Friday, August 25, 2017

Nuclear Governance: A "System of Organized Irresponsibility"


Decommissioning nuclear plants and facilities is extremely costly, hazardous and challenging. The US failure to handle its nuclear waste was parodied recently by John Oliver (see my post yesterday).

Japan faces similar challenges cleaning up its nuclear sites (although Fukushima, like Hanford in Washington State pose special catastrophic challenges beyond those associated with typical "de-commissioning").

In 2016, Japan's nuclear regulator "blasted" the Tokai nuclear facility for the extremely poor maintenance of the extensive site, which is exacerbating decommissioning concerns for Japan's Atomic Energy Agency, an "independent administrative institution" (see Wikipedia):
Masanobu Higashiyama and Takashi Sugimoto December 5, 2016. NRA blasts Tokai nuclear facility ahead of dismantling plan. The Asahi Shimbun, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201612050078.html

TOKAI, Ibaraki Prefecture--Drums of nuclear waste are stacked in disarray within a storage pool containing unidentified floating objects. Wires in the pool are feared entangled, and containers are believed corroded, possibly leaking radioactive substances. And highly toxic liquid waste remains untreated in a potentially explosive state.

After years of apparent mismanagement, the Tokai spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is a jumbled mess, as the operator, Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), prepares for the Herculean task of shutting down the facility.

The circumstances at the plant in this village northeast of Tokyo has raised concerns about the JAEA’s ability to dismantle it.

“A situation far from appropriate has been allowed to continue at the plant,” said an official of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the nation’s nuclear watchdog. “Not only the JAEA, but also the former Science and Technology Agency and the former Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, have all looked the other way despite their knowledge of the situation.”
Today the operator at Tokai, Japan Atomic Power Co., faces bankruptcy from decommissioning costs and it appears that the decommissioning agency (the JAEA) is unprepared/unwilling to move forward. 

So, TEPCO, an investor in the company, is considering lending funds, or guaranteeing a bank loan, with the intent of RE-STARTING Tokai No. 2.:
Tsuneo Sasai (2017, August 25). TEPCO may help power company restart aging nuclear reactor. The Asahi Shimbun, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708250047.html

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. may immerse itself in fresh controversy by helping a struggling power company pay a 200 billion yen ($1.82 billion) bill to fix up and restart an aging nuclear reactor. The Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) wants to restart the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Tokai village, Ibaraki Prefecture, and therefore extend its life beyond 40 years.

….JAPC owns four nuclear reactors, all of which are either off-line or being decommissioned, and cannot afford the huge renovation costs itself. To save JAPC from a massive financial crisis, a plan for TEPCO and Tohoku Electric Power Co. to become loan guarantors has been discussed.

….Banks are cautious about loaning money while the plant remains offline, according to the source. To solve that situation, TEPCO and Tohoku Electric, which hold shares in JAPC and bought power from the Tokai No. 2 plant, have been discussing whether to guarantee bank loans to JAPC or whether to lend the money themselves.
The first outrage is that TEPCO has offloaded its liabilities with help from the Japanese government and so is financially able to reach out and help stabilize another failing nuclear operator.

The second, and more significant, outrage is that operations at Tokai would continue after the NRA "blasted" the extraordinarily hazardous site conditions.

This is the INSANE, short-term, profit-oriented logic of nuclear operators everywhere. De-commissioning is too expensive so nuclear plants will be kept running as long as they can, even when such operations pose catastrophic risks.

Japan is not alone and, in fact, the pressure to extend reactor lifespans is probably greater in the US where nuclear regulators' liabilities are capped by The Price Anderson Act, whereas in Japan they are relatively (compared to the US) unlimited.

I think Ulrich Beck's observations are pertinent in explaining how the governance of nuclear risk operates as a "system of organized irresponsibility":
 “... We have a system of organized irresponsibility: Nobody really is responsible for those consequences. We have a system of organized irresponsibility, and this system has to be changed.”http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201107060307.html
Beck observes that the denial of responsibility—the system of organized irresponsibility—requires the populace and the state to assume costs of disasters. In this important sense, Beck points out, 
“this is a contradiction to capitalism and the market economy. We have the same discussion actually in relation to the banking system; it's quite similar. Actually, the banks should take care of possible crises, and maybe they should have an insurance principle as well. But they don't, so actually the state has to take it. This is socialism; this is state socialism.”
A system of organized irresponsibility is exactly what we have in the global nuclear industry and Arnie Gundersen explained to us in a previous interview how the insurance on nuclear works in the US. It is a farce.
http://www.fairewinds.com/content/are-regulators-and-nuclear-industry-applying-valuable-lessons-learned-fukushima

[paraphrasing] US Nuclear power plants are set up as limited liability corporations with little-to-no assets backing them so the public will have to pay majority of clean up costs from a nuclear accident.
Losses caused by nuclear accidents in the US are limited by price Anderson at approximately $10 billion
Design bases limits that are used to specify the plant’s safety structures against earthquakes, hurricanes, and the like are set by industry scientists who grossly underestimate the likelihood of severe earthquakes, storms, etc.

Nuclear power plants use a cost-benefit analysis system that grossly reduces anticipated costs of accidents.

Gunderson identifies the cost-benefit system as the Max 2 design analysis system (I may have misspelled the name of the system).

David Shannon, who developed this cost-benefit system, decried its use by the nuclear power industry. He had designed it for a dirty bomb and feels its extrapolation to nuclear plant accidents is inappropriate.

Gunderson identifies some of the cost-benefit analysis system’s limitations.

It only looks at some kinds of cancer that would be caused by a nuclear accident, not all forms.

It doesn’t look at other illnesses besides cancer caused by radiation, such as heart attacks caused by exposure to cesium.

It assumes radiation that lands on field will be plowed under, not decontaminated.

It presumes houses will be  hosed off and the water will be allowed to drain into rivers and ground water.

It includes no clean up for forests.

It plans for NO storage of radioactive material in drums  after clean up.

It presumes radiation stays in ground and doesn’t get thrown up in air by winds, thereby artificially limiting extent of human exposure.

It presumes accident lasts 2 and ½ hours ONLY. Fukushima has been 7 months.

It assumes not much fuel is damaged

It assumes wind blows in straight line

It gives plant owner option of compensation or clean up and compensation is always cheaper.

It lowballs human life at $3 million dollars.

It allows NRC to choose whether or not to make changes outlined by the cost-benefit system.

THE NRC wants RADIATION EXPLOSURE LEVELS 100 times HIGHER THAN APPROVED BY EPA

RELATED POSTS



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LIABILITY

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