The level 7 nuclear crisis which hit Japan has reverberated across the globe.
More than one-third of Germany's nuclear plants have been shut down. Residents in the U.S. have also been questioning the safety of local nukes. At a public meeting in Watertown, Connecticut, concerns were expressed over the vulnerabilities:
The owner of Millstone Power Station sought to reassure concerned residents Monday night that it is working to put potentially vulnerable spent fuel from one closed reactor into safe, dry storage on site.
A crowd of more than 150 people at Waterford Town Hall included an unidentified woman who said she wasn't convinced by Millstone owner Dominion executives' premise that the two operating Unit 2 and 3 reactors and the closed Unit 1 reactor could withstand a natural catastrophe like the earthquake and tsunami that wrecked still-troubled Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors in Japan.
It wasn't the first time that the safety of this power plant had come into question. 15 years ago, a TIME cover story called “Nuclear Warriors” blew the lid off their shoddy practices:
Millstone 1 was ignoring the mandated 250-hr. cool-down period before a full off-load, sometimes moving the fuel just 65 hrs. after shutdown, a violation that had melted the boots of a worker on the job. By sidestepping the safety requirements, Millstone saved about two weeks of downtime for each refueling --
Of even greater concern is the fact that across the country radioactive waste is being dumped underneath existing nuclear power plants:
Every 18 months the reactor is shut down so the fuel rods that make up its core can be replaced; the old rods, radioactive and 250 degrees F hot, are moved into a 40-ft.-deep body of water called the spent-fuel pool, where they are placed in racks alongside thousands of other, older rods. Because the Federal Government has never created a storage site for high-level radioactive waste, fuel pools in nuclear plants across the country have become de facto nuclear dumps--with many filled nearly to capacity. The pools weren't designed for this purpose, and risk is involved: the rods must be submerged at all times. A cooling system must dissipate the intense heat they give off. If the system failed, the pool could boil, turning the plant into a lethal sauna filled with clouds of radioactive steam. And if earthquake, human error or mechanical failure drained the pool, the result could be catastrophic: a meltdown of multiple cores taking place outside the reactor containment, releasing massive amounts of radiation and rendering hundreds of square miles uninhabitable.
In a recent interview, whistleblower George Galatis said that safety issues had still not been adequately addressed:
“The real issue is that of nuclear safety. Right now the true risk to public health and safety associated with the generation of nuclear power is intentionally kept from the public. Because of misplaced trust, these enormous risks are in effect being enforced on the public without their knowledge or consent. People need to know about and agree to accept the real risks involved so that when a scenario like Fukushima—or worse—arises here, there is already a degree of acceptance. Without this formal public acceptance, nuclear power will never be cost effective nor will it survive.”
“And despite many years of hard work of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and others such as Robert Alvarez of the Institute for Policy Studies, the risks associated with nuclear power and in particular, the storage of spent fuel in the spent fuel pools, have not been properly addressed by the nuclear industry and its Federal regulator. Without appropriate action, the nuclear tragedy in Japan may very well be reproduced on American soil at some point in the near future.”