Some Perspective on the Calhoun Nuclear Power Station
On June 21st, 2011, Stefan N. said, What you are saying is not untrue. However, much of it can be attributed to the public’s desire to know more than they are capable of understanding.
Being a publicly owned utility, we really cannot tell them to go away and let us handle it (nor should we for that matter). When dealing with complex events, there are often no 10 second sound bites that adequately describe what is going on. The public wants to know “is it safe”? Well, “safe” for who? In the current situation at Fort Calhoun; will the plant melt down spewing Chernobyl type radiation all over the Midwest killing hundreds if not thousands and polluting the water supply all the way down to New Orleans? No, not based on any currently concevable event, including the complete failure of Gavins Point dam.
Could the plant be damaged to a state that it could not start up causing economic hardship for the area. Yes, and that possibility is higher than we would like it.
In between is a wide range of scenarios. To top it off, we have the kooks like Nelson filling the public with BS, making things even more difficult. Often times this causes the appearance of untruth and people get confused. With the Fort Calhoun event, we have the company suits going on TV saying everything is OK. Even the most backward person looking at the faces of those working there know that it is not “OK”. However, we are looking at different meanings of “OK”. To the public, all they care is that no radiation escapes from the plant and that their lives are not impacted. In that regard, things are OK, for now. However, to a worker at the plant, things are far from OK. The chances for an injury are much higher than before. Half our fire exits are blocked with sandbags. There is no way to get an ambulance into the place if someone gets hurt or has a medical emergency. To top it off, if the plant is damaged to the point that it cannot be economically restarted, many of us will not have jobs when this is all over. So, we have a completely different definition of what is OK and what is not.
I have studied the accidents in the industry, including many that are unknown to the public. Many were covered up, or flat out lied about, particularly in the former Soviet Union and other plants abroad. Others, like TMI, were not lied about so much as they were not fully understood (in some ways, more of a problem). It is hard to get 100% accurate facts out, even if you want to do so, when you are dealing with a situation that nobody thought would happen in the first place.
It makes it worse when you actually believed your own BS and did not have instrumentation on hand to measure what was happening. The unintentional misinformation in those cases is really not the problem. The real problem is that with most “unforseen” events, the events were forseen and those that foresaw them were ignored. When the Fort Calhoun event is all said and done, I would be willing to bet that the story will be rather interesting.