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Feds Cutting Back On Nuclear Power Plant Safety Because Honestly, Why Bother

This is the bright side of coming atomic death!The last few years has been pretty much a nonstop ride of positive safety PR for the nuclear power industry, right? I mean, this is an technology that absorbed an enormous earthquake and tsunami and barely even killed anyone/left whole towns uninhabitable/terrified the world. Nuclear power couldn’t even bring harm to erstwhile Wonkette scribe Jack Stuef! So really, why should Americans be spending our precious tax dollars on making our own nuclear power plants safer, when that money could be diverted to more pressing needs (tax cuts for billionaires, hott new missile defense systems, capital gains tax cuts … just spitballing here). But don’t worry, we don’t need those gridlocked crumbums in Congress to make these important decisions, since they were already put into place by updates to obscure federal regulations six months ago.

You know what really sucks and is boring is practicing stuff, as we remember very clearly from high school band, where we had to go to rehearsal every morning before school and lessons and (theoretically) practice on our own during the week and yet never once did we become a prominent jazz trombonist! Therefore practice is for losers, and there’s no point in practicing for what would happen if a nuclear plant released a “significant amount of radiation,” which totally works out because now you can have training exercises at nuclear plants that don’t deal with that at all!

Also, anyone who has ever tried to maintain an old broken down car knows what a pain it is to keep ancient equipment going past its prime. That’s why you’ll be relieved to hear that the Feds have relaxed the safety regulations for nuclear power plants operating beyond their design life, since living up those regulations would be hard and it’s not like we don’t still need the electricity even though those plants are like 50 years old now, amiright?

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Anyway, don’t worry too much about this, because the number of Americans living within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant has really dropped in the last few decades. Oh, wait, did we say dropped, we meant “ballooned by as much as 4 1/2 times since 1980.” Enjoy the circa 1998 stylings of the Associated Press’s website (“Best viewed in Netscape Navigator 4!”) while your Wonkette turns the basement into an air-tight, lead-lined safety chamber. [AP]

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About the author

Josh was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, leaving him with a love of chicken wings and a tendency to say “pop”. He taught ancient Greek and Roman history to undergraduates before fleeing from academia in terror; worked for a failed San Francisco dot-com that neglected to supply him with stock options or an Aeron chair; lived in Berlin, where he mostly ate Indian and Ethiopian food; finished in third place on his sole Jeopardy! appearance (the correct answer was “Golda Meir”); and was named 2007 Blogger of the Year by The Week, for obvious reasons. Josh is the creator/editor of COMICS CURMUDGEON (which you should read) and does geeky editing and writing about geeky things such as "the Java programming industry for JavaWorld." He lives in Baltimore with his wife Amber and his cat Hoagie.

View all articles by Josh Fruhlinger

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120 comments

    1. DemmeFatale

      And just because the terrorists navigating down the Hudson River used it as a landmark on the way to the World Trade Center…

      And they don't "dry cask" their nuclear waste…

      And there is no escape route for millions of people…

    2. NorfolkAndWay

      Unfortunately, it's never immediate unless there's a bomb involved. Even if you climbed into the core and back out, it would take several horrific hours.

  1. SorosBot

    As long as nuclear safety technician Homer Simpson is on the job, we'll all be safe!

      1. Baconzgood

        "Oh my god! Oh god no! Oh this can't be happening! You're operating without a T-437, Springfield! Oh sweet mother of mercy! I mean, my god!"

        1. SorosBot

          Homer, your bravery and quick thinking have turned a potential Chernobyl into a mere Three-Mile Island.

          1. not that Radio

            "I think it's ironic that Dad saved the day, while a slimmer man would've fallen to his death."

        2. not that Radio

          "The fingers you have used to dial are too fat. To obtain a special dialing wand, please mash the keypad with your palm, now."

  2. BaldarTFlagass

    When the South Texas Nuclear Plant goes all Chernobyl, I hope I get a cool mutation, like being able to see through women's clothes or something. Knowing my luck, though, I'll probably just get thyroid cancer.

