Whistleblower: Nuclear Disaster in America is waiting to happen


Key federal official warns that the public has been kept in the dark about safety risks.

November 28, 2012  |

Photo Credit: Aleksey Klints/ Shutterstock.com

 This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.

The likelihood was very low that an earthquake followed by a tsunami would destroy all four nuclear reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, but in March 2011, that’s what happened, and the accident has yet to be contained.

Similarly, the likelihood may be low that an upstream dam will fail, unleashing a flood that will turn any of 34 vulnerable nuclear plants into an American Fukushima.  But knowing that unlikely events sometimes happen nevertheless, the nuclear industry continues to answer the question of how much safety is enough by seeking to suppress or minimize what the public knows about the danger.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has known at least since 1996 that flooding danger from upstream dam failure was a more serious threat than the agency would publicly admit. The NRC failed from 1996 until 2011 to assess the threat even internally.  In July 2011, the NRC staff completed a report finding “that external flooding due to upstream dam failure poses a larger than expected risk to plants and public safety” [emphasis added] but the NRC did not make the 41-page report public.

Instead, the agency made much of another report, issued July 12, 2011 – “Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century,” sub-titled “The Near-Term Task Force Review of Insights from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Accident.”  Hardly four months since the continuing accident began in Japan, the premature report had little to say about reactor flooding as a result of upstream dam failure, although an NRC news release in March 2012 would try to suggest otherwise.

Censored Report May Be Crime by NRC  

That 2012 news release accompanied a highly redacted version of the July 2011 report that had recommended a more formal investigation of the unexpectedly higher risks of upstream dam failure to nuclear plants and the public.  In its release, the NRC said it had “started a formal evaluation of potential generic safety implications for dam failures upstream” including “the effects of upstream dam failure on independent spent fuel storage installations.”

Six months later, in September 2012, The NRC’s effort at bland public relations went controversial, when the report’s lead author made a criminal complaint to the NRC’s Inspector General, alleging “Concealment of Significant Nuclear Safety Information by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”  In a letter dated September 14 and made public the same day, Richard Perkins, an engineer in the NRC’s Division of Risk Analysis, wrote Inspector General Hubert Bell, describing it as “a violation of law” that the Commission:

has intentionally mischaracterized relevant and noteworthy safety information as sensitive, security information in an effort to conceal the information from the public. This action occurred in anticipation of, in preparation for, and as part of the NRC’s response to a Freedom of Information Act request for information concerning the generic issue investigation on Flooding of U.S. Nuclear Power Plants Following Upstream Dam Failure….   

Portions of the publically released version of this report are redacted citing security sensitivities, however, the redacted information is of a general descriptive nature or is strictly relevant to the safety of U.S. nuclear power plants, plant personnel, and members of the public. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has engaged in an effort to mischaracterize the information as security sensitive in order to justify withholding it from public release using certain exemptions specified in the Freedom of Information Act. …

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff may be motivated to prevent the disclosure of this safety information to the public because it will embarrass the agency. The redacted information includes discussion of, and excerpts from, NRC official agency records that show the NRC has been in possession of relevant, notable, and derogatory safety information for an extended period but failed to properly act on it.

 Concurrently, the NRC concealed the information from the public.

The Inspector General has not yet acted on the complaint.

Most Media Ignore Nuclear Safety Risks

Huffington Post picked up the story immediately as did the Union of Concerned Scientists and a number of online news sites.  The mainstream media showed little or no interest in a story about yet another example of the NRC lying to the public about the safety of nuclear power plants.

An NRC spokesman suggested to HuffPo that the report’s redactions were at least partly at the behest of Homeland Security. A second NRC risk engineer, who requested anonymity, said that Homeland Security had signed off on the report with no redactions.  As HuffPo noted:

If this were truly such a security concern, however, it would be incumbent on the agency to act swiftly to eliminate that threat, the engineer stated. As it is, the engineer suggested, no increased security actions have been undertaken.

This same engineer expressed serious misgivings, shared by others in and out of the NRC, that a nuclear power plant in Greenville, South Carolina, has been at risk from upstream dam failure for years, that the NRC has been aware of the risk, and that the NRC has done nothing to mitigate the risk.   In the redacted report, the NRC blacked out passages about this plant.

Event Unlikely, Would Be Sure Disaster 

South Carolina’s Oconee plant on Lake Keowee has three reactors, located 11 miles downstream from the Jocassee Reservoir, an 8,000 acre lake.  As HuffPo put it:

…the Oconee facility, which is operated by Duke Energy, would suffer almost certain core damage if the Jocassee dam were to fail. And the odds of it failing sometime over the next 20 years, the engineer said, are far greater than the odds of a freak tsunami taking out the defenses of a nuclear plant in Japan….

“Although it is not a given that Jocassee Dam will fail in the next 20 years,” the engineer added, “it is a given that if it does fail, the three reactor plants will melt down and release their radionuclides into the environment.”

When the NRC granted an operating license to the Oconee plant in 1973, danger from upstream dam failure was not even considered, never mind considered a threat against which some protection was needed.   The NRC and the plant’s owner both say the Jocassee Dam is not an immediate safety issue.   Oconee’s initial license was for 40 years.  It is now the second plant in the U.S. that the NRC has granted an extended license for another 20 years.

Union of Concerned Scientists Are Concerned 

The Union of Concerned Scientists, which says it is neither pro-nuke nor anti-nuke, but committed to making nuclear power as safe as possible, has considered the risk factors for Oconee. The NRC wrote in 2009 that “a Jocassee Dam failure is a credible event and in 2011 wrote that “dam failures are common” – and that since 1975 there have been more than 700 dam failures, 148 of them large dams 40 feet or more high.  The Jocassee Dam is 385 feet high.

For a dam like Jocassee, the NRC calculates the chance of failure at 1 in 3,600 per year – or 1 in 180 each year for the extended license.  NRC policy, when enforced, requires nuclear plant owners to mitigate any risk that has a 1 in 250 per years chance of occurring.

Oconee has three nuclear reactors, each of which is larger than the reactors at Fukushima, and so has more lethal radioactive potential.   Duke Energy reported its own upstream dam failure calculations to the NRC no later than 1996 and the NRC has responded by requiring no safety enhancements to address the threat.

Noting that the upstream dam failure risk does not take into account possible earthquakes or terrorist attacks, the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote:

The 34 reactors of concern are downstream from a total of more than 50 dams, more than half of which are roughly the size of the Jocassee dam. Assuming the NRC’s failure rate applies to all of those dams, the probability that one will fail in the next 40 years is roughly 25 percent—a 1 in 4 chance.

List of Reactors Potentially at High Risk of Flooding due to Dam Failure

 

Alabama: Browns Ferry, Units 1, 2, 3

Arkansas: Arkansas Nuclear, Units 1, 2

Louisiana: Waterford, Unit 3

Minnesota: Prairie Island, Units 1, 2

Nebraska: Cooper;  Fort Calhoun

New Jersey: Hope Creek, Unit 1;  Salem, Units 1, 2

New York: Indian Point, Units 2, 3

North Carolina: McGuire, Units 1, 2

Pennsylvania: Beaver Valley, Units 1, 2; Peach Bottom, Units 2, 3; Three Mile Island, Unit 1

Tennessee: Sequoyah, Unit 1;  Watts Bar, Unit 1

Texas: South Texas, Units 1, 2

South Carolina: H.B. Robinson, Unit 2;  Oconee, Units 1, 2, 3

Vermont: Vermont Yankee

Virginia: Surrey, Units 1, 2

Washington: Columbia

(Source: Perkins, et al., “Screening Analysis,” July 2011) 

When ISI became a ‘front for SIMI’ #ban


Muzamil Jaleel : New Delhi, Mon Oct 01 2012, Indian Express
 

In the circles of police’s “SIMI investigations”, the name Maulana Naseeruddin comes up often. Sometimes he has been charged, sometimes his sons, sometimes his acquaintances. In one such case against an “associate” of his son, the Hyderabad police filed an affidavit before the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal calling Pakistan’s ISI a front of SIMI.

Asked by the tribunal to explain his claim, P Devender, then inspector in Saidabad police station, reiterated that “it is correct that in my affidavit when I referred to Inter Service Intelligence, I am referring to Inter Service Intelligence of Pakistan” and that the nodal officer of Andhra Pradesh will be “filing a secret note on the basis of which this statement has been made”.

Moutasim Billa

DEVENDER’S affidavit, filed on June 11, 2010, was part of the government’s evidence to justify the continuance of the ban on SIMI. To substantiate his claim that SIMI was “functioning under various fronts like the ISI”, Devender cited a case registered in March 2008 at the Saidabad police station when he was an inspector there.

It concerned Moutasim Billa, 22, of Jevan Yar Jung Colony, Saidabad, who had been arrested on March 5, 2008, from near his residence. Devender claimed that Billa was arrested because he had been booked in an FIR (198/2007) at the Gopalapurram police station.

Devender also called him a close associate of “the son of Maulana Naseeruddin”, who is a “SIMI activist”. Naseeruddin and Billa’s father, Mohammad Aleem Islahi, are well-known clerics in Saidabad and their families used to be close then. Along with Naseeruddin’s, Islahi’s is the other address frequently at the centre of any terror investigation in Hyderabad.

At the time of Billa’s arrest, the Hyderabad police had claimed that it was in connection with two “rioting” cases registered against him, in 2004 (an incident involving the death of his brother) and in 2007 (for terror conspiracy and sedition, registered at the Gopalapurram police station). Hyderabad police had booked 21 Muslim youths including Billa for a terror conspiracy and subsequently linked them to the Mecca Masjid blasts. Billa and the other accused were acquitted on December 31, 2008. The Mecca Masjid blast case finally took a new turn after Swami Aseemanand’s confession in December 2010, which implied that these Muslim men had all been wrongly blamed. Eighty-two Muslim men had been picked up, interrogated or booked and all were subsequently acquitted.

In May this year, Billa was again named, this time in four cases of rioting and disturbance of peace, and shown as an “absconding accused”. “These recent cases were registered one after another in a single day,” said Billa, who recently earned a B Tech degree. “They have shown me as absconding, which means, ‘You can go on with your life till we want to take you away again’.”

Maulana Naseeruddin

THE 2004 rioting case against Billa, in fact, provides the context to this entire story. That October 31, Naseeruddin had gone to the DGP’s office along with his lawyer and a few other people to sign his weekly attendance, necessary because of an earlier case of communal violence. “Two months earlier, I had been arrested after police claimed I was going to plant bombs in a Ganesh temple. This absurd allegation came as a shock; I fell ill and was shifted to hospital. Our lawyer friends secured bail; this weekly attendance was a condition,” Naseeruddin said.

“That day, I reached the office late. My son-in-law Khalid, who is a lawyer, and a few others accompanied me. The CID officer who would take my signature asked me to wait, saying a senior officer wanted to talk to me.” Naseeruddin said he was taken to the IG, who told him a warrant for his arrest had come from Gujarat. A contingent of Guajarat Police led by then ACP Narendera Amin (now in jail over the murder of Sohrabuddin and Kousar Bi in a fake encounter) were waiting for Naseeruddin, “accused of a role in (former Gujarat minister) Haren Pandya’s murder”.

“People from our neighbourhood collected outside the gate,” Naseeruddin said. “They didn’t allow the Gujarat police vehicle to leave and there was a scuffle. Narendra Amin opened fire.” Mujahid Saleem, 26, Billa’s elder brother, was killed, protests followed, and the Andhra government promised a magisterial inquiry besides filing a case against Gujarat police. Police registered a case of rioting against Billa, too.

The maulana was taken to Gujarat and was initially arrested on charges of instigating Pandya’s killers, and subsequently booked in the Ahmedabad conspiracy case — an alleged conspiracy to avenge the Gujarat riots. On January 12, 2010, a designated POTA court acquitted the maulana along with others and he was released.

THE MAULANA’S SONS

“A lot had happened during those five years. My three sons had all been arrested,” Naseeruddin said. He said the two elder sons were framed but added that the youngest, without the family’s knowledge, had gone to Pakistan for arms training.

“When the Gujarat police shot Mujahid Saleem, my youngest son Raziyuddin Nasir was there. He saw Saleem die. This affected him deeply. When I was in jail in Gujarat, my wife told me he had to be taken to a psychiatrist,” Naseeruddin said. “After some time, he went for Umrah (pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia). He went missing for one-and-a-half years. During that time, he had gone to Pakistan for arms training. We had no clue,” he said. “We heard about him only when the Bangalore police arrested him (in 2008).”

He said his two elder sons, Maqeemuddin Yasir and Baleeguddin Jabir, were framed. “Yasir has three children and was the manager of our workshop while Jabir was a third year student at Deccan Engineering College. The police accused them of being involved in the Mecca Masjid and other blasts and arrested them, a year after the blasts,” he said. “They couldn’t show even a bit of evidence but didn’t release them. They were shifted to Madhya Pradesh where their names had been included in a SIMI case in Dhar. They had never been to Dhar.”

He said for the next few years, their case didn’t move. “The case was shifted to Indore where the trial concluded earlier this month; both were acquitted… This country is our home too. Why is there no justice for us?”

THE YOUNGEST SON

ON JANUARY 30, 2008, according to Satyapaa Sambha Khote, then DSP, Special Enquiry Squad, Bangalore, a youth named Mohd Asif was stopped by an inspector of Gokul Road police station, Hubli, for speeding with his motorcycle. “It was found that he did not have documents of the motorcycle. Hence the PI (inspector) seized the vehicle and filed a case,” Khote said.

Investigations allegedly revealed Asif’s “involvement” with SIMI. The police made 18 more people accused on March 20, 2008, including Raziyuddin Nasir. In the affidavit, Khote claimed that Asif, a medical student at Hubli, and two other accused had met in “Castle Rock, Haliyal Road farmhouse, and Soudatti Road Darga” in the last week of April 2008, “aimed inter-alia at Islamisation of the world by means of Jihad”. According to Khote, the three held another “conspiracy meeting” at Castle Rock in November 2007 where they decided to “damage the sovereignty of the government of India and to ignite anti-national sentiments… ultimately changing the elected sovereign government and establishing Islamic government”.

Khote went on to give a long list of their “targets” — Kaiga nuclear plant, Infosys in Bangalore, Dell, IBM etc. For this mammoth task, they were apparently armed with four country-made revolvers — three of these rusted and defunct — and homemade grenades with gelatin sticks.

Khote produced a “confessional statement” by Nasir to Karnataka police, admitting he had gone to Pakistan for arms training. In the statement, Nasir says he was disillusioned after his father’s arrest and the death of “our family friend” Mujahid Saleem during the protest. Nasir was later booked in the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts case and is currently in Sabarmati jail in Gujarat.

THE WOMEN

In his affidavit filed on June 11, 2010, inspector Devender said that after Billa’s arrest on March 5, 2008, the women of Billa’s family — whom Devender calls “SIMI support militant ladies” — led by Billa’s sister Huma Islahi and Maulana Naseeruddin’s wife Tasneem Fatima had “attacked” the police station. Thirty women and children were rounded up in March 2008, including one with her seven-year-old daughter. Seven of them were students, 15 aged 19. Nine of the women were sent by the court for age determination tests to check if they were minors.

While most of the women were from Billa’s family or his neighbours and there was nothing to link them to SIMI, the affidavit called it a “rare case in entire India where SIMI militant activists organised their lady activists and… assaulted police”. Devender admitted that investigation records do not show these women as SIMI members. “This is as per my knowledge while working in the department and as per intelligence sources,” he said.

The Kinship Of Impunity #justice #Law


By Mukul Dube

02 October, 2012
Countercurrents.org

A Supreme Court decision of 26 September 2012 was reported in the newspapers in a manner that suggested wishful thinking. Headlines are necessarily abbreviated, and those in this instance said that the SC had sent a message to “the police” about branding people on the basis of religion. The message, in fact, was specifically to the Gujarat Police: “District Superintendent of Police and Inspector General of Police and all others entrusted with the task of operating the law must not do anything which allows its misuse and abuse and [must] ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because ‘My name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist.’”

It could be argued that the message should have been sent out explicitly to all the police forces in the country, because there is probably no part of India in which Muslims are not automatically and unthinkingly treated as terrorists. The SC bench may well have decided not to make general its specific injunction because that could have invited the accusation that it had over-stepped its bounds.

It is, however, impossible for anyone connected with the application of the laws to be unaware of the noise that has recently been made about the targeting of Muslims in India in matters related to terrorism. Report after report from citizens’ groups has spoken of the indefensible and arguably motivated phenomenon, and there have been public meetings about it in many cities across the land. It is high on the agendas of those concerned with civil rights.

The SC was dealing with appeals related to a January 2002 judgment of a Designated Court in Gujarat in TADA cases from 1994, 1995 and 1996. The matter hinged on whether or not the necessary permission had been obtained from specified officials before the accused were charged under TADA.

The SC did not accept the prosecution’s contention that A.K. Suroliya, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, had given the necessary permission. Among other things, it found the tale of lost documents too tall to swallow. However, it did not speak of penalising any of the persons involved in dishing out falsehoods to cover up the illegality of their action.

The realist will ask, of course, what good that would have done. We know that nearly all the enquiries into religious violence – I hold the expression “communal riot” to be a lie – starting with that into the Jabalpur violence of 1961, have pinned down responsibility and have spoken of officials’ dereliction of duty or worse. No punishment worth the name followed.

Recent judgments of many courts in cases related to terrorism which have exonerated the innocent individuals who were arrested and then incarcerated and tortured for long periods, in the process destroying their lives and those of their families, have also censured members of the police force and have recommended departmental action against them. Here too, no action other than the white-wash kind was taken.

Indeed, the report on the Special Cell of the Delhi Police released recently by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association gives examples of the absurdity of police functionaries actually being promoted and rewarded despite having had strictures passed against them by courts of law.

Do our country’s police forces function in circumstances of impunity? Are there means and mechanisms by which it can be ensured that the “upholders of the law” do not themselves go against the law in their actions? Or are the law-men to be always a law unto themselves?

Certainly there are rules within the police bureaucracy. The repeated recommendations by courts of departmental action call for these rules to be applied. However, there seems to be in the police bureaucracy – as in other bureaucracies which, coexisting with one another and also ranged against one another, go to make up the government – what might be called a culture of impunity or a kinship of impunity.

Every policeman, from constable to Inspector General or Commissioner, belongs to the same “family”: and while an unruly youngster may have his wrist slapped, he will not be expelled from the collectivity or have serious action taken against him. Every policeman is, after all, dependent on every other policeman. If one is harmed, all are harmed.

The courts are held to be supreme in matters to do with the law. But they are no more than another bureaucracy – the babudom of justice – and they cannot realistically be expected to apply to the police the laws which they apply to ordinary people. Thus the recommendation of departmental action, despite it being common knowledge that that is little more than a matter of going through the motions, appearing to impose discipline while merely covering up errors and crimes and warding off disgrace.

I see no reason why the courts must limit themselves to making recommendations. When they have taken independent action in many other circumstances, why should they be essentially toothless when the police are involved?

Don’t give terror tag to innocent minority people: Supreme Court #goodnews


 

26 September 2012 , By J. Venkatesan , The Hindu
Police must ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because “my name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist,” a Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and C.K. Prasad said on Wednesday. File photo

Police must ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because “my name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist,” a Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and C.K. Prasad said on Wednesday. File photo
Ensure that no innocent has the feeling of sufferance only because ‘my name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist,’ Bench tells Police

No innocent person should be branded a terrorist and put behind bars simply because he belongs to a minority community, the Supreme Court has told the Gujarat Police.

Police must ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because “my name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist,” a Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and C.K. Prasad said on Wednesday.

It ordered the acquittal of 11 persons, arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and other laws, and convicted for allegedly planning to create communal violence during the Jagannath Puri Yatra in Ahmedabad in 1994.

“We emphasise and deem it necessary to repeat that the gravity of the evil to the community from terrorism can never furnish an adequate reason for invading personal liberty, except in accordance with the procedure established by the Constitution and the law,” the Bench said.

Being an anti-terrorist law, the TADA’s provisions could not be liberally construed, the Bench said. “The District Superintendent of Police and the Inspector-General and all others entrusted with operating the law must not do anything which allows its misuse and abuse and [must] ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because ‘My name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist’.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Prasad said: “We appreciate the anxiety of the police officers entrusted with preventing terrorism and the difficulty faced by them. Terrorism is a crime far serious in nature, graver in impact and highly dangerous in consequence. It can put the nation in shock, create fear and panic and disrupt communal peace and harmony. This task becomes more difficult when it is done by organised groups with outside support.”

‘Means more important’

But in the country of the Mahatma, the “means are more important than the end. Invoking the TADA without following the safeguards, resulting in acquittal, gives an opportunity to many and also to the enemies of the country to propagate that it has been misused and abused.”In this case, Ashraf Khan and 10 others, who were convicted under the TADA, the Arms Act and the IPC were aggrieved that no prior approval of the SP, as mandated under the provisions, was obtained before their arrest and recording of statements.

Appeal allowed

Allowing their appeals against a Gujarat TADA court order, the Bench said: “From a plain reading of the provision, it is evident that no information about the commission of an offence shall be recorded by the police without the prior approval of the District Superintendent of Police. An Act which is harsh, containing stringent provisions and prescribing a procedure substantially departing from the prevalent ordinary procedural law, cannot be construed liberally. For ensuring rule of law its strict adherence has to be ensured.”

The Bench said: “In view of our finding that their conviction is vitiated on account of non-compliance with the mandatory requirement of prior approval under Section 20-A(1) of the TADA, the confessions recorded cannot be looked into to establish the guilt under the aforesaid Acts. Hence, the conviction of the accused under Sections 7 and 25(1A) of the Arms Act and 4, 5 and 6 of the Explosive Substances Act cannot also be allowed to stand.”