Bob's Links and Rants

Welcome to my rants page! You can contact me by e-mail: Blog roll. Site feed.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Much less safe than we were three years ago
Stan Goff reports that the Bushies combination of secrecy, punishment of whistleblowers, favoritism for corporations, and wars (which have the dual impact of enraging much of the world AND sending many of our first responders off to get shot at) has left us pretty much completely vulnerable. Some choice quotes from the long article:

Mark Hertsgaard, "Nuclear Insecurity," Vanity Fair, November 2003: Over the past two years, the Bush administration has talked tough about defending the United States against terrorism, pointing to the September 11 tragedy to justify much of its domestic and international political agenda, from invading Iraq to limiting civil liberties to relaxing environmental regulations. But... the Bush administration is in fact failing disastrously at the practical job of keeping the American homeland safe from terrorist attacks. In particular, the administration is doing worse than nothing ... leaving serious flaws in the nuclear-security system unrepaired, it is silencing the very public servants who are trying to fix the problem before it is too late.

Argonne National Laboratory, for the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 1982: [A] large commercial airliner striking the reactor dome... would easily penetrate the reactor dome... obliterate the reactor core's primary containment thereby immediately releasing massive amounts of radiation into the atmosphere without any chance of evacuation. Thousands of people would quickly perish and thousands more would perish over time... the explosive force of jet fuel exploding inside the containment dome would... convert the containment dome itself into a bomb.
Whistleblower protections were excised from proposals for the Department of Homeland Security and the newly formed Transportation Security Administration (TSA). To his great credit, Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa--breaking ranks with many in his party--issued a call in 2002 to restore whistleblower protection to all jobs and contracts.

"Government agencies too often want to cover up their mistakes," said Grassley, "and the temptation is even greater when bureaucracies can use a potential security issue as an excuse. At the same time, the information whistleblowers provide is all the more important when public safety and security is at stake."
The nation's 103 nuclear power plants have packed the waste fuel from each reactor into water-filled cooling pools like sardines. In addition to the threat of intentional activations of these cesium-bombs for malicious motives, accidental loss of cooling will also cause a pool fire, which Brookhaven National Laboratory estimates could cause--depending on the location and conditions--up to 140,000 cancer deaths, $500 billion in off-site property damage, and contamination of thousands of square miles.

This nightmare scenario can be rendered moot by simply re-racking these waste fuel assemblies back to the original design distance, where air convection can prevent self-ignition. Unfortunately, few elected officials want to confront the nation's powerful utilities about their irresponsible behavior, and the putative Nuclear Regulatory Commission has its leadership appointed by people who win elections with generous contributions from the very utilities that continue to gamble with public safety to protect profit margins.
While European nuclear plants began in the eighties to harden their own plants--especially spent fuel storage--against aircraft crashes, accidental or intentional, the NRC made a conscious choice not to impose this financial hardship on the U.S. nuclear industry.
Apparently "al Qaeda" figured out that there is no need to transport a radiological weapon into the United States, when 103 of them are already deployed around the country, invariably near urban centers.

What the Department of Homeland Security apparently has not figured out is that it is likewise not necessary for attackers to hijack airplanes outside the country to activate the huge "dirty bombs." The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report in September 2003 that showed 70 general aviation aircraft had been stolen inside the United States within the last five years. That is an average of 14 aircraft a year. These are small planes at short-takeoff-and-landing (STOL) airfields.

Cursory research shows that the most common light aircraft in the United States is the Cessna Skyhawk.

A Tomahawk Cruise Missile is a precision weapon that can hug the earth, evade radar, travel to a range of 600 miles, and deliver up to 1,000 pounds of high explosive onto a target. A Cessna Skyhawk has a range of 687 miles, can carry a payload up to 675 pounds, and likewise can hug the contours of the earth to evade radar and deliver its payload with pinpoint accuracy.

These general aviation aircraft then, with the simple addition of a committed pilot prepared to die and 500 pounds of high explosive, could be employed as a "poor person's Cruise missile."
It is very difficult to understand how (1) muzzling whistleblowers, (2) concealing security criteria from public scrutiny and accountability, and (3) "backing off" on reporting security violations are consistent with this administration's rhetoric about "homeland security."

Since September 11, state and local emergency services budgets have been stripped bare, National Guard troops have been sent to Iraq, reservists who worked in local police, EMS, and fire departments have been subtracted from net manpower, the entire northeast was blacked out, California burned, children across Southwest Asia and North Africa wear Osama bin Laden t-shirts, and Iraqis are more and more often naming their newborns Saddam.

Sleep well.