      1. BaldarTFlagass

        Close. Nu-clear, pronounced nu-kew-ler. "In the fewcher, we're gonna git are paar from nuculer plants instead o' awl."

    1. actor212

      I hope I get a cool mutation, like being able to see through women's clothes or something.

      It's called a "water hose"….

    2. Wile E. Quixote

      Yeah, I'd probably just get thyroid cancer, or end up being exposed to a bone-seeker like Strontium 90 and having all of my marrow rot. Plus even if I did get a super power it would probably be something totally lame, like always having exact change or some shit like that. Still, it would be better than being Aquaman.

  3. MadBrahms

    I'm one of those much-hated lefties who actually approves of nuclear power, at least until we can get our ridiculous consumption patterns under control, but good goddam, what?

    I suppose I could get behind this if we sent the billionaires refund checks laced with strontium.

    1. actor212

      I support nuclear power too but only as a stopgap between fossil fuels and renewables.

      I recognize there's an huge risk involved. I'm just willing to roll the dice on the risk that *could* happen versus the shit we're doing to ourselves already.

    2. spinozasgod

      I agree, I am OK with nucear power as long as there are strict regulation, but this nuts……

    3. SoBeach

      There are plenty of similar lefties. Every kwh coming out of nukular plants is one less generated from burning the dirtiest, cheapest oil available. And the pile of left over poison is all in one place, rather than dispersed in the atmosphere. That's the plan, anyway.

    4. Terry

      Maybe the billionaires who receive the tax cuts should be the one responding to a problem with the reactors.

      1. Biel_ze_Bubba

        I think the Hamptons, Cos Cob, and Martha's Vineyard are great locations for nuke plants. Those huge private estates help minimize the at-risk population.

    5. DemmeFatale

      Modern updates can make nuclear plants MUCH safer, but the sons-of-bitches fight them tooth and nail every time. (They whine about them being too expensive.)

    6. tejanojim

      I respect your position, and I used to be of the same mind. The more I learn about the nuclear power industry as it actually exists, rather than how we would like it to be, the more I oppose it. Also, too, you know where would be better to store high level radioactive waste than in spent fuel pools at each individual reactor? Almost anywhere, that's where.

  4. V572 Is this him?

    San Onofre, the nuke plant on the Camp Pendleton shoreline that supplies juice to San Diego and Orange counties and looks like an enormous pair of disembodied boobs, has been shut down for a few months now because the "steam generators" (an enormous nest of pipes called heat exchangers that move heat from radioactive water to non-radioactive water) are having difficulties. Chafing, apparently, from all the hot-and-cool cycles. No one knows why, or how to fix it.

      1. actor212

        Yea, but it turns out you have to buy the plant flowers and dinner and a diamond ring and then get her drunk to turn her back on.

    1. BaldarTFlagass

      Well, at least they shut it down, rather than just letting it go to see if the problem would become self-evident.

    2. MissNancyPriss

      Really? I stay up at night worrying that those boobs. That sit on a faultline. Does "shut down" mean it can't still melt down and kill us? For now?

    3. NorfolkAndWay

      Hot-and-cool cycles is a low-cycle process. This tube wear is a high-cycle process – from flow-induced vibration. We know that's what it is, we just don't know why. No tube is going to leak, it will be plugged long before it gets to that point.

  5. Native_of_SL_UT

    I want to be an omnipotent blue man too, mostly so nobody will dare mention that I'm walking around with my dick hanging out.
    I have a feeling the GOP plan would make my dick fall off before achieving this goal though.

    1. BaldarTFlagass

      I saw their show out in Vegas a couple years back, but they didn't have their dicks showing.

      1. BornInATrailer

        It's going to be weird when, after the coming nuclear apocalypse, the cast members are actually blue, earless and mute.

      2. V572 Is this him?

        You should have gone to "Puppetry of the Penis" instead. Plenty of dick on display there.

      1. widestanceromance

        Of course, it might be fun to have a 12-foot P-E-N-I-S, where you gonna find a proportionate intestine to rupture, other than Gov. Christie (and who could face something like that?)?

