Interesting. Just saw that two used copies of my book Vaporous Night from the Translight Trilogy are for sale on Amazon at $111.80 and $118.00, one from Germany and the other from the UK. Each of those prices is over twice the total income I’ve ever received from sales of any paperbacks or ebooks I’ve had for sale on Amazon or CreateSpace (The Translight Trilogy, Senders of Shaula, and my book of poetry.) Should I say “curiouser and curiouser” as I navigate the rabbit hole? Or is this an example mind games from the Twilight Zone?
Questions from the Crate: Uranium Has To Come from Somewhere
Nuclear power plants are fueled by uranium. That uranium has to come from somewhere.
Fourteen years ago I clipped an Associated Press article from the Monterey County Herald. With haunting effect, journalist Deborah Hastings sketches the legacy that uranium mining left for the Navajo people of the four corners area of the US.
“Navajo uranium miners seek more federal aid,” [July 30, 2000] touches only briefly on on the legal maze that confronted sick miners in their quest for some kind of compensation. But the article makes abundantely clear that these men, seeking a way to support their families in an area where there were few jobs, were never told about the dangers of chronic exposure to radiation.
In 1940 they were offered $45 a week to pull yellow rock out of the ground. The war effort needed this rock, so they could be proud of being patriotic while putting more food on their children’s plates. But the miners weren’t issued any protective gear. They worked all day in poorly ventilated shafts filled with radioactive dust, and drank water that trickled through the mines. These conditions continued for decades.
By the year 2000, over 400 miners on one reservation had died of lung disease.
“Recently declassified documents,” writes Hastings, “show the government knew from the start it was playing with poison but concealed the dangers.”
So my questions:
These men who were not told that their job would entail working closely with poison, with no protection — what kind of compensation have their families received from the companies and country that deceived them?
How much uranium does the US produce now? How are the miners protected?
Are mountains of mine tailings still leaking radioactive materials into rivers and ground water?
I’ve heard Australia is now the big producer of uranium. What are conditions like for the miners there?
Do we want to know? Or is it easier to rely on nuclear power if we don’t?
Brave New System, or Same Old Same Old?
Another bit of info pulled from the crate:
A 1995 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists explains the legal channels for public participation in oversight of nuke power plants. “The Public As Enemy: NRC Assaults on Public Participation in the Regulation of Operating Nuclear Plants” outlined the various methods used by the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) to keep the public out of the loop.
For instance, the only way the general public could initiate any kind of action related to an operating power plant as to use a “2.206” or “show cause” petition, requiring lots of signatures from concerned citizens. The NRC gave these petitions “virtually automatic denial,” and courts decided the denials could not be appealed. Essentially, the NRC was able to say, “NO, you can’t ask that question, and we don’t have to tell you why.”
Also, the NRC routinely violated “due notice” requirements for public meetings. (“What if we hold a meeting and make sure nobody attends?”)
In addition, the NRC frequently turned over inspection and reporting duties to the nuke power plant owners. The finished reports would be made available to the NRC on the nuke plant site, keeping them out of the public’s reach. If the same reports had been sent to the NRC offices, the law would have required they be put on public display.
So my questions today — in the past twenty years, has the system changed? Or is the NRC still in the habit of colluding with nuke plant owners to keep all that messy stuff in the shadows?
9/11: Iraq Didn’t Do It
As we pause to remember all the Americans lost on 9/11, and those who sacrificed themselves for others, let’s also remember this: Iraq and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attack. It was Bin Laden’s crew working out of Afghanistan. But we bombed Iraq anyway, and now we have a mess on our hands.
Also, I don’t need to look in the crate to find today’s questions. Here’s a headline from today’s paper: “Japan OKs 1st Nuclear Plant Since Disaster.”
That’s right, folks. The same people who assured the world that Fukushima Daiichi was a hunky-dory safe way to produce energy are now assuring the world that a sister power plant is a Daisy Mae look-alike — sweet and innocent and full of sunshiny goodness. I guess they found a way to move those earthquake faults to some other part of the ocean.
