War Party Persists
Edward S. Herman
The War on Drugs
U.S. Nuclear Nightmare
GENDER & SEXUALITY
All Occupations Are Local
LESSONS & POTENTIAL
Deficits and Debts
Resistance In Occupied Iraq
Nicolas J.S. Davies
Agitate the Hood
Cultural Items of Note
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Fukushima's U.S. Nuclear Nightmare
There is no such thing as a safe nuclear reactor. “They’re all cancer factories, they’re all bomb factories,” says author Dr. Helen Caldicott in Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer. With radioactive contamination now spreading worldwide from the nuclear catastrophe in Japan, Caldicott’s warnings are as urgent as ever.
Nuclear safety officials have long known about—and ignored, dismissed, or subsequently attempted to remedy with an experimental “fix”—safety design flaws in General Electric’s Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactors. Three GE Mark 1 units caught fire, exploded, and had full core meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan following the station blackout that resulted from the earthquake and tsunami of March 11.
Of the 32 GE Mark 1s in operation, 23 are in the U.S. at 16 plant sites and they are near identical twins to the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. An effort to suspend operations at the U.S. Mark 1 plants has been underway since early April when the anti-nuclear organization, Beyond Nuclear, filed a petition seeking emergency enforcement action with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The request for emergency enforcement was quickly denied, but two NRC meetings were held on the petition, and a final determination is pending. Over 8,000 individuals and organizations have became co-petitioners since the petition was filed.
The NRC ignored its own warnings, issued over decades, and repeatedly, in favor of a production agenda that is more protective of the industry it is supposed to regulate than the public it is mandated to protect,” said Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear. “Fukushima demonstrates that the warnings that were on the wall are now nuclear swords of Damocles hanging over all these communities.”
Warnings about the Mark 1 containment’s susceptibility to explosion and containment failure were first raised in 1972 by Stephen Hanauer, a chief nuclear safety regulator for the Atomic Energy Commission (the predecessor agency of the NRC) and a member, and then chair, of the Advisory Committee for Reactor Safeguards (ACRS). Hanauer had evidence of possible defects in the containment’s pressure-suppression design.
His memo, cited in the petition, stated that, “Recent events have highlighted the safety disadvantages of the pressure suppression containment.” In recommending that the “AEC adopt a policy of discouraging further use of pressure suppression containments,” Hanauer addressed the potential for a hydrogen explosion in the containment. Because it was “smaller than conventional ‘dry’ containments, the same amount of oxygen, formed in a postulated accident, would constitute a higher volume or weight percentage of the containment atmosphere. Therefore, such hydrogen generation tends to be a more serious problem in pressure suppression containments.”
Hanauer’s memos on “GE’s various bad design choices” are discussed in detail in Daniel Ford’s book, The Cult of the Atom: The Secret Papers of the Atomic Energy Commission. The book, based on files obtained through hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests and multiple lawsuits, documents the government’s cover-up of nuclear safety issues while at the same time promoting the nuclear industry.
Hanauer’s memo went to Joseph Hendrie, a senior AEC official, who wrote: “Steve’s idea to ban pressure-suppression containment schemes is an attractive one in some ways….” But “it could well be the end of nuclear power. It would throw into question the continued operation of licensed plants, would make unlicensable the G.E. and Westinghouse ice-condenser plants now in review and generally create more turmoil than I can stand thinking about.”
Ford writes that Hendrie, who was later appointed NRC chair, “proposed no corrective actions to deal with the safety problem Hanauer had raised. Hanauer got no reply to his memo, and the matter was resolved by being ignored.”
“The Hanauer memo was not made available until 1978, so the AEC and the NRC sat on the document before they released it publically,” said Gunter. “This was a deliberate obfuscation of the acknowledged substandard quality of the Mark 1 and it was a political decision—a promotional decision.”
The petition further notes that “safety concerns were again affirmed in 1986 by Dr. Harold Denton, the Director of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, who told a nuclear industry conference that the flawed reactor containment type has as high as a 90% chance of failure if challenged by a severe accident condition.”
Inside GE, the problems with the Mark 1 containment design were well known, Dale Bridenbaugh, a former GE nuclear engineer, told the NRC’s Petition Review Board in a meeting on October 7. Bridenbaugh and two other GE nuclear engineers, Richard Hubbard and Gregory Minor, became internationally known as the “GE 3” whistleblowers when they resigned from the company in 1976 “as a matter of conscience” over nuclear safety issues. Shortly afterward they testified before a Congressional committee on safety design defects in GE reactors.