    1. ElPinche

      Nuculars are good for you. They make you smart and strong and give you big CGI pee pees.

  6. memzilla

    Real men don't need nuclear safety regulations. All we have to do is call in Chuck Norris and he will kick those gamma ray's asses back into the containment vessel.

    1. Corrugated Palin

      Alternately, Chuck Norris dies a slow and painful death from radiation sickness.

      It's win/win.

  7. savethispatient

    It makes perfect sense that, like classic cars, classic nuclear facilities need not meet the same safety standards as modern ones. Otherwise, our children may grow up not knowing what a classic 1960s reactor looks like, or even fail to get exposed to a comic-book super-hero creating levels of radiation. And our children need heroes!

    1. actor212

      Really! No one is born a Viking god and lying in suspended animation under the polar ice caps takes too long, but a good shot of gamma radiation, and you too can save the planet!

    2. UW8316154

      Exactly. Plus, I grew up in the late 60's terrified of the fiery ball of radiation that would melt my family, why shouldn't the next generation?

  8. SayItWithWookies

    As long as we don't ruin the ocean view from Donald Trump's golf course*, I say the risk is worth it.

    *Edit: meant to add "with unsightly wind turbines," which makes it slightly more understandable a comment. Dumbass.

  9. Doktor StrangeZoom

    you’ll be relieved to hear that the Feds have relaxed the safety regulations for nuclear power plants operating beyond their design life …

    Makes sense to me. My 1973 Chevy, "Vlad the Impala," doesn't have to be emissions-tested, after all.

    1. Jus_Wonderin

      There is a strange comfort in just flat out knowing that, yes, this ton of steel does indeed emit toxins.

      I can remember, though I shouldn't be able to, standing in the exhaust of my Mom's '62 Biscayne and thinking…this is really cool fog!!

  10. SmutBoffin

    Can't we just make meltdowns illegal? Fissile material needs to understand that radioactive decay biased by slow neutron injection is a privilege, not a right.

    Problem solved!

  11. Callyson

    The revamp, the first since the program began after Three Mile Island in 1979, also eliminates a requirement that local responders always practice for a release of radiation.

    Seriously–if those wimps can't handle a little radiation, they should become Wall Street bankers instead!

    JFC…

    ETA: So, what will those first responders do instead?

    Under the new rules, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which run the program together, have added one new exercise: More than a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, state and community police will now take part in exercises that prepare for a possible assault on their local plant.

    Oh, for fuck's sake…

    1. Biel_ze_Bubba

      Prepare for an assault – right. They gonna put Sidewinder missles on top of the local cops' patrol cars?

    1. chicken_thief

      It'll prolly help make us all cry uncontrollably jes. like. John, too! Also!!!

  12. Billmatic

    Big deal we'll all just have super powers. I hope I get something good and not something lame like Jubilee.

        1. V572 Is this him?

          Right, but is it wrong to say that it and all the other trans-uranic elements are “man-made” in that they only come into existence as a result of human activity?

          1. George Spelvin

            Sorry. That was intended to be a lame Megyn Kelly joke, but apparently all I achieved was the "lame" part.

            You are of course right about the transuranics.

  13. WhatTheHeck

    I’m still waiting for my nookuler-powered DeLorean so I can get back to the fission.

    1. Jus_Wonderin

      I always wondered how many miles per banana peel we will get when that car is a reality.

  14. iburl

    OT: Randall "Hate my gay son" Terry has kindly invited all of us "child-killers" to his new WARBLOG to be verbally assaulted! C U there!!

    @RightWingWatch: Randall Terry invites "child-killers" at @Jezebel & @Wonkette to his new anti-choice website http://t.co/NqDzs7am

    1. UW8316154

      Enticing, but….wouldn't it be funnier if Randy threw down a WARBLOG challenge and nobody showed up?

  15. JustPixelz

    "…nuclear power plants operating beyond their design life…"

    (That's a phrase usually associated with Albania or Uz-becki-becki-becki-stan-stan.)

