NRC Report Says 35 U.S. Nuclear Plants Threatened By Dam Failures
By Paul Koberstein
As the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident approaches, flood waters from the giant tsunami of March 2011 have long receded, But the lessons of Fukushima continue to shake the nuclear power industry around the world, especially in the U.S.
One thing we learned from Fukushima was that while nuclear power plants need water to cool their superhot reactors, too much water can damage important components. In the U.S., where a tsunami strikes only rarely, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is now looking at alternative ways water can damage a reactor. One prominent possibility—dam failure, either by overtopping or collapse.
In a heavily-redacted report issued March 6, the NRC identified 35 American nuclear plants that sit precariously downstream from a potential dam disaster. Owners of these plants are required to calculate the “Probable Maximum Flood” that could strike their reactors and disable safety components. They are supposed to design their plants so that they can operate safely in any “probable” flood. But the new report, known by the scintillating title, Screening Review for Generic Issue 204, says flood dangers facing the 35 plants may be greater than previously thought.
For example, Duke Energy, owner of the three Oconee nuclear reactors in South Carolina, did not consider the impact of a failure at the large rockfill Jocassee Dam located 10 miles upstream “when calculating potential flood levels at the site.”
As a result, a third of the U.S. nuclear power entire industry could be operating beyond the bounds of NRC-imposed safety margins.
The concern, the NRC says, is so serious more study is needed before anyone can be sure the plants are safe. The NRC is quick to point out that no plant is in immediate danger, but recent experience has shown that great floods can occur without any notice. The impacts of a major dam collapse could be felt within minutes. There would be no advance warning, as was the case at Fukushima.
With the onset of global warming, climate scientists are saying that floods are striking at greater severity than ever before. All of the nation’s nuclear plants were designed, built and licensed many years before dam collapse possibilities were thoroughly reviewed, or climate changes were even contemplated.
The 35 plants are located at 20 different sites around the country. There are from one-to-three reactors at each site, as the list below shows.
One of the plants on the NRC’s list is the Columbia Generating Station at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation located about 180 miles up the Columbia River from Portland, Ore.
The plants, and the number of affected reactors at each site, are:
Arkansas Nuclear, Ark., 1,2
Beaver Valley, Pa., 1,2
Browns Ferry, Ala., 1,2,3
Fort Calhoun, Neb.
H.B. Robinson, S.C., 2
Hope Creek, N.J., 1
Indian Point, N.Y., 2,3
McGuire, N.C., 1,2
Oconee S.C., 1,2,3
Peach Bottom, Pa., 2 3
Prairie Island , Mn., 1,2
Salem, N.J., 1,2
Sequoyah 1, Tenn., 2
South Texas, Tex., 1,2
Surry, Va., 1, 2
Three Mile Island, Pa., 1
Vermont Yankee, Vt.,
Waterford, La., 3
Watts Bar, Tn, 1
The report points out that dam failures are “common.” Since 1975, more than 700 dam failures have occurred in the U.S. Many of these uncontrolled releases of water were small, and had little impact. But 148 of the failures involved a large dam taller than 40 feet.
In conclusion, the report said, “the totality of information analyzed in this report suggests that external flooding due to upstream dam failure poses a larger than expected risk to plants and public safety with a probability and consequence sufficient to warrant a Generic Issue evaluation.”
Major portions of the report have been blacked out by the NRC at the request of other federal agencies. “Due (to) the sensitive nature of some information in this analysis, redactions are necessary in this public version. The NRC has coordinated with other Federal agencies (Department of Homeland Security, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and U.S Army Corps of Engineers) on the sensitivity of the redacted information,” the report says.
Cascadia Times obtained the report after requesting filing a request for it January 2012 under the Freedom of Information Act. The report was completed in July 2011 but its release was delayed while officials decided what portions of it should be redacted.
For more information, click here.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.