Today’s Questions From the Crate
This is from “Nucleus: A Quarterly Report From the Union of Concerned Scientists” Volume 6 . Number 4 . Winter 1985 .
“The Three Mile Island accident, which gave the regulators an unusual opportunity to reflect and reform, has only marginally altered the operations and goals of the NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission]”
So, my questions: How does the Union of Concerned Scientists assess the NRC’s current response to the Fukushima disaster? Will that have any bearing on decisions made about Diablo Canyon?
Another question: why did we let President Reagan gut funding to the Solar Bank (for Research and Development), while throwing tax money at nuke power R&D? How much of our energy needs would currently be met by solar/wind/tide/geothermal if Reagan had instead thumbed his nose at nuke power and all those thousands of tons of radioactive waste it would produce?
Solar and other non-radioactive renewable sources of energy are finally surging forward. Why didn’t we let that happen decades ago?
Do Marine Matters Matter?
One document I pulled out of the crate mentioned in my previous post is a set of pages from “Nuclear Waste Management and the Use of the Sea: A Special Report to the President and Congress,” prepared by the United States National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere in April 1984. (Yeah, just like that Orwell book.)
Flipping through pages of attached notes, I come across two quotes that provide me with today’s questions.
From page 32 of the NACOA doc: “Accidents which have been sources of anthropogenic radioactivity in the ocean include: the loss of the nuclear submarines Thresher and Scorpion in the Atlantic Ocean, the crash near Thule, Greenland, of a US airplane carrying nuclear weapons, and the re-entry of a US aerospace nuclear power generator after a satellite launch malfunction. Possible other accidents are unknown.”
Ya think? We all know how eager the US government is to publicize the location of lost nuclear material, right? Just as eager as any other secretive nuclear nation. So, we can agree the US has probably lost more radioactive materials in the ocean than it will ever tell us. Just like all those other nuke nations, right?
And what about the stuff that wasn’t an accident? I remember reading that during the cold war, when Ronald Reagan was twisting the economic thumb screws on the USSR by ratcheting up the arms race, the USSR tried to keep pace by taking shortcuts, such as dumping radioactive waste from its nuclear weapons program and power plants into the ocean (location undisclosed – two-thirds of the nation’s border was coastline.) How many other nations on the fast track to nuclear weapons and nuclear power did the same thing?
Here’s what NACOA said about that issue: (page 33) “The United States and the rest of the world has been dumping low-level and high-level radioactive waste in the oceans for over forty years. During that time our knowledge of radioactivity and its inherent dangers has increased.”
So, forty years before 1984, the world started tossing radioactive trash into the ocean without knowing what harm that waste might eventually do. That was seventy years ago. How long does it take containers to corrode in salt water? How many nations have never stopped using the ocean as a cesspool where they can secretly dump unwanted radioactive waste?
On an unrelated matter – ever hear about whale die-offs not caused by the whaling industry? Inexplicable crashes of fish populations? Dead coral reefs?
Remember, on that evening when you go to watch the sun set over the ocean, and discover the waves glow in the dark, don’t try to blame it all on the earthquake in Japan. Or under Diablo Canyon.
A Crate Full of Questions
My son is reorganizing his garage, turning it into usable work space. He’s doing a beautiful job, designing and building shelving units and cabinets. To make room for reorganization, he needed to move some stuff to a storage shed, but first the shed needed to be emptied. So he brought me several crates full of old papers to sort through.
Paring the mass seemed easy at first, tossing stuff I should have tossed decades ago, like notes from college courses “Appreciation of the Dance,” and “Introduction to Linguistics.” One crate stalled my progress, however.