    We should insist that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission members only travel by aircraft that are operating beyond their design life. If that's good enough for nuclear plants, it must be good enough for something as simple as an airplane.

    1. NorfolkAndWay

      The allowable crack length in an aluminum aircraft skin is about 3 feet. Because the mechanism is known and the growth rate is predictable. That is also why most metallurgists drink heavily before they fly.

  16. HistoriCat

    FEMA officials say the revised standards introduce more variability into planning exercises and will help keep responders on their toes. The nuclear power industry has praised the changes on similar grounds.

    "the [whatever] industry has praised the changes" is never a good sign.

  17. chicken_thief

    Those bullshit scare tactics don't worry me. I live in NJ. When, iffffff, nuclear disaster strikes we'll just roll a herd of cattle in all the toxic shit and super hero Chris "you gonna finish that twinkie?" Christie will eat it, thereby sparing the rest of Joizee-ites from any ill effects. Except those of having Christie as Gov, that is.

  18. OneYieldRegular

    My favorite moment of the Sarkozy/Hollande debate was Sarkozy patronizingly lecturing Hollande on how it was just impossible to dream of giving up on nuclear power – neglecting to mention that Germany, right next door. had done that very thing last year. Also, as part of Sarkozy's argument for not shutting down one problematic French nuke plant, he observed that there was no need since there was no danger of a tsunami in the French Alps.

  19. Weenus299

    Two nuke facilities Kiowee-Toxaway, V.C. Summer, and a former nuke plant/storage facility, SRS, are within three hours drive of me. I'm pretty much a diseased sack of shit any way it goes. Also: I'm in the south, so paint chips, leaded water, poverty, dumbth-in-schools, shitty drivers on roads, pretty much means I'm a dead man anywhere I go.

    1. NorfolkAndWay

      You almost certainly mean Oconee Nuclear Station – Keowee-Toxaway is a hydroelectric project. Pretty up there, though. But you are right, the crappy drivers are the main threat, paint chips and leaded water somewhat less so.

  20. Jus_Wonderin

    We've had half a century or more to buildup our immunity to this nucleary stuff. What are our scientists doing with their time???????

  21. randcoolcatdaddy

    Well, this is certainly good news for someone's reelection campaign fund!

  22. Naked_Bunny

    They spent all their money on those rad giant-size computer screens.

    Oops, I probably shouldn't mention "rad".

  23. NorfolkAndWay

    OK, now you done pissed off this gay Democrat nuclear plant engineer. Ah, where to start….Yes Josh (MY HERO!!), we drill more on external attacks now than on internal accidents, because probabalistic risk analysis has determined that they are more likely to occur. (Yes, there are jobs for math majors outside of insurance and baseball.) It really is more likely that some dingus will set up 200 yds from a plant with a shoulder rocket launcher, or load a bread truck full of fertilizer, than it is that an internal accident will occur. Why? Because there are a lot of dinguses out there."..the Feds have relaxed the safety regulations for nuclear power plants operating beyond their design life" – no idea where you're getting that. License extension from 40 yrs to 60 yrs is a reality, but we have hundreds of issues to address to justify it before it's granted. Fewer than 10 units (of 103) have reached 40 yrs so far, average age is ~30.

  24. NorfolkAndWay

    I have a dozen or so friends who are flight attendants, and all of them get more radiation dose in a year than I have received total in my nuclear career (24 yrs). They just don't realize it. Americans get 620 mR per year of natural radiation from the earth and sun (or 6.2 mSv for you metric weirdos), more if you live in PA mine country or in Denver. Average airline flight crew annual dose is 219 mR. Nuclear plant workers are allowed 5000 mR per year, maybe 5% approach 500 mR. Most get <10 mR. <BR>People are afraid of what they don't understand. I live 6.6 miles by road from a nuclear plant, probably 3 miles as the crow flies. I couldn't care less. Many of my neighbors apparently are unaware of its existence. And you know what – they need not be. I would be more concerned about what chemicals are in my processed meat meals (ugh!!) than that.

Comments are closed.