The Fukushima Nuclear Accident – Ongoing Lessons for Massachusetts and New York

Hosted at the Boston State House by Senator Dan Wolf, this Oct. 9th event featured the following speakers: former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko, former NRC Commissioner Peter Bradford (each of whom had responsibility for the safety of millions at the time of severe nuclear accidents), and nuclear engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen. See bios here.

See various press reports.

Facilitated by Sean Corcoran
Dan Wolf introduction begins 0:01:05
Jean-Michel Cousteau clip begins 0:12:40
Prime Minister Naoto Kan begins 0:17:30
Chairman Gregory Jaczko begins 0:59:42
Arnie Gundersen begins 01:39:30
Commissioner Peter Bradford begins 02:10:00
Filmmaker Adam Salten begins 02:40:30
Audience questions begin 02:52:20

Video of a similar event in New York (with a longer presentation by Peter Bradford).


Prior to March 11, 2011, my position as prime minister was to keep using nuclear power, by ensuring its safety. But after the accident, having understood the enormity of the effects and the potential of a more severe accident, I realized that the only way to ensure that an accident does not happen is not to have nuclear power. – Naoto Kan

Severe accidents have happened and they will happen… Safety has to be: Eliminate the possibility of severe accidents. It doesn’t matter how low the probability is; it is an unacceptable consequence. – Gregory Jaczko

If a Secretary of Agriculture endorsed better meat inspection, you wouldn’t have a debate of near religious fervor about whether that person was pro- or anti-meat, whether he had sold out to the vegetarians. You’d debate whether the stricter regulations made sense. It’s somehow unique to nuclear power that, when one refuses to have nuclear power on the industry’s terms, one gets chucked into a bin labeled ‘anti-nuclear.’ – Peter Bradford

When you hear ‘Entergy is safe’, that means it meets minimal acceptable criteria set by a compliant regulator. – Arnie Gundersen

Speaker Bios

Naoto Kan served as Prime Minister of Japan when the Tohoku Earthquake triggered the meltdowns of 3 reactors and the threat of a spent-fuel pool fire at a fourth.Kan observed the Fukushima accident from a helicopter on March 12, 2011, and was heavily involved in efforts to effectively respond to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. At one point Japan faced a situation where there people might not be able to live in Tokyo and would have to evacuate. A graduate of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Kan is a strong proponent of renewable energy, has questioned whether private companies should operate reactors and has said, “Experiencing the accident convinced me that the best way to make nuclear plants safe is not to rely on them, but rather to get rid of them.”Kan is haunted by the specter of an even bigger nuclear crisis forcing tens of millions of people to flee Tokyo and threatening the nation’s existence. “If things had reached that level, not only would the public have had to face hardships but Japan’s very existence would have been in peril”. That convinced Kan to “declare the need for Japan to end its reliance on atomic power and promote renewable sources of energy such solar that have long taken a back seat in the resource-poor country’s energy mix”.

Dr. Gregory Jaczko was appointed to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2005, was made Chairman by President Obama in 2009, and resigned under pressure from the nuclear industry on July 1, 2012. He ordered the evacuation of U.S. citizens living within 50 miles of the Fukushima disaster, and was the sole vote against relicensing Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim. Believing that the NRC should be as open and transparent as possible, and that public involvement strengthens the formulation of public policy, he has encouraged the general public to participate in NRC policy-making. Jaczko, who has a PhD in physics, served as staff for Representative Edward Markey and Sen. Harry Reid.Dr. Jaczko taught science and policy as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University after earning a bachelor’s degree in physics and philosophy from Cornell University and a doctorate in physics from the University of Wisconsin. In the wake of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, Jaczko has said that the U.S. has “to go forward always with that expectation that an accident can happen, and we have to do the right things to prevent it.”

Peter Bradford is an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School, where he teaches Nuclear Power and Public Policy. He was a member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the time of the Three Mile Island meltdown and was the former chair of the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions. He served on a panel evaluating the reliability of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Panel advising how best to replace the remaining Chernobyl nuclear plants in Ukraine, a panel on the opening of the Mochovce nuclear power plant in Slovakia, and the Keystone Center collaborative on nuclear power and climate change. A graduate of Yale University and Yale Law School, he is vice chair of the board of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Arnie Gundersen managed projects at 70 U.S. nuclear power stations during his 40 years of nuclear power engineering experience. He earned his Bachelor Degree cum laude at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and received a prestigious Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship for his Masters in nuclear engineering. A licensed reactor operator, former nuclear industry senior vice president and whistleblower, he has referred to Fukushima as “the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind”. He disputed the NRC’s stand that containment systems cannot leak in testimony and correspondence with the agency for five years before Fukushima.
In 1990 Gundersen discovered radioactive material in an accounting safe where he was employed at Nuclear Energy Services. Three weeks after notifying the company president of what he believed to be radiation safety violations, Gundersen was fired. He holds a nuclear safety patent, has testified in opposition to relicensing Vermont Yankee and the restart of now-closed San Onofre reactors and released a reports on Fukushima and weaknesses in the Westinghouse AP1000 design.

Press reports

Report on New York event VIDEO of 10/8 (where Ralph Nader also spoke):
Huffington Post: After Fukushima Disaster, Advocates Argue Only Safe Nuclear Power Is None At All

Boston event of 10/8:
Patriot Ledger: Panelists say Pilgrim nuclear plant should be closed (10/10)
Boston Globe: Ex-leader of Japan warns against nuclear power
Cape Cod Times: Panelists outline problems with U.S. nuclear plant safety
CounterPunch: Toward a Clean Energy Future – The Nuclear Forum
Christian Science Monitor: Nuclear power: why US nuclear ‘renaissance’ fizzled and plants are closing (with video)
Common Dreams: All Nuclear Reactors Must Go Now, Expert Panels Charge (inaccurate headline)
Charlotte Business Journal: Report: Former NRC chief supports retiring all U.S. nuclear power plants
Ralph Nader: Atomic Energy – Unnecessary, Uneconomic, Uninsurable, Unevacuable and Unsafe

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