1940's, 1970's, activists, air pollution, aquifer, Army Corps of Engineers, Attorney General, benzene, Bridgeton, Bridgeton Landfill LLC, cancer, Chris Koster, Claire McCaskill, conflict of interest, Congress, contamination, corruption, Cotter Corporation, cover-ups, covert operations, Dan Gravatt, deaths, deception, Democrats, dirty politics, DNR, Drinking Water, Economy, Ed Smith, Education, environmental catastrophe, environmental disaster, EPA, fire, floodplain, Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Actions Program, garbage, Governor Jay Nixon, greed, Health Problems, History, hydrogen sulfide, Idaho, illegal dumping, Jobs, landfill, Lawsuits, leached barium sulfate, lies, Mallinckrodt, Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, Manhattan Project, Missouri, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Missouri River, nuclear energy industry, nuclear reactors, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, nuclear waste, nuclear weapons, odor, Peter Anderson, public health hazards, Radioactive, Representative Keith English, Republic Services, Republicans, residents, Robert Criss, Rock Road Industries LLC, Rolling Stone, Roy Blunt, safety violations, secrets, Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, St. Louis, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, state assembly, Superfund law, Toxic, U.S. Department of Energy, University of Chicago, uranium, uranium processing, Utah, Washington University, West Lake, West Lake Landfill
An underground landfill fire near tons of nuclear waste raises serious health and safety concerns – so why isn’t the government doing more to help?
here’s a fire burning in Bridgeton, Missouri. It’s invisible to area residents, buried deep beneath the ground in a North St. Louis County landfill. But the smoldering waste is an unavoidable presence in town, giving off a putrid odor that clouds the air miles away – an overwhelming stench described by one area woman as “rotten eggs mixed with skunk and fertilizer.” Residents report smelling it at K-12 school buses, a TGI Fridays and even the operating room of a local hospital. “It smells like dead bodies,” observes another local.
On a Saturday morning in March, one mile south of the landfill, several Bridgeton residents have gathered at a small home in a blue-collar subdivision called Spanish Village. Concerned citizens Karen Nickel and Dawn Chapman are here to answer questions posed by four of their neighbors. “How will I ever sell my house?” “Am I going to end up with cancer 20 years down the road?” “Is there even a solution?”
In February, the landfill’s owner, Republic Services, sent glossy fliers to residents within stink radius claiming the noxious odor posed no safety risk. But official reports say otherwise. Temperature probes reveal the fire has already surpassed normal heat levels. Reports from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) indicate dangerously high levels of benzene and hydrogen sulfide in the air. In March, Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) – which has jurisdiction over Bridgeton Landfill – quietly posted an Internet notice cautioning citizens with chronic respiratory diseases to limit time outdoors. A month after Republic distributed its potentially misleading flier, the state attorney general sued the company on eight counts of environmental violations, including pollution and public nuisance. And this week, as part of a settlement set to be announced Tuesday, Republic sent another round of fliers offering to move local families to hotels during a period of increased odor related to remediation efforts.
Nickel and Chapman are stay-at-home moms; Chapman has three special-needs kids. Neither of them wants to spend her time worrying about a damn landfill fire. But until someone higher up the power chain intervenes, they have sworn to call municipal offices, file Sunshine requests and post notices to the community’s Facebook group, no matter how unsettling the facts they uncover. Scariest of all: The Bridgeton landfill fire is burning close to at least 8,700 tons of nuclear weapons wastes. “To have somebody call you at 11 P.M., and they’re in tears, concerned for their family, that’s heartbreaking,” Chapman tells Rolling Stone. “We’re doing this because we don’t have a choice. If we don’t come together as a community and fight, no one’s going to do it for us.”
West Lake Landfill is an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site that’s home to some of the oldest radioactive wastes in the world. A six-foot chain-link fence surrounds the perimeter, plastered with bright yellow hazard signs that warn of the dangers within. On one corner stands a rusty gas pump. About 1,200 feet south of the radioactive EPA site, the fire at Bridgeton Landfill spreads out like hot barbeque coals. No one knows for sure what happens when an underground inferno meets a pool of atomic waste, but residents aren’t eager to find out.
At a March 15th press conference, Peter Anderson – an economist who has studied landfills for over 20 years – raised the worst-case scenario of a “dirty bomb,” meaning a non-detonated, mass release of floating radioactive particles in metro St. Louis. “Now, to be clear, a dirty bomb is not nuclear fission, it’s not an atomic bomb, it’s not a weapon of mass destruction,” Anderson assured meeting attendants in Bridgeton’s Machinists Union Hall. “But the dispersal of that radioactive material in air that could reach – depending upon weather conditions – as far as 10 miles from the site could make it impossible to have economic activity continue.”
