Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Meltdowns, storms, and ships crashing together on the high seas, this is Radio Ecoshock.
For the coming months, we added dozens of new college and community radio stations to this broadcast, probably taking us to 50 more stations. I'm still counting.
As you may know, Daphne Wysham and her Earthbeat radio crew are taking a break, while they re-organize.
Even while off-duty, the reporter in Daphne never takes a break. Later in this program you'll hear her on-the-spot recording from a tornado-ripped town in the hill-country of Virginia. It's reality radio - with a vision of what we can expect in the coming climate-damaged world.
NUCLEAR SAFETY IN AMERICA - COULD A FUKUSHIMA ACCIDENT HAPPEN IN THE U.S.?
(David Lochbaum says "yes".)
We start with our feature interview. David Lochbaum is an American nuclear engineer, whistleblower, and expert for the Union of Concerned Scientists. Lochbaum warns reactor design, and unreliable cooling systems, and poor oversight leave Americans with the same risk of multiple melt-downs experienced at Fukushima Japan. We'll talk about how to make U.S. reactors safer for all of us.
We also go over David Lochbaum's testimony to Congress May 13th. Lochbaum taught safety to inspectors at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) a couple of years ago. Now he points to obvious weaknesses in the U.S. nuclear watch-dog system. The high price for negligence becomes too obvious after the Fukushima accident in Japan.
You can download that Testimony here.
It turns out only a dozen or so U.S. reactors have the 8 hour battery back-up installed at Fukushima. Around 90 American reactors only have 4 hour battery back-up. "The Cavalry" (new power lines, new generators, something) has to arrive within 4 hours, or a reactor without power starts the clock toward melt-down, which can happen within 24 hours. Not a good situation.
The American spent fuel problem is even worse. Where the biggest fuel pond (at Reactor 4) has around 1300 fuel units, a lot of American reactors have more than 3,000! There are no battery backups for their cooling. Period. That old fuel should be put into "dry casks" as soon as possible.
The fuel in dry casks at Fukushima was not affected by the loss of power or the Tsunami. Robert Alvarez has calculated the U.S. could go on a crash program to transfer most spent fuel to dry casks, costing a paltry 4 billion dollars, and taking about 10 years, if we get going. Get a pdf of that report here.
Cheap insurance, compared to a mutli-unit meltdown, and the risks when the spent fuel ponds (housed in the "attic" of many reactors) get hit with a hydrogen explosion.
All American reactors, Lochbaum tells us, are expected to have a plan for handling "severe" emergencies. But under the current regulatory system, those plans are more or less voluntary. And get this: NRC regulators are specifically forbidden to ask to see those plans. Lochbuam says we shouldn't wait for a bad accident to see if those plans are sufficent, or flawed. Then it is too late.
This is an easy fix for the NRC. Make those emergency plans mandatory and inspected.
You must hear this interview. Lochbaum does explain some emergency exercises held every 2 years (which local residents should know about). When I ask why the Japanese waited two months to admit they had melt-downs, Lochbaum reminds us it too FOUR YEARS for the operators of Three Mile Island to know they had a melt-down, or partial melt-down. They had to want for enough cool-down to lower a camera inside and look.
Otherwise, and I think this is a major flaw in this technology, if the gages and operating panels go down, as they did at Fukushima, there is no way to know what has happened inside, for months, or even years. That is just too opaque and risky, in my opinion.
ACTIVISM ON THE EDGE: PAUL WATSON AND SEA SHEPHERD IN NEW MOVIE.
Then you get the latest from famous environmentalist, Paul Watson, Founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. I recorded his speech after a new film, and the Q and A, along with Trish Dolman, the Director. It is an important update on Watson's campaigns with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
You may believe in Ghandi; Watson says non-violence can never stop pirates of the sea. He saved seals, dolphins, turtles, sharks, and whales - right from his early days in Greenpeace, to Sea Shepherd's latest campaign in the Antarctic, risking their lives to stop Japanese whaling. Now Paul has become a policeman for small countries plundered by foreign fishing fleets. He's headed to Libya.
I recorded Watson's speech following the Premiere of the new full-length bio film "Eco-Pirate: The Paul Watson Story." Don't miss the lively questions from the enthusiastic audience. It was shown to a packed house at the Projecting Change 2011 film festival.
Watch the trailer here. The movie comes out in theaters in July. The Producer is now off doing another series for Animal Planet, "Animal Hoarders".
