Who Controls the Nuclear Control Agencies?

April 1986 disaster at the Chernobyla nuclear power plant in Ukraine

“There are few independent nuclear experts in the world. Everyone either works in the industry or used to and are now regulators.”

Canadian Government fired chief regulator for trying to improve safety standards — Greenpeace

By Stephen Leahy*

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 23, 2011 (Tierramérica)

As Japan struggles to confront a nuclear disaster that could be the worst in history, it seems clear that any discussion about the safety of nuclear energy should address the independence of regulatory agencies.

On Apr. 26, 1986 a series of explosions and fires at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine released radioactive fallout that spread over eastern and western Europe, particularly affecting Ukraine itself, Byelorussia (now Belarus) and Russia, all Soviet republics at the time.

Twenty-five years later, Chernobyl’s reactor number 4 continues to emit high levels of radioactivity even though it is buried under a thick but decaying layer of concrete.

Europe and the United States are trying to raise more than two billion dollars to build a permanent sarcophagus to contain the radiation.

The Chernobyl disaster is usually attributed to obsolete technology and the secrecy characteristic of the Soviet regime.

The accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was triggered by the damage resulting from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami on Mar. 11.

But “TEPCO doesn’t have the best record for safety or disclosure of information,” said Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based energy and nuclear policy analyst who also works in Japan.
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Japan Nuke Disaster Could Be Worse Than Chernobyl

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 17, 2011 (IPS)

A global nuclear disaster potentially worse than Chernobyl may be under way in Japan as hundreds of tonnes of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel are open to the sky, and may be on fire and emitting radioactive particles into the atmosphere.

Many countries have advised their citizens in Japan to leave the country.

“This is uncharted territory. There is a 50-percent chance they could lose all six reactors and their storage pools,” said Jan Beyea, a nuclear physicist with a New Jersey consulting firm called Consulting in the Public Interest.

“I’m surprised the situation hasn’t gotten worse faster… But without a breakthrough it’s only a matter of days before spent fuels will melt down,” said Ed Lyman, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists and an expert on nuclear plant design.

Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant was damaged by a powerful earthquake and tsunami on Mar. 11. It has an estimated 1,700 tonnes of used or spent but still dangerous nuclear fuel in storage pools next to its six nuclear reactors, according to Kevin Kamps, a radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear, a U.S. anti-nuclear environmental group.

The storage pools holding 30 to 35 years worth of spent fuel at reactors No. 3 and No. 4 have lost containment and most if not all of their coolant water. They may be on fire, venting radioactive particles into the atmosphere, Kamps told IPS.

On Thursday, Japanese military helicopters protected by lead shielding managed to dump some seawater on the damaged reactors No. 3 and No. 4 in a desperate and very risky last- ditch effort at the highly radioactive site.

via Japan Nuke Disaster Could Be Worse Than Chernobyl – IPS ipsnews.net.