In a response offered to Rolling Stone, Republic Services says, “Mr. Anderson made his statement without any proof or evidence, and he ignored the fact that ongoing evaluation by MDNR, EPA and local authorities have confirmed that the increased heat at the Bridgeton Landfill has not impacted West Lake and does not pose a threat to the materials at West Lake.” Republic Services also denies that it is dealing with a “fire” – the company prefers the euphemism “subsurface smoldering event.” Under orders from the state, Republic is drilling holes to contain this “smoldering event.” Republic estimates it’s already spent over $20 million – about 0.25 percent of its 2012 revenues – on such mitigation efforts, “not because we have to, but because it is the right thing to do.”
When Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster sued Republic Services on March 27th, outlining a host of alleged odor pollution and public health violations at Bridgeton Landfill, he described the risk of the fire contacting the nearby radwaste as a mere “remote hypothetical.” But many residents are far from reassured.
The story of West Lake’s radioactive waste goes back to April 1942, when a St. Louis company called Mallinckrodt Chemical Works began purifying tens of thousands of tons of uranium for the University of Chicago as part of the Manhattan Project. Mallinckrodt’s workers did not receive adequate safety protections and had little knowledge of what they were dealing with – oversights that would lead to disproportionately high cancer death rates among workers, as documented in books, dissertations and journalistic accounts, including a groundbreaking seven-part series from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1989. Over the next 25 years, the company’s uranium processing also created huge amounts of radioactive waste, much of which was secretly dumped at sites throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area, including West Lake.
Today, West Lake’s radioactive waste – all 143,000 cubic yards of it – sits on the outskirts of a former quarry with practically none of the standard safety features found in most municipal landfills. No clay liner blocks toxic leachate – or “garbage juice” – from seeping into area groundwater. No cap keeps toxic gas from dispersing into the air. This unprotected waste sits on a floodplain 1.5 miles away from the Missouri River. Eight miles downstream is a drinking water reservoir that serves 300,000 St. Louisans. Worst of all: The materials dumped in this populous metropolitan area will continue to pose a hazard for hundreds of thousands of years.
The EPA’s Region 7 is based in Lenexa, Kansas, about 250 miles west of St. Louis. The agency operates from a glass-paned office building that once housed the international headquarters of Applebee’s. In an empty conference room on the ground floor, Dan Gravatt, the EPA manager tasked with handling West Lake, looks every bit the government scientist in his blue work shirt, khaki pants and thin-framed glasses.
In 2008, the EPA decided to cap the radiotoxic material dumped at West Lake and leave it there. Capping the site meant piling five feet of dirt and rocks on top and implementing long-term monitoring for contamination. Facing widespread public pressure, including a letter from St. Louis mayor Francis Slay, the EPA postponed its decision pending further studies.
Gravatt has a smooth, rehearsed response to almost any question about the West Lake landfill – a skill he put to use at a community meeting on January 17th, when more than 300 concerned citizens gathered to hear the results of those EPA studies. One person in attendance was Kay Drey, an 80-year-old civil rights and anti-nuclear activist who’s been advocating for the removal of wastes from the St. Louis area for more than three decades. “I was very disappointed,” Drey tells RS. “The evidence is clear. This is radioactively hot stuff and it shouldn’t be in the floodplain by the Missouri river. And if they can’t admit to that – well, it’s incomprehensible.”
Back at his office, Gravatt insists that West Lake’s radioactive wastes only pose health risks for people who come in direct contact with the site, adding that the nuclear dump “doesn’t pose any current exposure pathways to area residents as it stands now.”
But Robert Criss, a geochemist at Washington University in St. Louis who has studied the issue closely, says the EPA is grossly underplaying a host of risks surrounding West Lake – flooding, earthquakes, liquefaction, groundwater leaching – that could pave the way for a public health crisis. That’s not to mention the recent development of an underground fire nearby. Says Criss, “There is no geological site I can think of that is more absurd to place such waste.”
Digging through old Nuclear Regulatory Commission studies, he recently stumbled upon what he describes as an error with major implications. For the last three decades, various government documents have referred to the waste at the landfill as “leached barium sulfate,” a nearly insoluble compound generated from uranium processing. But Criss says that the NRC’s own data shows the material dumped at West Lake contains far too little barium and sulfate to compose barium sulfate – by factors of 100 and 1000, respectively. “If I had this long to study something, I would be pretty embarrassed if this is what I came up with,” says Criss. “It is inconceivable for these people to promote remedies when they don’t even know what they’re dealing with.”
