Fearmonger: Monticello is the next Chernobyl

This YTE from NukeWatch’s John LaForge starts with this disturbing information:

On Feb. 11, 1985, the cover editorial of Forbes magazine declared, “The failure of the US nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale.”

Fourteen months later, Chernobyl’s reactor 4 in Ukraine exploded, burned for 40 days and spread radioactive fallout across the Northern Hemisphere, even contaminating Minnesota’s milk.

The likelihood of similar or worse reactor disasters was frankly admitted by Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) member James Asselstine, who testified to Congress that year: “We can expect to see a core meltdown accident within the next 20 years, and it … could result in off-site releases of radiation as large as or larger than the releases at Chernobyl.” Still, nuclear power was not phased out.

This alarmist rhetoric has a single purpose: creating fear amongst the people living near the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). Predictably, that was quickly addressed in the YTE:

There are 23 Fukushima-like reactors, identical General Electric Mark-I boiling water reactors, operating in the United States. One is the 43-year-old Monticello unit, 28 miles southeast of St. Cloud.

In 2006, it was given permission to run 20 years past its 2010 licensed retirement date. License extensions like this are common, even though a June 2011 Associated Press investigation found that no U.S. reactor was designed to run more than 40 years.

In January 2007, decades of Monticello’s vibrations caused a 35,000-pound “control box” to break loose from steel I-beams and smash a large steam pipe below. The crash caused malfunctions inside the box that opened large valves in other steam pipes. The loss of pressure triggered a reactor shutdown.

If I listened to Mr. LaForge’s hysterical rantings, I’d conclude that Chernobyl resulted in a massive loss of life and catastrophic numbers of people who suffered tragic life-altering diseases. I don’t doubt that that’s what Mr. LaForge is hoping for.

Unfortunately, this official World Health Organization (WHO) report doesn’t corroborate Mr. LaForge’s hysterical rantings:

5 September 2005 | Geneva -A total of up to 4000 people could eventually die of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) accident nearly 20 years ago, an international team of more than 100 scientists has concluded.

As of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers, many who died within months of the accident but others who died as late as 2004.

The new numbers are presented in a landmark digest report, “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts,” just released by the Chernobyl Forum. The digest, based on a three-volume, 600-page report and incorporating the work of hundreds of scientists, economists and health experts, assesses the 20-year impact of the largest nuclear accident in history. The Forum is made up of 8 UN specialized agencies, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), and the World Bank, as well as the governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

“This compilation of the latest research can help to settle the outstanding questions about how much death, disease and economic fallout really resulted from the Chernobyl accident,” explains Dr. Burton Bennett, chairman of the Chernobyl Forum and an authority on radiation effects. “The governments of the three most-affected countries have realized that they need to find a clear way forward, and that progress must be based on a sound consensus about environmental, health and economic consequences and some good advice and support from the international community.”

In other words, a tiny number of people died from the radiation. According to the WHO report, “almost all being highly exposed rescue workers, many who died within months of the accident.” In other words, Chernobyl’s most significant long-term effect has been its PR value to environmental activists who want to stop nuclear power generation. Chernobyl’s most significant long-term effect wasn’t on people’s health.

That’s stunning information.

The important thing to remember in all this is that nuclear reactor accidents haven’t caused many deaths. Movies predicting massive deaths are great theater but they aren’t based on historical facts. Put differently, they’re more about wild-eyed speculation by fearmongers like Mr. LaForge than they’re based on history. Keep that in mind the next time you see one of these frantic editorials.