At first I was tempted to tip the whole thing into a dumpster. After all, the information it contains is decades out-of-date. But glancing at file folder tabs made me remember why I started collecting this info: I wanted to do something to help this planet remain a good place to live. If I knew the information, maybe I could pass it along in entertaining stories that gave teens a grasp of the issue.
Of all the issues I could have chosen, for some reason I settled on the nuclear power industry and the cumulative radioactive contamination of our planet.
Dump the crate, right?The subject’s so dry. The newsletters and magazine articles and notes are decades old, so far out-of-date that it’s probably worthless. But, funny thing, the same week my son dropped off the crates, I saw a small article in the newspaper:
Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is applying to be re-licensed.
You remember Diablo Canyon, don’t you? The shiny new power plant with plans that did not meet the requirements set forth by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). But nuke honchos didn’t want to slow down development of nuke power, so the NRC changed their requirements so they could approve the plans for Diablo Canyon anyway. And then geologists discovered a previously-undetected earthquake fault under the plant’s site, but they built it anyway?
Talk about out-of-date: the Diablo Canyon Nuke Plant is no longer new. Its cooling pipes and structures have been subjected to extreme heat and high levels of radiation for decades. And I betcha that earthquake fault is still there, because the one good thing about that fault is it hasn’t done much moving — so far. (Talk to the folks in Napa about that.)
So when I look at that crate full of old papers now, what I see is a crate full of questions.
How many pools full of spent fuel rods are sitting at Diablo Canyon? How close is it to the ocean? Are they hauling off high-level rad waste in trains that run through populated areas, across trestles with decaying supports? Are they burying waste in dumps that have already been leaking into the groundwater for years? (I once read that every high level rad waste dump in the U.S. had problems with leaking, and that was years ago.) Whatever happened to the whole SuperFund thing anyway? How many of the sites on the list ever got cleaned up? Or did those funds get diverted into a “Shock and Awe” fiasco that was supposed to make the world safe for democracy?
Right now I’m wondering why that place was named Diablo Canyon in the first place. Did the early settlers who named it know something we forgot a long time ago?
This is confusing. My understanding of print-on-demand publishing was that a reader orders and pays for a book before it is printed and shipped. That cuts down on the huge waste of trees turned into paper to print copies of books that end up remaindered. It also reduces the amount of fossil fuel used to ship books that may never be bought. That green factor was one major reason I decided to go with print-on-demand self publishing. Now I learn that various booksellers claim to have many copies of books I thought I took out of print almost two years ago. (I disabled sales channels at the same time.) I never had any idea they had ordered copies. Maybe I’m reading my CreateSpace dashboard wrong, but I can’t find any information on who ordered what when. If they’ve sold any of those copies, will they let me know? Is this whole thing done on an honor system?
Books currently not available
All my self-published books have been out of print (not for sale) for several months (a year or more? I’ve lost track.) My choice. The plan is to find representation for a more recent work, then maybe I can afford to deliver the earlier novels into the hands of a capable editor. I was surprised to learn that several booksellers are offering the volumes of my trilogy at a grossly inflated price, and since the books are out of print, some of the booksellers are offering pre-sale. I do not advise anyone to send them any money. If the booksellers purchased any of the books from my print-on-demand printer, they probably paid about $3.00 per book. So the printer makes $2.50, I might get fifty cents royalty, and the bookseller pockets close to $60.00 as pure profit. If I do offer the trilogy as print-on-demand books again, it will probably be as one volume containing the entire trilogy, and not cost over $33.00. If I find a publisher, of course, things like pricing will not be up to me.
Senders roots 6
Sometime in 1992 KTEH transmission changed. We were no longer able to get channel 54, and didn’t want to take on the monthly payments of cable. No more science fiction nights, no more PBS, no more Sesame Street for my youngest. However, the era of Bill Clinton was ushered in, and negotiations over the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty began in 1993. I renamed ditsy me “Jane Malthus” and began my off-the-wall campaign to persuade Bill to support ratification of the “Seedy Bee Tea.”