In a statement to Rolling Stone, the EPA disputed Criss’ findings, but declined to offer further explanation, instead deferring to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Upon request for a chemical analysis proving the waste is barium sulfate, the NRC sent RS the same 1982 report that Criss disputes.
So what happens now? The EPA officially lists four potentially responsible parties for the West Lake Superfund site. One is the U.S. Department of Energy. A second is Cotter Corporation, a company whose contractors secretly dumped nuclear waste at West Lake in the Seventies, as uncovered soon after by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The others are Bridgeton Landfill LLC and Rock Road Industries LLC – both subsidiaries of Republic Services, which currently runs the landfill. Under Superfund law, these four parties must ultimately foot the bill for any remedial actions ordered by the EPA; at the same time, it is these same four parties that contract and pay for all EPA studies leading up to a decision. This might seem like a conflict of interest, but Gravatt insists it’s all on the up and up: “We tell them what to do.” It must be a coincidence, then, that the EPA’s capping plan cost the potentially responsible parties only $41 million, compared to up to $415 million required to actually excavate the waste.
Missouri State Representative Keith English has another idea to fix the mess at West Lake. In February, English and 12 co-sponsors filed a resolution with the state assembly to transfer control of the site from the EPA to the Army Corps of Engineers’ Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Actions Program (FUSRAP) – a proven success that has already cleared more than one million cubic yards of atomic waste from other sites in the St. Louis area, shipping the radioactive contaminants to safe disposal cells in Utah and Idaho. A nearly identical resolution filed by State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal in Missouri’s other legislative body garnered three co-sponsors. “The educated people that deal with this type of waste can see that there’s an issue with just putting a cap on top,” says English.
Unfortunately, anything that passes through Missouri’s statehouses would only represent a symbolic victory. Since West Lake remains under federal jurisdiction, only an act of Congress could transfer the site to the Army Corps. For this reason, many are looking to Missouri’s U.S. Senate delegation – Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Roy Blunt – to lead on this issue. “I hope that our resolutions pass and get to Senator Blunt and Senator McCaskill’s office,” English says. “Because they’ve been sweeping it under the rug for the past several years.”
The Missouri Coalition for the Environment, which has advocated for the removal of West Lake wastes for more than a decade, in part blames Missouri’s ties to the nuclear energy industry for the senators’ lack of action. Both McCaskill and Blunt, as well as Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, have pushed for bringing more nuclear reactors to the state. Any more attention to a hazardous radioactive dump might get in the way of that messaging. “They won’t touch this with a 10-foot pole,” says the Coalition’s safe energy director, Ed Smith. “It doesn’t fit their narrative of clean nuclear power and ‘jobs, jobs, jobs.'”
Blunt has yet to make any public statement on the issue, and his office has not responded to requests for comment. McCaskill, meanwhile, supported the 2008 cap-and-leave plan for the West Lake radwaste; on March 12th of this year, she sent a response to several concerned citizens, assuring them, “I will continue to monitor these situations and ensure that any proposal put forward to address them provides a safe, cost-effective solution for Missourians.”
McCaskill’s reference to a “cost-effective solution” didn’t sit well with the activists in Bridgeton. “I don’t give a flying fuck how much it costs,” says Chapman. “This is about my children.”
Bridgeton’s underground fire was news to Ramona Herbert, who moved to Spanish Village with her family last November. She and her husband, Joshua, came here from St. Louis’ inner city, hoping for a safer place to raise their kids. When the Herberts signed a five-year lease for their new home, no one disclosed to them that hot nuclear dumps sit a mile north from their children’s bedrooms. No one told the Herberts that an ongoing landfill fire burns just down the street from their local Bob Evans restaurant. After two months in her new home, Ramona Herbert noticed an EPA flier on her door announcing a community meeting, but it meant little to her.
“My landlord said to me that we have a little sewage problem,” she recalls. “So I’m thinking the sewage system isn’t working right.” But the stench only got worse, and she started having trouble sleeping. Parents stopped letting 14-year-old Mateo Herbert’s friends shoot hoops in his neighborhood, because something in the air was making their kids’ eyes water. And Joshua Herbert, who boasted a nearly spotless medical history, started suffering terrible headaches.
Ramona Herbert learned about St. Louis’ nuclear waste legacy from a Rolling Stone reporter. As soon as she found out, she got in touch with Chapman, and she is now part of a growing coalition. Like hundreds of other concerned citizens in North St. Louis, she wants answers. “When were we going to be warned?” Herbert wonders, standing at the door of her new home. “When is it too late?”
