Monday, March 21, 2011

Remember 9/10/01 – Kline Eerily Silent on Nuclear Safety

The deadly earthquake and tsunamis of March 11, 2011 in Japan resulted in four nuclear power plants in Fukushima Prefecture to be immediately shutdown due to safety concerns about damage sustained and prompted the evacuation of thousands of local residents. Subsequently, Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini nuclear power plants experienced multiple explosions, threats of leaking radiation, and possible nuclear meltdown.

As the potential tragedy of unthinkable concerns swept the world, this should be just the incentive for American leaders to review the safety of our nuclear industry … and ascertain whether there are ample plans and resources for a potential diasaster.

The debate is not over the future of nuclear energy but instead are we prepared for such an event.

The potential consequences of a nuclear event has been known …. ranging from schoolchildren of the ‘50s practicing “desk safety” to the severe accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986 which occurred when a handful of known problems -- aggravated by a few worker miscues -- transformed fairly routine events into catastrophes.

As such, when there does not appear to be regular reporting of problems, everyday families assume things are good.
But ignorance is not bliss … as the safety record of the nuclear industry is not as good as it could be.

In 2010, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), reported on 14 special inspections it launched in response to troubling events, safety equipment problems, and security shortcomings at nuclear power plants … such as at Calvert Cliffs (MD), Brunswick (NC), Oconee (SC), Browns Ferry (AL), Kewaunee (WI), Peach Bottom (PA), Indian Point (NY), and Vermont Yankee (VT). At Indian Point, for example, the NRC discovered that the liner of a refueling cavity at Unit 2 has been leaking since at least 1993. By allowing this reactor to continue operating with equipment that cannot perform its only safety function, the NRC is putting people living around Indian Point at elevated and undue risk.

The last time America had to react to a major event was September 11, 2001 … and we learned then that our elected leaders were not focused on the threat.
Just the day before – September 10th -- two of our leaders showed that al Qaeda was not the consideration as it should have been.

The New York Times reported Attorney General John Ashcroft’s “Sept. 10 submission to the budget office, Ashcroft did not endorse FBI requests for $58 million for 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 intelligence analysts and 54 additional translators. Ashcroft proposed a $65 million cut for a program that gives states and localities counterterrorism grants for equipment, including radios and decontamination suits and training."

Another example comes from the Vice President. On May 8, 2001, President Bush appointed Vice President Cheney to head a task force "to combat terrorist attacks on the United States." Newsweek reported that when senators "sent a copy of draft legislation on counterterrorism and homeland defense to Cheney's office on July 20." On 9/10/2001, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) tried to get a meeting with the Vice President to discuss plans for homeland security due to the "lights blinking red," as the 9/11 Commission Report put it. Cheney’s Chief –of-Staff, Scooter Libby, told her "that it might be another six months before he would be able to review the material."

The decisions of 9/10 may not have changed the events of 9/11, but it shows the mindset that are political leaders operated under.
Rationalization is inappropriate a response.

It’s for that reason that I am deeply disappointed in the leadership of John Kline (R-MN-02), the Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee.
Mr. Kline has not offered any public comment on how prepared we are for an event impacting the two nuclear facilites in Minnesota. With over 2.9 million people within fifty miles of the 1974-built Prairie Island facility and the 1981-built Monticello facility, which has the very same model as Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, the General Electric Mark I reactor, Minnesotans have some concerns.

Workers could be placed in similar situtation as in Japan … yet, Mr. Kline, just as he did during the Massey mine disaster, has remained silent. Just another example, that workers face a greater threat to life at work than in the warzone.

Mr. Kline has offered press releases on other subjects … endorsing budget cuts approved by the Republican-managed House.
Yet, these cuts may cause greater impact than the dollars they potentially save.
The House CR would cuts $1.4 billion from first responder training resulting in a reduction of 46,000 emergency personnel trained in nuclear emergencies.
The bill also cuts various nuclear-related agencies and programs :
Office of Nuclear Energy - $131.8 million
Nuclear Nonproliferation - $ 97.7 million
Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissiong Fund - $70 million
Domestic Nuclear Detection Office - $ 32.5 million
And others.

Heck, even Forbes questions the wisdom of some of the Republican proposed cuts stating the cuts “would have detrimental impacts on the state of American energy innovation”

The Republican-managed House has been in attack-mode on regulations, ignoring worker’s concerns while offering spending cuts. Mr. Kline is now firmly entrenched as a Washington-powerbroker, leaving Minnesotan families to wonder if there will be enough potassium iodide if needed.

Mr. Kline continues to be a loyal foot soldier and not a Representative concerned about Minneaota workers and families. Heck, Mr. Kline has not even joined Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), Keith Ellison (D-MN-05), and 56 other Congressman in sponsoring a resolution acknowledging the the effects of the catasphere in Japan.

9/11 should have taught us that anticipation and preparation are part of our constant vigil. While the likelihood of a deadly earthquake and/or tsunamis is remote for Minnesota, the threat of a dirty-bomb or internal attack is not. 9/10 should teach us to not be so quick to make budget cuts without considering the consequences.

Mr. Kline, please do the right thing … think of us in Minnesota.

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