ISSN 2330-717X

Atomic Cunning – OpEd

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The seemingly endless nuclear crisis at Fukushima Dai-Ichi in Japan has raised a series of questions regarding both safety and environmental risk in the nuclear energy sector – questions that of course come back around to Russia and its role as an international provider of reactor technology.

Following a recent visit to Japan by officials from the IAEA, there is significant pressure to repair lax enforcement of safety standards, and ensure “regulatory independence and clarity of role” between the plant’s operators and the authorities – suggesting that running nuclear power plants as profit businesses can interfere in the safety standards.

Following the catastrophic earthquake this past March, more than 10 thousand people died or disappeared without any information as a result of the natural disaster.  The cooling systems at the “Fukushima-1” and “Fukushima-2” atomic power stations were disabled, eventually resulting in the leak of 100,000 tons of radioactive water which risks being absorbed into the ground soil. As a result of the accident the background radiation level in the area of the station rose significantly, which forced the powers to begin the evacuation of people from a zone with a radius of 20 kilometers. The authorities of Japan admit that the situation at the atomic power station in Fukushima remains extremely complex, while Eurocommissioner for energy Günther Oettinger called the state of emergency at the Japanese “Fukushima-1” atomic power station an “apocalypse”.

 

…Cunning – the offspring of lies and hypocrisy. People in the atomic industry, unconditionally, are being cunning when they talk about how affordable, safe, and economic inevitable nuclear powe is. After all in so doing they totally forget to include in the production cost of a nuclear kilowatt to the expenditures on the liquidation of the consequences of potential accidents at an atomic power station; the expenditures on the dismantling of an atomic power station after the conclusion of the term of its operation; the expenditures on the storage of radioactive wastes (here it needs to be noted right away that nobody in the world has yet to think up of what to do with these wastes. For now only one way out has been found: to leave all this “good stuff” for our descendants).

That’s why I don’t like people in the atomic industry – for their cunning. And also – for the obstinacy with which they stand up for their industry. It is understandable that the creation of a nuclear shield in the epoch of the cold war turned people in the atomic industry and the power into blood brothers. But the power can be blind, dense and deaf: even nuclear accidents teach it little. And if we speak about the Russian power, all the more so the putinite one… Here’s an example for you.

After the continuing catastrophe at the «Fukushima» atomic power station in Japan Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel conducted a meeting with the prime- ministers of the five federal states in which German atomic power stations are found. In the course of the meeting a decision was adopted on the temporary shutting down of seven of the oldest atomic electrostations of the FRG for the conducting of a comprehensive inspection.
Switzerland decided to put on hold the process of the modernization of nuclear reactors and the construction of new atomic power stations. The Federal inspectorate for nuclear safety is going to analyze the precise causes of the events in Japan, as a result of which the adoption of new, stricter norms is expected, especially in the realm of seismic safety and the cooling system of an atomic power station.

Even Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has declared that his country is suspending the development of a program of the peaceful atom, which includes within itself the construction by Russia of atomic electrostations, in connection with the accidents at the Japanese atomic power stations.

Despite some similarities, Putin is not Chavez. (And not because he’s only a lieutenant colonel and not a full colonel). He, unlike many legally sane politicians, does not see an opportunity to reject atomic power because of the accident at the atomic power station in Japan. About this he declared recently at a press conference based on the results of a session of the EEC Interstate Council.

Putin reported that Russia is going to grant Byelorussia a credit with a volume of around 6 bln dollars for the construction of the first Byelorussian atomic power station. Likewise Russia and India are discussing the possibility of granting New Delhi a credit in a volume of 4 bln dollars, earmarked for the construction of an atomic power station.

Earlier ex-head of Gosatomnadzor Yuri Vishnevsky expressed confidence that countries where there is no threat of an earthquake, including Russia, are not going to start wrapping up atomic programs.

Expressing his nuclear opinion too was director-general of the state corporation “Rosatom” Sergey Kiriyenko. In his opinion, even the worst variant of the development of events at the atomic electrostations in Japan does not present a threat to the Russian Far East.

The ecologist Alexey Yablokov, a scholar, has another opinion. He considers that we need
to prepare for protection from the INEVITABLE spread of radioactive contamination onto large areas. «It seems to me, – says he, – that the most reliable protection could be only the artificial precipitation of radionuclides found in the air. One needs to precipitate only over the sea, so as not to incur ill to the population – as this turned out in the event of Chernobyl.

And here is the opinion of expert in the realm of power and opposition politician Vladimir Milov: « People in the atomic industry customarily trot out numbers about the probability of a large accident as “ten to the minus seventh” or at least to the minus fifth power. But a probability — this is a mathematical value, while real accidents in real life take place more frequently than in mathematical calculations. It can be safe for 100 years, but then when it smacks just once – that will be enough. I am convinced that one large atomic accident at a minimum awaits humanity in the nearest prospect. With consequences».

Blogger Oleg Kozyrev, who once visited Novozybkov (Bryansk oblast), contaminated by radiation, wrote on his Livejournal:  “Japan — of those countries for which it was indeed hard or even impossible to get by without nuclear power. But recent events have shown that the threat from atomic stations can be comparable with the threat from tsunamis and earthquakes. If the Japanese manage to untie this power choke-knot on their neck, then maybe their decisions will help all of humanity as well. I am not an opponent of nuclear energy. But at the same time I understand that we can no longer endlessly close our eyes to the threats emanating from this kind of electric power. Pose one simple question to yourselves — how confident are we in the safety of our Russian electric stations. Once again, I am speaking not in the mantras of the people in the Russian atomic industry, but specifically about the real state of affairs.”

It is known that Putin loves to ignore an opinion that differs from one that he has already adopted. He has already long ago adopted a decision to build dozens of new nuclear power blocks in Russia. It looks like only a large nuclear accident on the territory of Russia can force him to turn from this obviously erroneous path.

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Grigory Pasko

Grigory Pasko is a Russian journalist and publisher of an environmental magazine. In November 1997 Pasko was arrested by FSB agents in Vladivostok and accused of espionage for publications on the environmental problems in the Japanese sea but found not guilty due to lack of evidence. He was found guilty of “abuse of his official position,” but released immediately under a general amnesty. He was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. His articles appear at Robert Amsterdam's website (http://www.robertamsterdam.com) and are reprinted with permission.

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