Chicago, Containment building, cover-ups, Emergency power system, Fukushima Prefecture, Illinois, La Salle, Nuclear accidents, Nuclear power, Nuclear power plant, nuclear power plants, Nuclear reactor, nuclear reactors, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Radioactive, radioactive contamination, radioactive fallout, secrecy
Yet, Obama hires Ernest Moniz who is pro-nuclear and pro-fracking! It’s all about the money!
The La Salle Nuclear plant had to perform a Fukushima style direct-to-atmosphere venting of the primary nuclear containment due to a lightning strike. As we indicated at the time, the amount of radioactivity released is unknown because the radiation monitors were not on a backup power supply.
Today in a follow on NRC event report, we find out that failures in the emergency cooling system resulted in the last ditch cooling attempt of directly venting the radioactive drywell to the atmosphere. The severity of those failures are under-reported in the NRC event report, because it reads no different from if the failures had been discovered during testing instead of being found out in the midst of a real-life emergency resulting in the last-ditch cooling effort of venting which is what happened!
We explain the situation in more detail in the video, but the gist of the analysis is as follows.
Lightning took out power to both reactors.
Backup generators kicked on, but powering everything would overload them
The systems which measure how much radiation was vented from the plant did not have power.
The reactors lost cooling capability.
Automatic emergency cooling kicked in.
The automated emergency cooling on Unit 2 was failing.
As a last-ditch effort, Unit 2 primary containment was vented to the atmosphere.
The venting cooled and dropped the pressure in Unit 2 enough to compensate for the failed cooling.
The camel was down to its last failing straw and only fractured its back; had it broken, Chicago would be aglow.
Radioactive contamination did occur, but who knows how much?!
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The White House has given final approval for dramatically raising permissible radioactive levels in drinking water and soil following “radiological incidents,” such as nuclear power-plant accidents and dirty bombs. The final version, slated for Federal Register publication, is a win for the nuclear industry which seeks what its proponents call a “new normal” for radiation exposure among the U.S population, according Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the radiation guides (called Protective Action Guides or PAGs) allow cleanup many times more lax than anything EPA has ever before accepted. These guides govern evacuations, shelter-in-place orders, food restrictions and other actions following a wide range of “radiological emergencies.” The Obama administration blocked a version of these PAGs from going into effect during its first days in office. The version given approval late last Friday is substantially similar to those proposed under Bush but duck some of the most controversial aspects:
- In soil, the PAGs allow long-term public exposure to radiation in amounts as high as 2,000 millirems. This would, in effect, increase a longstanding one in 10,000 person cancer rate to a rate of 1 in 23 persons exposed over a 30-year period;
- In water, the PAGs punt on an exact new standard and EPA “continues to seek input on this.” But the thrust of the PAGs is to give on-site authorities much greater “flexibility” in setting aside established limits; and
- Resolves an internal fight inside EPA between nuclear versus public health specialists in favor of the former. The PAGs are the product of Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator for air and radiation whose nomination to serve as EPA Administrator is taken up this week by the Senate.
clay, contamination, corruption, cover-ups, deception, defective, Faulty, Friday, Fukushima, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Fukushima Disaster, Fukushima Prefecture, global nuclear meltdowns, land, Leak, Leaks, lies, liners, Nuclear power, nuclear power plants, nuclear reactors, plastic, Political corruption, Power station, radiation, Radiation Poisoning, Radioactive, Radioactive decay, Spent fuel pool, storage facility, storage pools, Sunday, Tepco, Tokyo, Tokyo Electric Power Co., Tokyo Electric Power Company, water, water pollution
The first pool, No. 2, was found to have leaked 120 tons of highly radioactive water on Friday. The size of the leak at the second pool, No. 3, was confirmed at 3 liters late Sunday. The leaks are likely to force Tepco to review its storage strategy for the toxic water, which has become its biggest enemy.
Since the leak is small, there are no plans to drain pool No. 3 into another storage area as is being done with pool No. 2, Tepco said.
The pools are part of a group of seven vast clay-lined storage pits at the plant measuring 60 meters long, 53 meters wide and 6 meters deep. Since each is covered in three layers of protective waterproof lining, how the water escaped will remain a mystery until the faulty pits are drained and examined.
Catastrophic nuclear accidents, like Chernobyl in 1986 or Fukushima No. 1 in 2011, are very rare, we’re incessantly told, and their probability of occurring infinitesimal. But when they do occur, they get costly. So costly that the French government, when it came up with cost estimates, kept them secret.
But now the report was leaked to the French magazine, Le Journal de Dimanche. Turns out, the upper end of the cost spectrum of an accident at a single reactor at the plant chosen for the study, the plant at Dampierre in the Department of Loiret in north-central France, would amount to over three times the country’s GDP. Financially, France would cease to exist as we know it.
