Letter to the Editor: Troester’s view of nuclear incident

Dear Editor:
Do you remember me? Donna and I operated the Meeker Herald and Rangely Times from 1995 to 2000.
After selling the newspapers, I went to work in September 2000, as a nuclear communication coordinator for the Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper nuclear station in Brownville, Neb. I retired from Cooper in late summer 2010. Cooper’s design is nearly identical to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, so I am very familiar with the design and operation.
I’ve been in touch with U.S. licensed operators and I think you should know what really happened at the nuclear power plant in Japan. Why? Because if the same kind of event happened at one of the many nuclear facilities along the west coast, most of the communities west of the continental divide could pay a very high economic price.
If a west coast station releases iodine 131, cesium, and thorium, it will fall on Meeker and Rangely. No, you won’t die or get sick. But you will not be able to sell your cattle, your sheep or goats, your poultry, your milk or eggs or hay or grain. In short, if you produce anything that humans or animals eat, you will not be able to sell it, perhaps for months or years.
There is something you can do to minimize the chances of something like this happening to you. That’s why I’m writing to you. But now is the time to act. You don’t want to wait until a big quake and tsunami strike the west coast and the same thing happens that happened in Japan.
This is insider information you might not otherwise hear about for months or years, or maybe never. The World Association of Nuclear Operators is working very, very hard to lead people to believe that a tsunami destroyed the emergency diesel generators that keep the reactor cool in an emergency, that the disaster was an act of God totally beyond the control of humans.
Wrong! I have spoken to a number of federally licensed nuclear plant operators in the U.S., and they all say the same thing: the Fukushima crisis was caused by gross human stupidity and incompetence, not by an act of God.
The emergency diesel generators (EDG) were unharmed by either the quake or the tsunamis. EDG are absolutely and utterly crucial to a nuclear power plant. So they are housed in thick-walled, waterproof, impregnable concrete buildings. That is so in Japan as well as in the U.S.
But some moron in Japan decided that it was acceptable to store all the diesel fuel in outdoor, aboveground storage tanks! So when the tsunami came, the generators were totally unharmed, but all the diesel fuel tanks were swept out to sea.
In most U.S. plants, this crucial diesel fuel is stored in huge tanks housed in thick, waterproof underground concrete bunkers. A tsunami could never wipe out either the EDG or the fuel they use.
Most is the key word here. I am advised that it is possible that a west coast nuke plant might have its diesel fuel stored above ground and outdoors, where a tsunami could wash it away just like it did in Japan.
Everyone who lives west of the Continental Divide has a personal stake in ensuring that all coastal nuclear facilities have highly protected diesel generators and diesel fuel supplies, because you are all downwind of these plants. The mountains will protect the eastern half of the nation, but when a radiation plume from a west coast plant bumps up against the west slope of the Rockies or Tetons or Mummy Range, all the radionuclides will rain down on whomever lives on the western slopes.
So if any west coast facility is vulnerable to a tsunami, you have a right to know the extent of the vulnerability, and the plan for addressing it. To do this, your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representatives need to request a detailed formal report from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for each and every nuke facility on the coast.
It is possible that all the stations do have their EDG fully protected from quakes and tsunamis, and also have fully secured and sheltered diesel fuel supplies. If so, it would be good for you to know that.
On the other hand, if a facility is vulnerable, it would be vital for all downwind communities to know that, so they can apply the necessary political pressure to compel the NRC to require immediate remediation.
The media are ignorant of the real cause of the crisis. They think an unstoppable wave destroyed the generators, that it was an act of God and nothing could have been done to prevent it. So the true reasons for the crisis might never be made widely known. But now you know the inside information that only the nuclear industry knows. It is information you can use to try to protect your communities from an economic disaster.
Your federal representatives are in the best position to squeeze information out of the NRC, and compel changes if needed. The NRC commissioners are all political appointees, and only political leaders have the ability to get attention and action from the NRC.
Glenn R. Troester
Auburn, NE