Safely issue minor compared to The Zion Station’s premature and unwise destruction

April 25, 2011

My rebuttal to a YouTurn opinion piece by Paul A. Kakuris published in the weekend edition of the “Lake County News-Sun,” April 16-17, in which Kakuris presented outrageous claims relative to the News-Sun’s followup article about a forum presentation made by ZionSolutions and hosted by Senator Susan Garrett on April 9th.

For the past two-and-a-half years I have been immersed in a mission to have The Zion Station refurbished and reopened, after it was prematurely put into “safestore” by Exelon Corporation of Chicago in 1998

Safety issue minor compared to Zion’s premature and unwise destruction                                         

I read with interest Paul A. Kakuris’s “MY Turn” opinion piece in the weekend April 16-17 edition of the Lake County News-Sun, raising questions about how the paper covered Senator Susan Garrett’s April 9th forum about the decommissioning of the Zion Station.

It was evident that Kakuris’s attendance at Sen. Garrett’s forum was to make public his views — which the News-Sun article subsequently failed to report to his satisfaction — that the Zion Station, even after decommissioning, will, realistically, be a waiting-to-happen nuclear radiation catastrophe.

I also attended the forum, but with a heavy heart and with overwhelming sadness, as a Lake Bluff resident who has devoted much time and effort over the past two and one half years in my personal crusade to refurbish and restart the Zion Station. Let me remind my readers that Zion Station consists of two modern, environmentally clean, safe, 1000 + Megawatt nuclear power plants; that their Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR) were designed and built by Westinghouse; that they are located on seismically approved ground; and that they were prematurely shut down in 1998. 

Mr. Kakurkis’s piece contained outrageous assertions about the inability of presenter Patrick Daly of ZionSolutions to answer directly questions based on a virtually impossible “what if” scenario: terrorists breaching the air space to target the Zion Station with a large amount of high explosives.  

This nation does a pretty good job of protecting our seemingly vulnerable assets, the likes of which are found in virtually every state in the nation.  These vulnerable assets can’t all be moved “someplace else”, so they’re not close to us. Most of them are close to somebody.

Unfortunately, both Senators Kirk and Durbin have come out against the storage of nuclear fuel — spent or otherwise — at the Zion facility (“200 yards from Lake Michigan”, according to Sen. Kirk), whether it’s in operation or not.  As a consequence, even though Mr. Kakuris may have more hype than facts on his side, he’s got the politicians (known for hype, of course, not fact) on his side. 

However, since 09/11/2001, we have been on high alert in this country to the possibility of terrorist attacks anywhere, and especially against high stakes targets.

Mr. Kakuris wrote of a discussion about “how the nuclear-industrial complex significantly influences the Nuclear Regulatory commission by helping set the NRC standards, which then regulate the industry”, claiming that appropriate “checks and balances” are “sorely lacking”.

Kakuris’s implication was that the NRC’s regulation of the nuclear power industry is suspect, because the industry helps “set the NRC standards.”  He calls for “meaningful independent peer review”. 

One problem with providing such a review, is that in the nuclear power industry — as in every regulated industry — virtually all the subject matter experts are either in the industry, or in the regulatory agency (and most, if not all of those came from the industry).  Nearly all the others are retired from one or the other.

That’s not to say that the regulations cannot be scrutinized by other interested parties, who are then free to raise concerns.  This happens frequently, and occasionally such questioning leads to a Congressional inquiry.  There is, therefore a process for challenging and publicly examining regulation. 

The BP disaster is totally irrelevant to the questions raised concerning the Zion Station and the storage of radioactive materials.  In the case of the BP Deep Water Horizon, neither BP or the government regulators were following their own procedures.

Mr. Kakuris’s attempt to coin a term, “nuclear-industrial complex”, falls flat, because there is no such thing.  When Eisenhower coined the term, military-industrial complex, he was referring to a large and multi-facited industry, one that produced everything from ships to tanks to airplanes to weapons to ordnance, on the one hand, and the U.S. military, its customer, on the other. 

The military always wants the latest and greatest; industry always wants to develop the next great thing (but won’t do it for free); and Congress always wants to direct tax dollars “back to the district”. 

We’re all familiar with what that leads to.  In the case of the nuclear power industry, the customer(s) is private industry, not the government.

As far ZionSolutions personnel avoiding the “elephant in the room” in its presentation, it’s not the possibility of a terrorist attack, Mr. Kakuris, but the fact that decommissioning the Zion Station nuclear power plants is a terrible waste of a valuable resource.  Although restarting Zion might not put a downward pressure on electricity prices, its operation would spare us some coal emissions. . .somewhere.

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