Hence, the need to keep it secret. The study was done in 2007 by the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), a government agency under joint authority of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Environment, Industry, Research, and Health. With over 1,700 employees, it’s France’s “public service expert in nuclear and radiation risks.” This isn’t some overambitious, publicity-hungry think tank.
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Thyroid abnormalities have now been confirmed among tens of thousands of children downwind from Fukushima. They are the first clear sign of an unfolding radioactive tragedy that demands this industry be buried forever.
Two years after Fukushima exploded, three still-smoldering reactors remind us that the nuclear power industry repeatedly told the world this could never happen.
And 72 years after the nuclear weapons industry began creating them, untold quantities of deadly wastes still leak at Hanford and at commercial reactor sites around the world, with no solution in sight.
Radiation can be slow to cause cancer, taking decades to kill.
But children can suffer quickly. Their cells grow faster than adults’. Their smaller bodies are more vulnerable. With the embryo and fetus, there can never be a “safe” dose of radiation. NO dose of radiation is too small to have a human impact.
Last month the Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey acknowledged a horrifying plague of thyroid abnormalities, thus far afflicting more than forty percent of the children studied.
The survey sample was 94,975. So some 38,000 children are already cursed with likely health problems…that we know of.
A thyroid abnormality can severely impact a wide range of developmental realities, including physical and mental growth. Cancer is a likely outcome.
This is the tenth such study conducted by the prefecture. As would be expected downwind from a disaster like Fukushima, the spread of abnormalities has been increasing over time. So has the proportion of children with nodules that are equal to or larger than 5.1 mm. The number of cysts has also been increasing.
And the government has revealed that three cases of thyroid cancer have already been diagnosed in the area. All have been subjected to surgery.
Fukushima’s airborne fallout came to our west coast within a week of the catastrophe. It’s a virtual certainty American children are being affected. As health researcher Joe Mangano puts it: “Reports of rising numbers of West Coast infants with under-active thyroid glands after Fukushima suggest that Americans may have been harmed by Fukushima fallout. Studies, especially of the youngest, must proceed immediately.”
Untold billions of gallons of unmonitored liquid poisons have poured into the Pacific. Contaminated trash has carried across the ocean (yet the US has ceased monitoring wild-caught Pacific fish for radiation).
Worldwide, atomic energy is in rapid decline for obvious economic reasons. In Germany and elsewhere, Solartopian technologies—wind, solar, bio-fuels, efficiency—are outstripping nukes and fossil fuels in price, speed to install, job creation, environmental impact, reliability and safety.
No one has yet measured the global warming impacts of the massive explosions and heat releases at Fukushima (or at Chernobyl, where the human death toll has been estimated in excess of a million).
The nuclear fuel cycle—from mining to milling to enrichment to transportation to waste management—creates substantial greenhouse gases. The reactors themselves convert ore to gargantuan quantities of heat that warm the planet directly, wrecking our weather patterns in ways that have never been fully assessed.
Even in the shadow of Fukushima, the industry peddles a “new generation” of magical reactors to somehow avoid all previous disasters. Though they don’t yet exist, they will be “too cheap to meter,” will “never explode” and will generate “radiation that is good for you.”
But atomic energy is human history’s most expensive technological failure, defined by what seems to be a terminal reverse learning curve. After more than a half-century to get it right, the industry has most recently poked holes in the head of a reactor in Florida, and installed $700 million steam generators it knew to be faulty in two more in California. It now wants to open San Onofre Unit Two at a 70% level, essentially to see what happens. Some 8 million people live within a 50-mile radius.
This from an increasingly dangerous industry that has brought us four “impossible” explosions—one at Chernobyl, three at Fukushima—clearly with more yet to come. Its radiation has spewed for decades. Its wastes have no place on this planet.
The ultimate death toll among Fukushima’s victims may be inescapable. But the industry that’s harming them is not.
Those thyroid-damaged children bring us yet another tragic warning: There’s just one atomic reactor from which our energy can safely come.
Two years after Fukushima, it is still 93 million miles away—but more ready than ever to safely, cleanly and cheaply power our planet.
Source: Nukefree.org: http://www.nukefree.org/editorsblog/fukushima-already-harming-our-children
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Solar flare could unleash nuclear holocaust across planet Earth, forcing hundreds of nuclear power plants into total meltdowns!
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com
(NaturalNews) Forget about the 2012 Mayan calendar, comet Elenin or the Rapture. The real threat to human civilization is far more mundane, and it’s right in front of our noses. If Fukushima has taught us anything, it’s that just one runaway meltdown of fissionable nuclear material can have wide-ranging and potentially devastating consequences for life on Earth. To date, Fukushima has already released 168 times the total radiation released from the Hiroshima nuclear bomb detonated in 1945, and the Fukushima catastrophe is now undeniably the worst nuclear disaster in the history of human civilization.
