Grigory Pasko: Atomic Cunning


The seemingly endless nuclear crisis at Fukushima Dai-Ichi in Japan has raised a series of questions regarding both safety and environmental risk in the nuclear energy sector – questions that of course come back around to Russia and its role as an international provider of reactor technology.  

Following a recent visit to Japan by officials from the IAEA, there is significant pressure to repair lax enforcement of safety standards, and ensure “regulatory independence and clarity of role” between the plant’s operators and the authorities – suggesting that running nuclear power plants as profit businesses can interfere in the safety standards.

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Following the catastrophic earthquake this past March, more than 10 thousand people died or disappeared without any information as a result of the natural disaster.  The cooling systems at the “Fukushima-1” and “Fukushima-2” atomic power stations were disabled, eventually resulting in the leak of 100,000 tons of radioactive water which risks being absorbed into the ground soil. As a result of the accident the background radiation level in the area of the station rose significantly, which forced the powers to begin the evacuation of people from a zone with a radius of 20 kilometers. The authorities of Japan admit that the situation at the atomic power station in Fukushima remains extremely complex, while Eurocommissioner for energy Günther Oettinger called the state of emergency at the Japanese “Fukushima-1” atomic power station an “apocalypse”.

…Cunning – the offspring of lies and hypocrisy. People in the atomicindustry, unconditionally, are being cunning when they talk about how affordable, safe, and economic inevitable nuclear powe is. After all in so doing they totally forget toinclude in the production cost of a nuclear kilowatt to the expenditureson the liquidation of the consequences of potential accidents at anatomic power station; the expenditures on the dismantling of an atomicpower station after the conclusion of the term of its operation; theexpenditures on the storage of radioactive wastes (here it needs to benoted right away that nobody in the world has yet to think up of what todo with these wastes. For now only one way out has been found: to leaveall this “good stuff” for our descendants).

That’s why I don’t like people in the atomic industry – for theircunning. And also – for the obstinacy with which they stand up for theirindustry. It is understandable that the creation of a nuclear shield inthe epoch of the cold war turned people in the atomic industry and thepower into blood brothers. But the power can be blind, dense and deaf:even nuclear accidents teach it little. And if we speak about theRussian power, all the more so the putinite one… Here’s an example foryou.

After the continuing catastrophe at the «Fukushima» atomic power stationin Japan Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel conducted a meeting withthe prime- ministers of the five federal states in which German atomicpower stations are found. In the course of the meeting a decision wasadopted on the temporary shutting down of seven of the oldest atomicelectrostations of the FRG for the conducting of a comprehensiveinspection.
Switzerland decided to put on hold the process of the modernization ofnuclear reactors and the construction of new atomic power stations. TheFederal inspectorate for nuclear safety is going to analyze the precisecauses of the events in Japan, as a result of which the adoption of new,stricter norms is expected, especially in the realm of seismic safetyand the cooling system of an atomic power station.

Even Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has declared thathis country is suspending the development of a program of the peacefulatom, which includes within itself the construction by Russia of atomicelectrostations, in connection with the accidents at the Japanese atomicpower stations.

Despite some similarities, Putin is not Chavez. (And not because he’s only a lieutenant coloneland not a full colonel). He, unlike many legally sane politicians, doesnot see an opportunity to reject atomic power because of the accident atthe atomic power station in Japan. About this he declared recently at apress conference based on the results of a session of the EECInterstate Council.

Putin reported that Russia is going to grant Byelorussia a credit with avolume of around 6 bln dollars for the construction of the firstByelorussian atomic power station. Likewise Russia and India arediscussing the possibility of granting New Delhi a credit in a volume of4 bln dollars, earmarked for the construction of an atomic powerstation.

Earlier ex-head of Gosatomnadzor Yuri Vishnevsky expressed confidencethat countries where there is no threat of an earthquake, includingRussia, are not going to start wrapping up atomic programs.

Expressing his nuclear opinion too was director-general of the statecorporation “Rosatom” Sergey Kiriyenko. In his opinion, even the worstvariant of the development of events at the atomic electrostations inJapan does not present a threat to the Russian Far East.

The ecologist Alexey Yablokov, a scholar, has another opinion. He considers that we need

to prepare for protection from the INEVITABLE spread of radioactivecontamination onto large areas. «It seems to me, – says he, – that themost reliable protection could be only the artificial precipitation ofradionuclides found in the air. One needs to precipitate only over thesea, so as not to incur ill to the population – as this turned out inthe event of Chernobyl.

And here is the opinion of expert in the realm of power andopposition politician Vladimir Milov: « People in the atomic industrycustomarily trot out numbers about the probability of a large accidentas “ten to the minus seventh” or at least to the minus fifth power. But aprobability — this is a mathematical value, while real accidents inreal life take place more frequently than in mathematical calculations.It can be safe for 100 years, but then when it smacks just once – thatwill be enough. I am convinced that one large atomic accident at aminimum awaits humanity in the nearest prospect. With consequences».

Blogger Oleg Kozyrev, who once visited Novozybkov (Bryansk oblast),contaminated by radiation, wrote on his Livejournal:  “Japan — of those countries for which it was indeed hard or evenimpossible to get by without nuclear power. But recent events have shownthat the threat from atomic stations can be comparable with the threatfrom tsunamis and earthquakes. If the Japanese manage to untie thispower choke-knot on their neck, then maybe their decisions will help allof humanity as well. I am not an opponent of nuclear energy. But at thesame time I understand that we can no longer endlessly close our eyesto the threats emanating from this kind of electric power. Pose onesimple question to yourselves — how confident are we in the safety ofour Russian electric stations. Once again, I am speaking not in themantras of the people in the Russian atomic industry, but specificallyabout the real state of affairs.”

It is known that Putin loves to ignore an opinion that differs from onethat he has already adopted. He has already long ago adopted a decisionto build dozens of new nuclear power blocks in Russia. It looks likeonly a large nuclear accident on the territory of Russia can force himto turn from this obviously erroneous path.