Lessons Not Learned: New Map Shows 120 Million Americans at Nuclear Fallout Risk

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Common Dreams

Lessons Not Learned: New Map Shows 120 Million Americans at Nuclear Fallout Risk

"Red flags for heightened risk factors of a severe nuclear accident abound in the United States."

by
Common Dreams staff

In the one year since the Fukushima nuclear disaster began, the Nuclear Regulator Commission (NRC) has failed to enact any safety mandate for U.S. reactors, an oversight the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says is making 120 million Americans at an increased risk of radioactive impacts. The group's new U.S. nuclear fallout map shows the risk factors associated with the nation's plants and the radioactive plumes that would have occurred had an area been hit with a Fukushima-like disaster.

Fort Calloun Nuclear Power Plant, Nebraska

“There are clear lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster, yet our government allows the risks to remain,” said NRDC Scientist Jordan Weaver, PhD. “It doesn’t have to take an earthquake and a tsunami to trigger a severe nuclear meltdown. In addition to human error and hostile acts, more common occurrences like hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding – all of which took place around the country last year – could cause the same type of power failure in U.S. plants.”

The NRDC reports:

With 6 million Americans living within 10 miles of a U.S. nuclear power plant – the evacuation zone defined by the federal government – and more than 120 million Americans living within 50 miles of a U.S. nuclear power plant – the distance the U.S. government told Americans to evacuate from the area around the Fukushima plant – we cannot afford to stand by and hope the worst won't happen here, especially with extreme weather intensifying around the globe.

Red flags for heightened risk factors of a severe nuclear accident abound in the United States. Currently 23 U.S. nuclear reactors are the same type of reactor, a boiling water reactor (BWRs), which was involved in the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Some BWRs are operating near major American cities like Philadlephia. Nearly all of the 104 nuclear reactors operating in the United States were designed and built three to four decades ago. Despite being originally engineered for a 40-year lifespan, the NRC has approved 71 reactors at 32 nuclear power plants to operate for 60 years. And 90 percent of U.S. nuclear reactors have had their operating power increased beyond the original design engineered for them.

Yet the NRC hasn't yet made a single U.S. nuclear power plant any safer than it was since the Fukushima accident about one year ago. After the Fukushima disaster, a task force assembled by the commission's chairman identified a list of safety improvements including top tier items to be "started without unnecessary delay." But these important safety upgrades are still years away from being implemented, if ever. In fact, some of these safety improvements have been on the commission's to-do list since the 1990s.

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