This from the film's web site:
"Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson is a feature-length documentary about a man on a mission to save the planet and its oceans. Part Captain Nemo, part Grizzly Man, the film will follow Watson in the act as he repeatedly flouts the law, so that he may apprehend what he sees as the more serious law-breakers – the illegal poachers of the world. From the genesis of Greenpeace to the sinking of a pirate whaling ship off Portugal, from clashes with fisherman in the Galapagos to Watson’s recent headline-grabbing battles with the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctica, this documentary chronicles the extraordinary life one of the most controversial figures in the environmental movement – the heroics, the ego, the urgency – of the world’s original eco pirate."
What would you do to save the animals and the ecosphere? How far would you go?
Paul Watson says humans are a violent and dangerous species. This environmentalist, an early founder of Greenpeace in Vancouver, went to the edge of violence to save seals, dolphins, and especially the whales from human slaughter.
I've just seen the Premiere of a new film biography, "Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson". We see young Paul on a dying whale, standing pat in front of an advancing ice-breaker, ramming a rogue whaling ship, and taking on the Japanese whaling fleet, in harsh Antarctic waters. Writer and director Trish Dolman spend years on the ships of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. She includes the harshest critics, making this the definitive biography of one of Earth's greatest environmentalists.
This was hands-down the best green documentary I've seen this year. The Antarctic footage and ship-board life alone was stunning. Writer Dolman did not create a fan film. She went to Watson's critics, and there are many, from the Japanese Ambasador, through Canadian officials, even two wives and a daughter left behind on shore. The story of early Greenpeace is woven in, with a careful look at non-violence versus direct action. There is love and danger, when ships collide on the open seas, and you are there, as part of the crew.
In the end, despite criticism and doubts, admiration for Paul Watson cannot be denied. Certainly the living marine mammals he saved would vote for his life of activism - which incidentally, never cost a human life.
If you are new to this space, keep in mind we are filling in for that fine American green news program Earthbeat, while Daphne Wysham and her crew reorganize. After 8 years on the air, Daphne deserves a break - but we need her back, as one of America's top environmental reporters for non-profit radio. Keep in touch with the web site, earthbeatradio.org.
If you are just tuning in, you'll get double time today. This is Radio Ecoshock, and Earthbeat. Host Daphne Wysham is taking a break, while she and her valiant crew reorganize the program. I'm Alex Smith, filling in.
Even while off-duty, Daphne couldn't help hauling out her recorder and her reporter's instincts, when she drove through the demolish town of Glade Springs, Virginia last week. It was a month after one of the hundreds of killer tornadoes that swept through America, from Oklahoma all the way North to the Canadian border.
As we heard from weather meister Jeff Masters last week, we still don't have enough data to know if this year's record rash of tornadoes was triggered by climate change. It looks suspicious, and scientists predicted stronger storms, but the science isn't in.
What I do know: this is the kind of continuing weather damage we will see from an unstable atmosphere, as we continue to pour greenhouse gases into a sensitive atmosphere. More record flooding, more out-of-control wild-fires, and stronger storms will rip the roof off the homes and dreams of millions all over the world.
Is America a rich country? Or is it bankrupt? If you get hit by climate distruption, can you expect the government to help? Let's see who really shows up, with this on-the-spot recording of just one grandmother, Rita Muncey, who thought their family was safe. Daphne Wysham reports from Virginia, from the blown-down town of Glade Springs, Virginia, in late May, 2011.
For me that clip is much more than disaster entertainment. It contains almost everything I've tried to communicate on this show. Except maybe Rita Muncey says it better, being there in the moment, with children to shelter, poor, in the middle of such a rich country. My heart goes out to all the people who now fear the sky, and the power of Nature.
My conclusion: if the unstable climate finds you - don't expect government help. Your local community volunteers are the folks who really show up. Maybe it's time to join the Transition Movement, form a community support group near you, and build those relationships that will help you and your family through the hardest of times.
We've got some good interviews coming up for you. The new oil rush into the Arctic, despite the BP Deep Water drilling disaster in the Gulf. New science and new voices, all coming up for Earthbeat and Radio Ecoshock.
Please contact your local college and community radio stations, calling for true green news and analysis. Support this program, and we'll keep it coming, advertising free, and just plain free.
I'm Alex Smith. We live in challenging times. Join us next week. Thank you for using your ears, mind and heart.