Moral Low Ground


Government Regulators Collaborate with Nuclear Industry to Weaken Safety Standards; 75% of U.S. Nuclear Plants Leaking Radioactive Tritium

US government regulators are collaborating with the nuclear power industry to weaken or circumvent safety standards in order to keep nuclear reactors within compliance limits, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Meanwhile, 48 of our nation’s 65 nuclear power plants have reported radioactive tritium leaking into the surrounding earth and water.

The AP investigation found a “recurring pattern” of a “cozy relationship” between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and nuclear power corporations.

When parts or systems of a nuclear reactor fall out of compliance with existing regulations, the NRC and the corporations conduct studies that invariably conclude the existing rules are too strict. The NRC then loosens the rules and voilà, the reactors are back in compliance.

Instead of dealing with the problem of leaking valves, the NRC increased the amount of leakage that was allowed by up to 20 times the original limit. When severe cracking caused radioactive leaks, the testing process for the cracked tubes was relaxed.

Literally thousands of problems were uncovered by the AP investigation, which lasted an entire year.

Such shocking collusion is undermining the safety of our nation’s nuclear reactors.

Of the 65 nuclear power plants in the United States, 48 have reported leaking tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen. At 37 of those plants, groundwater contamination has exceeded the amount allowed under the federal government’s drinking water standards. Leaks have contaminated the drinking water supply of homes in Illinois and Minnesota. A discharge canal leading to the Barnegat Bay in New Jersey was contaminated by tritium from the Oyster Creek plant.

Worse yet, the presence of tritium can also be a sign that more dangerous forms of radiation are leaking. Cesium- 137 was found along with tritium at the Ft. Calhoun reactor in Nebraska in 2007. Strontium- 90 was found to have leaked along with tritium from the Indian Point plant in New York in 2005.

Yet still the government regulators and the nuclear industry continue their dangerous dance of deregulation. It’s a recipe for disaster, but in the shortsighted world of quarterly corporate profits, a world in which a revolving door between the public and private sector enriches a select few at the cost of endangering the safety of tens of millions of Americans, the marriage between the regulator and the regulated makes perfect sense.

Our nation's aging nuclear power plants: ticking time bombs?




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