Entries in Nuclear Crisis (2)


Nuclear Crisis In Japan Will Not Slow Relicensing of U.S. Plants

Tom Brakefield/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The nuclear crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant will not have an impact on the re-licensing of U.S. nuclear reactors, a top Nuclear Regulatory Commission official told lawmakers Tuesday.

“There’s no technical reason, that I’m aware of, that this would impact the license renewal process for the remaining plants in the U.S.,” Bill Borchardt, the NRC Executive Director for Operations, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Over half of the 104 operating reactors in the U.S. have already received license renewals for an additional 20 years of operation.  The NRC expects that the other half will continue with the license extension process.

“If there was a design change necessary in order to adapt the plants to what we’re learning from Japan we would take that action absent or outside of the license-renewal, review process,” Borchardt explained. “We would take that without hesitation.”

Several lawmakers have called for a moratorium on relicensing in light of the ongoing crisis in Japan.

Peter Lyons, the acting assistant secretary for Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy, explained that the Fukushima Daiichi plants “are in a slow recovery from the accident. However, long-term cooling of the reactors and pools is essential during this period and has not been adequately restored to date.”

Borchardt agreed. “The situation in general continues to further stabilize, although there are many hurdles that remain.”

Among those hurdles are reports of radioactive water in the basements of the turbine buildings which, according to Borchardt, is from the water that has been injected to cool the reactors.

“We believe that the water is the result of the ‘bleed and feed’ process that they have been using to keep water in the reactor cores and in the containment of the units,” Borchardt said. “The exact flow path of that leakage has not been determined.”  

As for reports of plutonium in the soil near the nuclear plant, Lyons said the news did not come as a surprise. “All operating reactors, whether they start with any plutonium in the fuel or not, build up plutonium in the course of operation. So finding plutonium that was derived from either the operating reactors or the spent fuel pools would not be regarded as a major surprise. Certainly it would be a concern if it were in significant levels,” he explained.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Americans Less Generous in Japan Disaster Relief?

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A week after Japan was crippled by an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, there's little sign Americans are giving as feverishly, or as generously, to international relief efforts as they have before.

To compare, two days after an earthquake ravaged Haiti last year, American citizens text-messaged more than $5 million in donations to the Red Cross disaster relief effort.  Five days after the quake, the agency had raised more than $92 million for the cause.  And ten days after the disaster in Haiti, Americans gave more than $57 million during a two-hour telethon hosted by George Clooney and MTV.

But no telethon for Japan seems to be on the horizon.

"There has not been a telethon, which is driving me crazy," said Wayne Elsey, CEO of Soles4Souls, a charity he created following the 2004 South Asian tsunami.  Soles4Souls works with celebrities to collect and distribute shoes to people displaced by natural disasters.

"I'm not sure if it's fatigue, or if people don't see the magnitude of the problem, or they have other projects they're working on," Elsey said, "but there needs to be a bigger emphasis on this."

The American Red Cross said it raised $47 million for the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami response through Wednesday afternoon, including more than $2.6 million in donations via text messages.  The amount is roughly half what it raised in the same period following the Haiti quake.

And while several other prominent U.S.-based aid groups, including Catholic Relief Services, International Rescue Committee, and World Vision also reported raising hundreds of thousands of dollars each in the past few days, some have decided not to raise money at all.

CARE USA, Oxfam American and Doctors Without Borders all opted not to directly fundraise for the Japanese relief effort, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

"With Haiti there was a lot of guilt about how poor the people were and how much suffering they endured.  But with Japan, it's a rich country, their GDP is similar to ours, and in many ways the needs of their people can be met by the Japanese government and the systems they have in place," said Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a charity watchdog group.

"The point of charity is to address need.  Japan is not making desperate pleas for aid, and charities aren't going to do rebuilding.  That's going to be government and private insurance.  So people need to balance this with the problems in the rest of the world, even in our own country which has been hit by the recession," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio