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January 26, 1974 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily, 1974-01-26

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Saturday, January 26, 1974


P 9R ,.

NCLEAR POWER is "the biggest single
risk that any civilization has ever taken."
These are the words of Sen. Howard Baker,
(R.Tenn.), who appeared in a recent ABC-TV
documentary on nuclear power.
This statement accurately describes the
real and incredible dimensions of the health
and safety issues for human life and for
the whole future of the planet that are at
the heart of the nuclear power controversy.
The statement by Sen. Baker is true for
two major reasons:
* Any event that could disperse a nuclear
reactor core has a damage potential in terms
of a death toll that could run into millions
of lives and a permarent contamination of
large areas that is beyond any other event
that is humanly imaginable.
The hazard of the long-lived highly toxic
wastes that the nuclear fission plant must
produce in order to operate will persist for
thousands of centures - requiring perpetual
care from all future generations. A safe place
for the long-term storage of these hazardous
wastes does not exist today, even though the
drive to build many large nuclear plants
IN SPITE OF the sweeping risk of this
technology that affects every person in the
country, how many students or faculty mem-
bers, on this campus or any campus, under-
stand the nature of this risk and how it was
prepared for them?
The general public is even less informed
- having been lulled into apathy by billions
of dollars of advertising and promotion put
out ,by the utilities, electrical manufactur-
ers, and the Atomic Energy Commission,
telling them nuclear power is "safe, clean,
and economical."
In reality, nuclear power is none of these.
It is, instead, in the words of Supreme Court
Justice William Douglas, "the most danger-
ous technology ever devised by man."
The national safety and radiation and
rulemaking hearings held in 1972 indicated
many areas in which the safety research
and operating experience was not adequate
for the safe broad .deployment of this tech-
RECENT IMPROVED safeguards for the
operation of nuclear plants have corrected
some of the deficiencies, but many im-
portant areas of research still have not been
The AEC likes to project the image that
its function is "to perform as a referee serv-
ing the public Interest," but in reality, the
Atomic Energy Act of 1954, by which the
current nuclear power program was estab-
lished, charges the AEC with not only the
regulation but the promotion of nuclear pow-
er. Therefore, there has never been a single
license denied for a nuclear power plant as
the result of a public hearing.
In fact, citizens who seek to enter the
public hearing required by law at the con-
struction license phase of every n-plant are
warned by their attorneys that they are in
a "no-win" controversy where the most they
can hope to accomplish it to bring the nature
of the issue in the current development of
nuclear power to the public through the testi-
mony of the expert witnesses and the cross-
examination that is part of the licensing
ALTHOUGH THE AEC claims its principal
licensing responsibility is to protect the
health and safety of the public, the fact is
that all manner of activities take place prior
to the public hearing, to predetermine the
outcome of the hearing and to prejudice the
findings of the hearings themselves.
An unrf

D THE CURRENT residents of this planet.
have the right to force a burden on the
human race for the next 100,000 years which,
if neglected, could have harmful effects on
a vast number of human beings - and all
other forms of life?
Are we certain that we can protect our-
selves from such a tragedy now, much less
for countless generations to come?
These are questions that must be faced,
for it is within the next few years that the
decisions will be made determining the ex-
tent to which this country and others wil
supply needs for energy with nuclear pow-
Oddly enough, the questions facing us are
profoundly moral in nature, despite the high
ly technical problems involved in the pro
ductions of electricity by nuclear fission.
Nuclear fission can produce vast amounts
of electrical power. The technical problems
can be solved, possibly to a very high degree
of statistical safety. But it is the quirks
of human nature that are the most troubling.
ONE OF THE MOST difficult problems of
nuclear energy is the development of safe
methods of storing the toxic waste materials
The two major byproducts of fission are
strontium-90 and cesium-137 with half-lives
of approximately 30 years. It has been esti-
mated that wastes from a large nuclear
economy (400 plants or more) would have
to be stored under constant vigilance for 100,-
nn ..aa-

energy olicy ignor

For example, the AEC has permitted huge
expenditures of funds by the utilities at pro-
posed reactor sites before a hearing is even
announced. In the Midland case, Consumers
Power Company and the Dow Chemical Com.
pany had already committed $54,000,000 to
the site preparation and construction of the
proposed plants before the construction lic-
ense hearing was even announced.
This situation is now partially corrected.
A recent AEC ruling forbids spending mon-
ey on site preparation but permits the utilit-
ies to order the reactors themselves prior to
any public hearing. This is allowed- even
though the National Environmental Policy
Act requires a consideration of all alterna-
tives before any choice for power generation
is made.
Although the AEC contends that in the
public hearings required by law at every
construction site that citizens are equal par-
ticipants with the applicant and the agent in
the proceedings, the realities that citizens
encounter are quite different.)

ever, in an Atomic Energy proceeding
many of the minds are made up prior to
the initiation of the public hearing and
the taking of evidence. A major agony,
therefore, is that of the Regulatory Staff
of the Utility Executive who feels im-
posed upon by having to go through a
public hearing after the Director of Reg-
ulation has satisfied himself that the pro-
posed power plant is safe and may be
licensed for construction or operation.
And a major irony is that if at the point
of hearing a member of the public who
may be affected intervenes, the AEC,
without regard to the mandatory r-
quirement for hearing and because of its
administrative inconsistencies, places
every barrier possible in the way of the
intervenor securing a real public hear-
"THE BASIC problems facing inter-
venors as well as all other parties who
participate in public hearings stem pri-
marily from the fact that the Atomic
. . . . e 4....

competent technical authority. I would E
estimate that perhaps $500,000 is the t
sum needed to fund an adequate inter- l
vention. Very often an intervenor finds
it almost impossible to obtain the serv-t
ices of qualified persons to serve as c
experts. Too often, the intervenor has felt
that he was in contest with not only thet
utility and the nuclear vendors, but alsol
with the Atomic Energy Commission. I
If local intervention is to serve as a
check on deployment of unsafe reactors
or of unsafe siting, the ntervenors must
have access to some independent author-
ity with which to challenge the organ-
ized technical resources of the utility..."
(No intervening group has ever been able
to raise any sum even remotely approaching
the amount that Dr. Lapp believes is neces-
sary for an adequate n-plant licensing re-
FINALLY, a report completed in October,
1973, under a grant offered by the National
Science Foundation has a number of ob-
servations to make particularly in regard
to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Boards
(ASLB) of the Atomic Energy Commission.
A principal conclusion of this National Sci-
ence Foundation report is that "because of
the composition, predilection and defined
role of ASLB's, citizen group opponents of
nuclear power plants are denied substantive
de process and therefore, meaningful par-
ticipation with the opportunity to affect de-
cisions concerning the licensing of nuclear
power plants .. .
"The process is characterized by the
confrontation of a special interest group
(utilities) - affluent, deep in manpower and
financial resources, supported in its con-
tentions by statistics of growing population
and increased consumption of electricity and
by recollection of the brownouts and black-
owts of recent years and aligned with other
nowerfl interests (vendors) and with a fed-
eral agency (AEC) - and an ad hoc under-
fmded, desnerate group of citizens seeking
to ward off or otherwise influence the im-
nosition of a technology which they feel is
unacceptable and inherently dangerous."
FTNALLY, LET US address oursebvcs to
AEC's claims to a "defense in depth" ap-
proach to safety.
The AEC claims that the containment ves-
sels are "massive structures that ace de-
signed, built, and operated in accordance
with stringent standards and criteria to as-
sre that the multinle barriers preventing re-
lese of radioactive material are riot vio-
But what are the facts?
Myron Cherry, attorney for the Midland
citizen inteivenors, has repeatedly asked for
the research data 'which supports the claim
that the pressure vessel cannot be ruptured
and has consistently been denied this in-
formation by the AEC. The remarks of a
senior engineer from AEC's national labora-
tory at Oak Ridge (which appeared in Sci-
ence, September 15, 1972) suggest that it is
doubtful whether such data exist at all. This
engineer said: "What bothers me most, is
that after 20 years we are still making purely
subjective judgments on what is important
and what is not in reactor safety. Purely by
decree, some things, like the rupture of a
reactor pressure vessel, are ruled impos-
sible. To decide these things without some
objective measure of probabilities, is, to me,
almost criminal."
THE HIGH QUALITY workmanship and
materials that the AEC claims to insist upon
is challenged by the many documented in-
stances of poor quality control and the lack

es pub
of adequately trained personnel at construc-
tion sites. This includes the Midland and
Palisades plants.
In fact, on the basis of the serious un-
resolved questions on safety and duality
control, as well as the lack of any real
solution to the high level waste problem,
the Rand Corporation advised the California
Legislature to explore every alternative and
to go to nuclear only as a last resort. They
stated that if nuclear power had to be used,
it should be placed far from population cen-
ters and valuable agricultural land.
The emergency core cooling system that
the AEC cites as its ultimate safeguard in
its "defense-in-depth" in the event the cool-
ing water was lost through a pipe rupture has
never been tested under anything approach-
ing actual operating conditions. The fact
is that six pilot tests were conducted on this
system at ASC's Idaho Testing Station and
all six tests failed.
"In spite of the sweeping risk
of this technology that affects
every person in the country,
how many students or faculty
members on this campus or
any campus, understand the
nature of this risk and how it
was prepared for them?"
Because it affected all reactors, the na-
tinmal safety rule-making hearings w e r e
called in Washington in January, 1972. These
hearings have resulted in some improve-
ments in design. (however, another series of
tests of the emergency core cooling system
were conducted last summer and they also
failed.) A coalition of over 60 environmental
and citizens groups (now grown to over 100)
immediately entered those hearings to re-
present the public interest. This coalition is
called the Consolidated National Intervenors,
with headquarters at 153 "E" Street, S.E.,
in Washington, D.C.


'.ION CHERRY, the attorney for the Energy Commission is both promoting
intervening citizens in the Midland n-plant and regulating atomic energy at the
gave an address before the Midland same time. Congress should take from
Bar Association in February, 1971, analyz- the Commission one of these responsibil-
ing the AEC licensing process. He made the ities."

following revealing comments:
". . . one must first recognize that an
Atomic Energy Commission public hear-
ing is unlike any animal we, as lawyers,
have ever seen.
"In most administrative agencies of
which I have knowledge, the decision-
making process is in large part a function
of the public hearing. In other words,
minds are made up and decisions are
rendered after the evidence has been
sifted and accepted or rejected. How-

Nuclear consultant Ralph Lapp, also ad-
dressed himself to the problem of the
citizens and the n-plant licensing hearing
in his testimony for the National Interven-
ors during the national safety rule-making
hearings. His testimony (dated March 23,
1972) states in part:
" . ..If he (the layman) objects to the
siting of a nuclear plant in his vicinity, he
is at a disadvantage in intervening to
oppose the nuclear utility, the intervenor
needs time, money and availability of




the powe
NUCLEAR POWER, as the Washington Postt
has commented, "is growing at a dif-1
fictilt time. The public, sensitive about dan-
gerous pollution from its present poweri
plants, is becoming aware that atomic plants
may have dangerous pollution of theiri
own ..."I
This increased awareness has led to a muchi
wider interest in the licensing process of+
the Atomic Energy Commission - a process+
designed to assure that the public and the
environment are protected as the amount of
electricity generated by the atom increases.
This is a healthy attitude, and one which
the AEC welcomes.
CONGRESS HAS established a framework
for the AEC to license the construction and
operation of nuclear power plants. The re-
view procedures require: (1) a detailed safe-
ty and environmental review of proposed
nuclear power plants by the AEC Regula-
tory Staff, (2) a review of the safety aspects
by a group of independent senior experts who
make up the statutory Advisory Committee
on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), (3) public
hearings before atomic safety and licensing
boards, and (4) a continuing AEC inspec-
tion program throughout the lifetime of the
The AEC's principal licensing responsibil-
ity is to protect the health and safety of
the public. Before the AEC will issue either
a construction permit or an operating license
for a nuclear power plant, it must also satis-
fy itself that full consideration has been
given to environmental values in plans for
construction and operation of the plant. Fur-
ther, it must be satisfied that adequate safe-
guards have been provided for the protection
of fissionable material and that the activi-
ties of the plant will not create or main-
tain a situation inconsistent with the na-
tion's antitrust laws.
ONCE A UTILITY has selected a site for
a nuclear plant and concludes to its satis-
faction that the location will meet the AEC's
requirements concerning, among other things,
population density, seismicity, geology, hy-
drology, meteorology, and environmental pro-
tection, an application for a construction per-
mit and an environmental report are filed
with the AEC. If our Regulatory Staff deter-
mines that the application is complete, it
accepts it and begins a thorough safety and
environmental review to assure that all ne-
cessary siting and design requirements have
been satisfied. This review will continue for
a year or more.
When the Regulatory Staff is nearing com-
pletion of its review, it makes public its
Safety Evaluation Report and meets with the
Advisory Committee on Reactor Saf3guards
(ACRS) to outline its conclusions with re-
spect to the safety of the proposed plant.
The ACRS also hears from the applicant, and
under new procedures which we have just
adopted, interested members of the public
also may present their views to the ACRS
and attend the meetings at which the AEC
staff and the applicant make their presenta-

ic risk
PUBLIC HEARINGS in all parts of the
untry, including Midland, where this issue
id been raised for consideration by the in-
rvening citizens, were recessed in order to
low the AEC to consider this matter. Lic-
ising of all plants was stopped for months
r this reason. This delay was clearly the
sult of the internal AEC conflict over
ie adequacy of the safety of this system
ad therefore of nuclear plants.
The Commission had to define ways. to
tablish adequate criteria for the regulation
the plants. In July 1971 a court decision
so required the AEC to conform to the
ational Environmental Policy Act passed
1 1969. This also stopped licensing for many
nonths Nevertheless, a , public relations
ave was set in motion by utilities and elec-
ical manufacturers, blaming "environmen-
alists" (as all citizens with questions of any
:ind who intervene at nuclear plants are
alled) for the delay and the consequent
scalation of costs of nuclear plants.
THE CONTROVERSY over the adequacy of
he emergency core cooling system still
'ages. On Sept. 10, 1973, the Advisory Com-
nittee on Reactor Safeguards (the nrincipal
ateguard committee for the AEC) stated,
'The Committee reaffirms its position that
.. design changes to improve ECCS cap-
ability should be sought."
In spite of this, the AEC, mindful, no doubt,
>f its legal obligation to promote nuclear
power, has issued 20 operating -licenses and
22 construction permits since May, 1972.
At that time, only 18 plants, mostly of the
small experimental size, were operating.
We do not ask for "risklessness" in our
society, but this reckless plunging of this
country into a proliferation of large, untested
nuclear plants is inviting the ultimate catas-
trophe - the "biggest risk ever taken by
any civilization."
Mary Sincleair is Co-Director of Consolo-
dated National Intervenors, and holds a Mas-
ters degree in Nuclear Power Environmental
Cormunications from the University.
'r plants
three member atomic safety and licensing
board composed of two technical experts
and a lawyer. These hearings are usually held
in the area where the plant is proposed.
Members of the public, and state and local
officials may participate in the hearings and
may be admitted as parties to the nroceed-
ing with the same rights as the utility appli-
cant and the Regulatory Staff. At the con-
clusion of the hearing, the licensing board
issues a decision to grant or deny the ap-
plication. That decision is subject to appeal
to the AEC Appeals Board and the Federal
A SIMILAR safety review is conducted by
the AEC and the ACRS on the application for
an operating license as the plant nears com-
pletion, although a hearing is not manda-
tory. In many recent cases, however, public
hearings have been requested by interested
parties and held at the operating license
No discussion of nuclear plant licensing
would be complete without a discussion of the
"defense-in-depth" approach to safety which
is followed by the AEC.
The basic features of nuclear power plants
are much the same. They include massive
structures that are designed, built and oper-
ated in accordance with stringent standards
and criteria to assure that the multiple bar-
riers preventing release of radioactive ma-

terial are not violated - either by internal
forces or by natural external forces such as
earthquakes and tornadoes.
three successive and mutually reinforcing
levels of defense which would have to be
breached before there could be a serious
accident which would affect the public.
The first level of defense involves design-
ing the plant to assure safety in normal oper-
ation through the use of high quality work-
manship and materials. The second level in-
cludes built-in safety systems designed to
detect flaws; to prevent minor accidents
from escalating into larger ones; and ta
shut. down the reactor, if necessary.
The third level of safety is based on the
unlikely assumption that severe failures will
occur in spite of the other levels of protec-
tive devices built into the reactor. Accord-
ingly, additional safety systems and features
are provided' to limit the consequences of
such postulated major accidents. The emer-
gency core cooling system, about which so
much has been written and said and which
has been the subject of an AEC public rule-
making change, is part of this third line of
NUCLEAR POWER reoresents a unique
situation in the United States. For the first
time we have introduced a technology where
precautions have been taken from the outset.
The safety record is excellent, but this
is no reason to relax our vigilance. Reactors
are not without risk. We do not have risk-
lessness in this society. Our aim at the
Atomic Enerav Commission is to reduce the

this planet has not yet experienced.
Furthermore, we cannot guarantee t h a t
future generations will not inadvertently re-
lease these highly dangerous materials into
the environment. Yet the creation of such
wastes forces us to guarantee just that.
THERE IS A more immediate problem,'
however. We can control the technical prob-
lems, but how do we control civil and inter-
national strife, revolutions, psychoses, sab-
oteurs of all types, variously-motivated hi-
jackers and all sorts of criminal and psycho-
pathic personalities?
In September, 1972, hijackers of a South-
ern Airways jetliner threatened to crash it
into the Oak Ridge nuclear power plant in
Tennessee. Fortunately the threat was not
carried out, but other than evacuation of the
plant, it was apparent that there was no
way in which the situation could be dealt
with by the authorities. As the number of
nuclear plants increases, so does their avail-
ability for purposes of blackmail, vengeance
and sabotage.
Not only do we face the possible dangers of
purposeful destruction, but the possibility of
a breakdown resulting in a "major" acci-
dent as well. A major accident could result in
the destruction of an area the size of New
York City.
ONE AEC expert, Walter Jordan, has not-
ed that we do not yet know whether we have
reduced the risk of accident to a tolerable
level of say, one in 10,000 (his figure).

Photo courtesy Time-Life
Constructing nuclear plants: Shall we continue?

to mention the vastly increased chances of
cancer and defective children).
Another potential problem which until re-
cently has drawn little attention is the pos-
sibility of the theft of nuclear materials.
Recent popular magazine articles have
concluded that it would be fairly easy, un-
der present security arrangements, to steal
enough fissionable material to make a pri-
vately-owned atomic weapon, which could
be used to blackmail an entire region of the
new, and they are generally dismissed by

cident minimal, the risk may still be too
Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) has put it in
terms of gambles which are proper and those
which are immoral. Any society will have to
risk gambles if stagnation is not to result.
but it must differentiate between those that
are necesary or promising and those which
.should be avoided.
In the current energy crisis it is argued
that we must step up our nuclear energy pro-
duction if we are to supply all our needs
and be dependent on no other nation for
Proponents also argue that such clean and

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