But what if human civilization faced a far greater threat than a single tsunami destroying a nuclear power facility? What if a global tidal wave could destroy the power generating capacities of all the world’s power plants, all at once?
Such a scenario is not merely possible, but factually inevitable. And the global tidal wave threatening all the nuclear power plants of the world isn’t made of water but solar emissions.
The sun, you see, is acting up again. NASA recently warned that solar activity is surging, with a peak expected to happen in 2013 that could generate enormous radiation levels that sweep across planet Earth. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has even issued an urgent warning about solar flares due to strike in 2012 and 2013. IBtimes wrote, “With solar activity expected to peak around 2013, the Sun is entering a particularly active time and big flares like the recent one will likely be common during the next few years. …A major flare in the mid-19th century blocked the nascent telegraph system, and some scientists believe that another such event is now overdue.” (http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/194166/20110808/solar-storms-severe-s…)
The story goes on to explain:
“Several federal government studies suggest that this extreme solar activity and emissions may result in complete blackouts for years in some areas of the nation. Moreover, there may also be disruption of power supply for years, or even decades, as geomagnetic currents attracted by the storm could debilitate the transformers.”
Why does all this matter? To understand that, you have to understand how nuclear power plants function. Or, put another way, how is nuclear material prevented from “going nuclear” every single day across our planet?
Every nuclear power plant operates in a near-meltdown state
All nuclear power plants are operated in a near-meltdown status. They operate at very high heat, relying on nuclear fission to boil water that produces steam to drive the turbines that generate electricity. Critically, the nuclear fuel is prevented from melting down through the steady circulation of coolants which are pushed through the cooling system using very high powered electric pumps.
If you stop the electric pumps, the coolant stops flowing and the fuel rods go critical (and then melt down). This is what happened in Fukushima, where the melted fuel rods dropped through the concrete floor of the containment vessels, unleashing enormous quantities of ionizing radiation into the surrounding environment. The full extent of the Fukushima contamination is not even known yet, as the facility is still emitting radiation.
It’s crucial to understand that nuclear coolant pumps are usually driven by power from the electrical grid. They are not normally driven by power generated locally from the nuclear power plant itself. Instead, they’re connected to the grid. In other words, even though nuclear power plants are generating megawatts of electricity for the grid, they are also dependant on the grid to run their own coolant pumps. If the grid goes down, the coolant pumps go down, too, which is why they are quickly switched to emergency backup power — either generators or batteries.
As we learned with Fukushima, the on-site batteries can only drive the coolant pumps for around eight hours. After that, the nuclear facility is dependent on diesel generators (or sometimes propane) to run the pumps that circulate the coolant which prevents the whole site from going Chernobyl. And yet, critically, this depends on something rather obvious: The delivery of diesel fuel to the site. If diesel cannot be delivered, the generators can’t be fired up and the coolant can’t be circulated. When you grasp the importance of this supply line dependency, you will instantly understand why a single solar flare could unleash a nuclear holocaust across the planet.
When the generators fail and the coolant pumps stop pumping, nuclear fuel rods begin to melt through their containment rods, unleashing ungodly amounts of life-destroying radiation directly into the atmosphere. This is precisely why Japanese engineers worked so hard to reconnect the local power grid to the Fukushima facility after the tidal wave — they needed to bring power back to the generators to run the pumps that circulate the coolant. This effort failed, of course, which is why Fukushima became such a nuclear disaster and released countless becquerels of radiation into the environment (with no end in sight).
And yet, despite the destruction we’ve already seen with Fukushima, U.S. nuclear power plants are nowhere near being prepared to handle sustained power grid failures. As IBtimes reports:
“Last month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said U.S. plants affected by a blackout should be able to cope without electricity for at least eight hours and should have procedures to keep the reactor and spent-fuel pool cool for 72 hours. Nuclear plants depend on standby batteries and backup diesel generators. Most standby power systems would continue to function after a severe solar storm, but supplying the standby power systems with adequate fuel, when the main power grids are offline for years, could become a very critical problem. If the spent fuel rod pools at the country’s 104 nuclear power plants lose their connection to the power grid, the current regulations aren’t sufficient to guarantee those pools won’t boil over — exposing the hot, zirconium-clad rods and sparking fires that would release deadly radiation.” (http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/194166/20110808/solar-storms-severe-s…)
Now, what does all this have to do with solar flares?
