(It should be noted that the collapse of the cooling tower at Vermont Yankee, pictured above, happened in 2007, when the plant was only 35 years old. Cause of the collapse: corroded steel bolts and rotten lumber.)
I’m going to try to resist the temptation to use all caps, bold and italic text and a stream of exclamation points in this post.
According to a recent opinion piece in the Las Vegas Informer by John LaForge of NukeWatch:
The chances of radiation disasters will increase further if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows US reactors to run for 80 years. This is what Duke Power, Dominion Power and Exelon suggest for seven of their 40-year-old rattle traps now operating in Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina.
These seven reactors were designed and licensed to be shut down in the current decade. However, since 1991 the nuclear industry has been granted 70 “license extensions” that have generally added 20 years. Now the owners want to push their units an extra 40 years (or until the American Fukushima, whichever comes first).
Then-NRC Commissioner George Apostolakis didn’t reject the idea outright. Instead, he raised a public relations concern:
“I don’t know how we would explain to the public that these designs, 90-year-old designs, 100-year-old designs, are still safe to operate, he said.”
LaForge begins the piece with a disturbing summary:
Weakening radiation standards, a cap on accident liability, reactor propaganda vs improvements, old units running past expiration dates, revving the engines beyond design specs …. You’d think we were itching for a meltdown.
The Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering weakening exposure standards following an accident. According to LaForge:
The Environmental Protection Agency has recommended increased radiation exposure limits following major releases. It would save the industry a bundle to permit large human exposures, rather than shut down rickety reactors.
The EPA proposal is a knock-off prompted by Fukushima, because after the triple meltdown started three years ago, Japan increased — by 20 times — the allowable radiation exposures deemed tolerable for humans. Prior to the meltdowns of March 2011, Japan allowed one milliSievert of radiation per year in an individual’s personal space. Now, the limit is 20 milliSieverts per year. This is not safe, it’s just allowable, or, rather, affordable, since the cost of decontaminating 1,000 square miles of Japan to the stricter standard could bust the bank.