Their Congressional testimony, cited in the petition, gave a list of factors that made GE reactors unsafe. It included the Mark 1 containment system and lax regulation by the NRC. They said their list “makes a nuclear power plant accident, in our opinion, a certain event. The only question is when, and where.”
Bridenbaugh said that in the year prior to his resignation, GE had initiated a safety evaluation program to address the safety risks linked to the Mark 1 containments. He served as project manager of the program and said it “devolved into an exercise in defending continued operation of the plants to arguments of the low probability of a possible event.”
He said that while “subsequent fixes were implemented to overcome design deficiencies,” the “recent events at Fukushima calls into question again whether those fixes, assuming they were properly implemented in Japan, are adequate to meet license requirements so as to safeguard health and safety of the public.”
Bridenbaugh said, “It is unreasonable for all the US citizens who could be affected by a major accident at a Mark 1 plant to be held at risk for another period of years when it is uncertain that similar consequences could happen here.”
Beyond Nuclear’s petition calls for the NRC to revoke the agency’s “pre-approval” of the key “fix” installed on Mark 1 containments in the early 1990s, a venting system that allowed operators to vent the containment and prevent a breach following a severe accident. The fix was adopted as a voluntary industry initiative, and, as such, was not subject to public hearings and did not undergo scrutiny from independent nuclear experts and citizen groups. And it didn’t work.
As reported in the New York Times (“In Japan, Danger Signs for the US,” May 17, 2011), “Emergency vents that American officials have said would prevent devastating hydrogen explosions at nuclear plants in the United States were put to the test in Japan—and failed to work, according to experts and officials with the company that operates the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant. The failure of the vents calls into question the safety of similar nuclear power plants in the United States and Japan.”
Following its review of “near-term” lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster, the NRC is expected to now require installation of a “reliable” venting system. But Gunter and others argue that such a step—itself a years long undertaking that allows the industry to stonewall over defining what a “reliable” system would be—does not address the fundamental issue of the flawed reactor design.
“Instead of learning the lesson and closing these deficient reactors, the NRC staff is now proposing to make the venting systems a little better. You’re compensating for the failure of the compensation you’ve already made for the design deficiencies,” said Michael Mariotte, executive director, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, in the petition hearing.
“Since the purpose of a containment is to contain the radiation, these fixes have always been absurd to me because they allow the release of radioactivity,” Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer of Fairewinds Associates, an independent energy consulting firm, told the NRC panel.
The NRC meetings on the petition also raised red alerts over the risks from the storage of high-level radioactive waste in spent fuel pools at reactor sites. At GE Mark 1 plants, spent fuel is stored in pools 100 feet above the reactor outside the primary containment structure. The reactor explosions that damaged the containment buildings at Fukushima exposed the fuel pools to the air and, in Unit 4, the spent fuel pool caught fire. The condition of the spent fuel pools in other units is not yet known with certainty, but the fire in Unit 4, which may account for nearly half the total cesium-37 released into the environment from the disaster, was “a significant factor” in the NRC’s decision to order the 50-mile evacuation of Americans from the plant, Gundersen said.
“All Mark 1s in the U.S. have the same location of fuel pools above the containment,” Kevin Kamps, of Beyond Nuclear, told the NRC panel, stating that the agency has long refused to address the risks from high-level radioactive waste storage. “A coalition of scores of grassroots and national environmental organizations have urged NRC for nearly a decade, ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to empty GE BWR Mark I pools into hardened on-site storage,” he said.
“Incredibly, NRC has allowed Mark I pools to keep their high-level radioactive waste packed to maximum capacity. Mark I owners and operators seeking to defer dry cast storage costs for as long as possible have been allowed to put us all at incredible risk by keeping their pools packed to the gills,” Kamps said.
A 2001 NRC study that looked at the potential for waste pool fires calculated that 25,000 people as far as 500 miles downwind from a pool fire could die from latent cancer. Kamps noted that the recent report, “Spent Nuclear Fuel Pools in the U.S.: Reducing the Deadly Risks of Storage” (Robert Alvarez, Institute for Policy Studies), cites several GE Mark 1 sites where spent fuel pools present an imminent hazard because they are filled to capacity.
John Raymond is a freelance writer based in New York City.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.