How the end of modern civilization will most likely occur
As any sufficiently informed scientist will readily admit, solar flares have the potential to blow out the transformers throughout the national power grid. That’s because solar flares induce geomagnetic currents (powerful electromagnetic impulses) which overload the transformers and cause them to explode.
You’ve probably witnessed this yourself during a lightning storm when lightning unleashes a powerful electromagnetic pulse that causes a local transformer to explode. Solar flares do the same thing on a much larger scale. A global scale, in fact.
The upshot of this situation is that suddenly and without warning, the power grid infrastructure across nearly the entire planet could be destroyed. As a bonus, nearly all satellites will be fried, too, leaving GPS inoperable and causing millions of clueless drivers to become forever lost in their own neighborhoods because they never paid attention to the streets and always relied on a GPS voice to tell them, “In fifty feet, turn right.”
Communications satellites will be obliterated, too. This, of course, will halt nearly all news propaganda distribution across the planet, causing tens of thousands of people to instantly die out of the sheer fear of suddenly having to think for themselves. As another bonus, nearly all mobile phone service will be disrupted, too, meaning all the teenage text junkies of the world will, for the first time in their lives, be forced to lay down their iPhones and interact with real people in the real world.
But the real kicker in all this is that the power grid will be destroyed nearly everywhere.
What happens when there’s no electricity?
Imagine a world without electricity. Even for just a week. Imagine New York City with no electricity, or Los Angeles, or Sao Paulo. Within 72 hours, most cities around the world will devolve into total chaos, complete with looting, violent crime, and runaway fires.
But that’s not even the bad news. Even if all the major cities of the world burned to the ground for some other reason, humanity could still recover because it has the farmlands: the soils, the seeds, and the potential to recover, right?
And yet the real crisis here stems from the realization that once there is no power grid, all the nuclear power plants of the world suddenly go into “emergency mode” and are forced to rely on their on-site emergency power backups to circulate coolants and prevent nuclear meltdowns from occurring. And yet, as we’ve already established, these facilities typically have only a few hours of battery power available, followed by perhaps a few days worth of diesel fuel to run their generators (or propane, in some cases).
Did I also mention that half the people who work at nuclear power facilities have no idea what they’re doing in the first place? Most of the veterans who really know the facilities inside and out have been forced into retirement due to reaching their lifetime limits of on-the-job radiation exposure, so most of the workers at nuclear facilities right now are newbies who really have no clue what they’re doing.
There are 440 nuclear power plants operating across 30 countries around the world today. There are an additional 250 so-called “research reactors” in existence, making a total of roughly 700 nuclear reactors to be dealt with (http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf01.html).
Now imagine the scenario: You’ve got a massive solar flare that knocks out the world power grid and destroys the majority of the power grid transformers, thrusting the world into darkness. Cities collapse into chaos and rioting, martial law is quickly declared (but it hardly matters), and every nation in the world is on full emergency. But that doesn’t solve the really big problem, which is that you’ve got 700 nuclear reactors that can’t feed power into the grid (because all the transformers are blown up) and yet simultaneously have to be fed a steady stream of emergency fuels to run the generators the keep the coolant pumps functioning.
How long does the coolant need to circulate in these facilities to cool the nuclear fuel? Months. This is also the lesson of Fukushima: You can’t cool nuclear fuel in mere hours or days. It takes months to bring these nuclear facilities to a state of cold shutdown. And that means in order to avoid a multitude of Fukushima-style meltdowns from occurring around the world, you need to truck diesel fuel, generator parts and nuclear plant workers to every nuclear facility on the planet, ON TIME, every time, without fail, for months on end.
Now remember, this must be done in the middle of the total chaos breakdown of modern civilization, where there is no power, where law enforcement and emergency services are totally overrun, where people are starving because food deliveries have been disrupted, and when looting and violent crime runs rampant in the streets of every major city in the world. Somehow, despite all this, you have to run these diesel fuel caravans to the nuclear power plants and keep the pumps running.
Except there’s a problem in all this, even if you assume you can somehow work a logistical miracle and actually deliver the diesel fuel to the backup generators on time (which you probably can’t).
The problem is this: Where do you get diesel fuel?
Why refineries will be shut down, too
From petroleum refineries. Most people don’t realize it, but petroleum refineries run on electricity. Without the power grid, the refineries don’t produce a drop of diesel. With no diesel, there are no generators keeping the coolant running in the nuclear power facilities.
But wait, you say: Maybe we could just acquire diesel from all the gas stations in the world. Pump it out of the ground, load it into trucks and use that to power the generators, right? Except there are other problems here: How do you pump all that fuel without electricity? How do you acquire all the tires and spare parts needed to keep trucks running if there’s no electricity to keep the supply businesses running? How do you maintain a truck delivery infrastructure when the electrical infrastructure is totally wiped out?
