Seattle doctor raises serious concerns about nuclear reactor near Hanford, Washington
A Seattle doctor has claimed that the U.S. regulator of a nuclear power plant 400 kilometres southeast of Vancouver isn't applying important lessons from the Fukushima disaster.
Dr. Tom Buchanan, vice president of Washington State Physicians for Social Responsibility, made the comment at a March 11 symposium at SFU Harbour Centre on the first anniversary of a Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which crippled nuclear reactors in Fukushima, spewing huge amounts of radiation.
Buchanan noted that Energy Northwest recently applied for a new licence for its 28-year-old Columbia Generating Station near Hanford, Washington. It is the only commercially operated nuclear power plant in the Pacific Northwest, and generates 1,150 megawatts of electricity.
Buchanan also maintained that recommendations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have been ignored by the U.S. industry.
"In fact, the NRC went over to Fukushima, led by their chair [Gregory] Jaczko, made a 60-page report about some of the lessons that we in some of the United States and North America might learn from Fukushima, including evacuation procedures, emergency preparation, of course, earthquake preparation, water preparation, where your backup is," Buchanan stated. "None of those recommendations by that NRC commission...has been instituted or observed or even recognized by any of the licensing that's gone on in the States. We have 31 Mark 1 reactors in the United States. They are pretty much the same design, with flaws, as the Fukushima reactors. And none of these reactors have either been upgraded in relation to what the problems are at Fukushima."
He made a similar statement in a public submission to the NRC on November 17 regarding the Columbia Generating Facility's operating-licence application: "We must conclude that the lessons of Fukushima have landed on dead ears inside the Nuclear Reactor Licensing division of the NRC."
"Do not gloss over the medical consequences of Fukushima, Three Mile Island or Chernobyl's radiation releases," Buchanan advised in the submission. "There is no such thing as a safe threshold of radioactive releases from nuclear power. The NRC needs to build their models of health damage from their nuclear power stations with the lack of a 'safe threshold' in mind."
Regarding the Columbia Generating Station, he claimed at the symposium that the containment area is too small. Quoting energy consultant Arnold Gundersen, Buchanan also alleged there's a possibility that bolts could "actually stretch off the containment dome area".
In addition, Buchanan claimed that there are almost twice as many spent fuel rods in the plant as were at the four functioning Fukushima reactors.
"So they've crammed these rods into this space that's even more tightly [packed] than the rods at Fukushima at [reactors] number 4, 1, 2,3," Buchanan stated.
He also noted that the subduction earthquake zone off the west coast of North America is closer to the continent than a similar subuction zone near Japan.
Citing a book called Cascadia's Fault by Jerry Thompson, Buchanan said that records in Japan indicate the last subduction quake in North America occurred on January 26, 1700. He based that on written records in Japan about when a tsunami crossed the Pacific Ocean and arrived in that country.
He mentioned that in the past 312 years, the Cascade Mountains have actually moved by 1.37 meters.
"There's another fault line that comes from...under Whitby Island underneath the Cascades all the way to the Hanford site," Buchanan added. "It's much less active, but there's an actual electronic measure now that people have of that fault line—and that would probably activate if something happens in the Cascades. Even though Hanford is in eastern Washington, that might be affected. Nobody has talked about that in the emergency planning."
The Straight left a message for a response from Energy Northwest, but hadn't heard back by the time this article was posted.