Management and the Budget to release the final HHS guidelines for stockpiling and distribution of potassium iodide and to make it available to state and local governments.”

Related stories in the news:

Nuclear Site 'Like a Candy Store' for Terrorists

A Dirty Bomb Needn't be Complicated

Editor’s note: Just after completion of this report, Rep. Markey scolded the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for continuing to allow the nation’s nuclear power facilities to hire private security firms that are allowed “to dictate the rules, test themselves, and supply faulty information and equipment to its security forces.”

Markey referred specifically to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) revealing numerous security issues at the South Texas Project nuclear power plant near Houston, Texas. The UCS report highlights problems raised by whistleblowers at the nuclear power plant, which uses Wackenhut, a private security firm, to provide day-to-day security at the plant but also uses them to carry out mock security exercises (force-on-force exercises) to test the facility's ability to thwart a terrorist attack.

The UCS report, which reputedly draws on extensive documentation provided to UCS by personnel at the plant, states that:

Vehicles have been allowed to enter the protected areas of the reactor unsearched;

Most of the radios issued to security guards for purposes of communicating with one another are inoperable;

During a 2005 force-on-force exercise at the South Texas Project which was observed by both the NRC and the FBI, the Wackenhut mock intruders were reportedly told to "walk out there and get killed to make C-Team look good in front of our visitors." Despite these instructions, "a mock intruder managed to get to the door of the fuel handling building poised to enter and simulate damage to the highly radioactive spent fuel. But the mock intruder was directed not to try;"

The additional security posts installed at the facility flooded when it rained, and are not well-maintained. Security personnel reportedly have to unplug power cords to avoid being electrocuted;

The surveillance cameras used for perimeter security are frequently rendered unusable in foggy, humid conditions, but Wackenhut has failed to take action to solve the problem;

The weapons at the facility are stored in an insecure area that can be accessed by cleaners and other uncleared maintenance personnel; and

Wackenhut personnel at the South Texas Project repeatedly retaliate against security personnel. Retaliation has included ordering other security personnel to fraudulently fill out reports that would justify disciplinary action, unfairly singling out personnel who report security concerns for disciplinary actions, disclosing the identity of those filing confidential reports to their supervisors.

“I believe the UCS report provides yet another example of problems associated with the use of Wackenhut security guards at nuclear reactors, and also reinforces the concern that the Commission's decision to allow the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI, the nuclear industry's lobbying group) to hire Wackenhut to train and manage the mock terrorist team in force-on-force exercises instead of maintaining its own adversary force was unwise,” Markey said in a statement Tuesday.

In a Sept. 5 letter to NRC Chairman Dale E. Klein, Markey wrote, “as you know, I have long been concerned that NRC's force-on-force (FOF) security exercise program is inadequate. In 1998, I first wrote the Commission regarding its plans to eliminate the Operational Safeguards Response Evaluation (OSRE) program, a program in which the NRC evaluated the FOF tests at nuclear reactors. The FOF tests conducted under the OSRE program determined that about 50 percent of nuclear power plants failed to thwart the mock terrorist attacks. After the plans to eliminate the OSRE program became public, the Commission decided not to eliminate the program after all, but then quickly decided it would alter the program to allow the nuclear industry to design, implement, and evaluate the FOF tests. The new program was named the ‘Self-Assessment Program’ (SAP), and later re-named the ‘Safeguards Performance Assurance’ (SPA) program. I have long believed that allowing the nuclear industry to test and grade itself posed an unacceptable conflict of interest, and entered into an extensive correspondence with the Commission regarding my concerns. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I continued to express my concerns that the SPA program was ill-advised, and authored legislation that was acted on favorably by the House of Representatives to ensure that the NRC, not the nuclear industry, evaluate the FOF tests.”

“However,” Markey continued, “on June 9, 2004, the NEI announced that it had selected Wackenhut Corporation to train and manage the mock terrorist teams that would be used in FOF tests on nuclear reactors. Since Wackenhut also provides security services for 30 of the nation's nuclear power plants, including at those plants where Wackenhut will conduct FOF tests, using Wackenhut to test security poses a blatant conflict of interests. More fundamentally, I believe that any NEI involvement in assessing security at nuclear reactors is ill-advised, poses a conflict of interests, and should be prohibited by the Commission. Given NEI's self-described role as an advocate and promoter of nuclear power and the fact that NEI is the principal trade association representing the nuclear utilities industry, it is totally inappropriate for NEI to be involved in assessing the adequacy of security of its member companies. The only way to be certain that FOF exercises provide an objective assessment of the adequacy of security at nuclear reactors is to have the mock terrorist team paid for by the Commission, and have it consist of individuals trained in terrorist tactics that do not have pre-existing ties to any company that currently provides security services to nuclear reactors.”

Earlier this week, after numerous reports about Wackenhut's poor security performance and excessive use of overtime, Entergy decided to cancel its contract with Wackenhut at the Pilgrim Nuclear Station in Plymouth, MA. According to press reports, an Entergy spokesperson evidently agreed that removing Wackenhut would also remove the conflict-of-interests charge it has been subjected to as a result of NEI's use of Wackenhut as the mock terrorist team in force-on-force exercises;

In March, 2006, Wackenhut lost its contract to guard the Department of Homeland Security after extensive reports of security breaches, including unguarded entrances and malfunctioning security equipment;

In a statement prior to DHS's action, Wackenhut had said, "be assured that our personnel are properly trained, have responded appropriately to security matters at the complex and that the Homeland Security Headquarters is secure.

In the spring of 2005, reports indicated Wackenhut forces at the New Hampshire Seabrook Station nuclear power plant were forced to work excessive amounts of overtime to compensate for an inoperable perimeter intrusion detection system. NRC fined Florida Power and Light for security lapses at the power plant;

NRC has conducted four separate investigations into security at Wackenhut-guarded nuclear facilities this year;

Numerous problems related to Wackenhut forces at the Department of Energy's Y-12 nuclear site have been reported in the past few years, including cheating on force-on-force drills, forcing guards to work excessive amounts of overtime, and inadequate training; and

In 2003, Entergy terminated its contract with Wackenhut at the Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City due to numerous security and personnel concerns.

"If the allegations brought forward by the whistleblowers are correct, they represent both a security threat and a waste of taxpayer dollars," Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Ron Wyden of Oregon said last March following whistleblower complaints.

Wackenhut statement in response to certain accusations.

Click here for the main Kimery Report page.

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