Some countries might be able to pull it off with some degree of success. With military escorts and the total government control over all fuel supplies, a few nations will be able to keep a few nuclear power facilities from melting down.
But here’s the real issue: There are 700 nuclear power facilities in the world, remember? Let’s suppose that in the aftermath of a massive solar flare, the nations of the world are somehow able to control half of those facilities and nurse them into cold shutdown status. That still leaves roughly 350 nuclear facilities at risk.
Now let’s suppose half of those are somehow luckily offline and not even functioning when the solar flare hits, so they need no special attention. This is a very optimistic assumption, but that still leaves 175 nuclear power plants where all attempts fail.
Let’s be outrageously optimistic and suppose that a third of those somehow don’t go into a total meltdown by some miracle of God, or some bizarre twist in the laws of physics. So we’re still left with 115 nuclear power plants that “go Chernobyl.”
Fukushima was one power plant. Imagine the devastation of 100+ nuclear power plants, all going into meltdown all at once across the planet. It’s not the loss of electricity that’s the real problem; it’s the global tidal wave of invisible radiation that blankets the planet, permeates the topsoil, irradiates everything that breathes and delivers the final crushing blow to human civilization as we know it today.
Because if you have 100 simultaneous global nuclear meltdowns, the tidal wave of radiation will make farming nearly impossible for years. That means no food production for several years in a row. And that, in turn, means a near-total collapse of the human population on our planet.
How many people can survive an entire year with no food from the farms? Not one in a hundred people. Even beyond that, how many people can essentially live underground and be safe enough from the radiation that they can have viable children and repopulate the planet? It’s a very, very small fraction of the total population.
Solar flares far more likely to hit nuclear power plants than tidal waves or earthquakes
What’s the chance of all this actually happening? A report by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory said that “…over the standard 40-year license term of nuclear power plants, solar flare activity enables a 33 percent chance of long-term power loss, a risk that significantly outweighs that of major earthquakes and tsunamis.” (http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/194166/20110808/solar-storms-severe-s…)
The world’s reliance on nuclear power, you see, has doomed us to destroy our own civilization. Of course, this is all preventable if we would only dismantle and shut down ALL nuclear power plants on the planet. But what are the chances of that happening? Zero, of course. There are too many commercial and political interests invested in nuclear power.
So the power plants will stay, and we will therefore be vulnerable to a solar flare which could strike us at any time and unleash a global nuclear holocaust. Planet Earth has been struck by solar flares before, of course, but all the big hits in recorded human history took place long before the age of modern electronics, so the impacts were minimal. Today, society cannot function without electronics. Nor can nuclear facility coolant pumps. Once you realize that, you begin to understand the true danger in which humanity has placed itself by relying on nuclear power.
By relying on nuclear power, we are risking everything. And we’re doing it blindly, with no real acknowledgement of the dangers of running 700+ nuclear facilities in a constant state of “near meltdown” while foolishly relying on the steady flow of electricity to keep the fuel rods cool. If Fukushima, all by itself, could unleash a tidal wave of deadly radiation all by itself, imagine a world where hundreds of nuclear facilities go into a total meltdown simultaneously.
A repeat of the 1859 solar storm — called the Carrington Event — would “devastate the modern world,” admits a National Geographic article: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110302-solar-flares-s…
What can you do about any of this? Build yourself an underground bunker and prepare to live in it for an extended period of time. (Just a few feet of soil protects you from most radiation.) The good news is that if you survive it all and one day return to the surface to plant your non-hybrid seeds and begin rebuilding human society, real estate will be really, really cheap.
Especially in the radiation zones.
Take this seriously! Read more from NASA
“Just before dawn the next day, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight. Indeed, stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii. Even more disconcerting, telegraph systems worldwide went haywire. Spark discharges shocked telegraph operators and set the telegraph paper on fire. Even when telegraphers disconnected the batteries powering the lines, aurora-induced electric currents in the wires still allowed messages to be transmitted…”
“…as electronic technologies have become more sophisticated and more embedded into everyday life, they have also become more vulnerable to solar activity. On Earth, power lines and long-distance telephone cables might be affected by auroral currents, as happened in 1989. Radar, cell phone communications, and GPS receivers could be disrupted by solar radio noise. Experts who have studied the question say there is little to be done to protect satellites from a Carrington-class flare. In fact, a recent paper estimates potential damage to the 900-plus satellites currently in orbit could cost between $30 billion and $70 billion.”