Special update: Nuclear crisis in Japan


Over the last several days, we’ve received many calls and emails from UCS members and supporters asking about the current crisis involving several of Japan‘s nuclear power reactors. Like most of you, we are deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy of last week’s earthquake and tsunami, and our hearts go out to the many victims.

The massive earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan have caused a potentially catastrophic situation at multiple nuclear power facilities. The situation is still evolving.

http://action.ucsusa.org/site/R?i=sgQWt4U0rHXeUSbxGoVFDw..

For more than 40 years, UCS has served as a nuclear safety watchdog and a reliable, independent source of information on nuclear power technology and its risks. UCS technical experts are working hard to provide timely, updated analysis of what is happening at the stricken facilities and what the implications may be.

You can find regular updates on our blog “All Things Nuclear” and learn about why events have unfolded in the way they have, where the situation may be headed, and what it may mean for the people around the facilities and the environment.   http://action.ucsusa.org/site/R?i=rD2ht7Iwc6iSgCvOO27XpA..

We are also being called on frequently by a wide range of media outlets to provide independent, unbiased information and analysis about the rapidly changing situation on the ground.

For more information, see our Nuclear Accident ABCs factsheet, which provides background information on nuclear accidents and explains some of the terms frequently being used in media reports about the crisis.

http://action.ucsusa.org/site/R?i=YcQs3bMM1qUmpgj0_5OHrg..

As events unfold in Japan, we will be regularly updating the UCS website with our most current assessment of conditions at the affected facilities.

http://action.ucsusa.org/site/R?i=qcgNe5T6-3IqyAy1gd-yeA..

Sincerely,

Kevin Knobloch

President

National Security: Crisis In Japan


On Friday, northern Japan was hit by a massive 9.0 earthquake just off its eastern coast. The earthquake spawned a huge tsunami that washed away villages and caused tremendous destruction. At least 2,700 people are confirmed to have died, but many thousands are missing and more than 10,000 people are presumed dead, as bodies have begun washing ashore . To make matters worse, a number of nuclear reactors were in the center of the disaster. Three are now in danger of meltdown, as Japanese emergency workers struggle to contain a nuclear disaster that is already the worst since the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. Much of the country is now experiencing rolling blackouts, and many of the 400,000 displaced survivors living in makeshift shelters are struggling with limited food and water. The turmoil has caused havoc in Japan’s now recovering economy, leading to a massive drop in the stock market and fears of an economic collapse. The situation is also having an impact in the United States and is prompting a renewed debate over nuclear power and the role of government.

NUCLEAR CRISIS: The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was hit directly by both the earthquake and the resulting tsunami. Three reactors were severely damaged, creating multiple failures in the system that cools the nuclear fuel rods. This has led to a series of explosions that have further damaged the nuclear reactors and released radiation into the air. In the hopes of preventing a full-scale meltdown, emergency workers at the nuclear plant have desperately sought to inject seawater into the reactors to cool down the nuclear fuel rods, but the results have been mixed. The temperatures of the reactors continue to rise, prompting fears of a widespread meltdown. The New York Times noted, “Japan’s nuclear crisis verged toward catastrophe on Tuesday after an explosion damaged the vessel containing the nuclear core at one reactor and a fire at another spewed large amounts of radioactive material into the air.” “Experts in Japan and the United States say the country is now facing a cascade of accumulating problems that suggest that radioactive releases of steam from the crippled plants could go on for weeks or even months.” Eight hundred workers from the plant have been withdrawn, while 50 heroically remain, despite their increasing exposure to radiation. The Japanese government has also told people living within 12 miles of the reactors to evacuate and those within 20 miles were told to stay indoors. The Times quoted a senior nuclear industry executive who had been in contact with his Japanese counterparts who said Japanese power managers are “basically in a full-scale panic. … They’re in total disarray, they don’t know what to do.” Also, the “pool storing spent fuel rods at that fourth reactor had overheated and reached boiling point and had become unapproachable by workers.”

The Japanese government has formally asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for assistance, which dispatched experts to Japan to provide technical assistance. Joe Cirincione, a nuclear expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund, said, “This is an unprecedented crisis. … You have multiple reactor crises at the same time. We’ve never had a situation like this before.”

NUCLEAR DEBATE: The nuclear crisis in Japan has renewed debate over the safety of nuclear power not just in the United States but around the world. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) said on Face the Nation, “I don’t want to stop the building of nuclear power plants. … But I think we’ve got to quietly put…the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in Japan as a result of the earthquake and the tsunami.” Rep. Ed Markey, (D-MA) has called for a “timeout” on new reactors and said that the U.S. should have a moratorium on building reactors in seismic areas of the country. The crisis threatens the bipartisan consensus that emerged over the need for more nuclear power. Nuclear power has been seen as an alternative to burning fossil fuels since it omits zero carbon. William Saletan of Slate warned: “Let’s cool this panic before it becomes a political meltdown. … If Japan, the United States, or Europe retreats from nuclear power in the face of the current panic, the most likely alternative energy source is fossil fuel. And by any measure, fossil fuel is more dangerous.” At the same time, Joe Romm and Richard Caperton of the Center for American Progress write that the nuclear crisis “remind[s] us that nuclear power is inherently risky. … Let’s be clear: If something goes wrong with a U.S. nuclear reactor, the American public will be in double jeopardy — we’ll suffer the health consequences and then also have to pay for it.”

ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: The crisis in Japan clearly demonstrates the importance of government safety regulations. As we learn the full causes and outcomes of the Japanese disaster, the U.S. should revisit and improve safety rules for both existing and proposed reactors. Romm and Caperton explain that, “because taxpayers have so much to lose in a nuclear disaster, the government has a responsibility to take every precaution to minimize that risk.” David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists explains in the New York Times that there is a “need to revisit emergency plans to ensure that people get the help they need even when disasters overlap.” Yet Media Matters reported that “in the wake of the crisis at Japanese nuclear reactors, the conservative media have pushed for the removal of ‘obstacles’ to nuclear power and a faster nuclear permit process for nuclear plants.” The proposed budget cuts from Republicans in the House of Representatives further threaten to undermine the safety of the American people. Romm and Caperton warn that “Congress must not cut funding for NOAA’s tsunami warning service. House Republicans have proposed cutting funding to NOAA — the agency directly responsible for tsunami monitoring and warning — restricting the government’s ability to respond. America has a number of reactors that could be affected by a tsunami.” Furthermore, despite the massive 9.0 earthquake, much of the damage in Japan was not caused by the earthquake, but by the tsunami. Thousands of lives were saved due to the strict government enforced building codes that were absent in a country like Haiti or China, which experienced a significantly higher death toll.

It’s simply not right … a message from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand


Last year I helped lead the effort to overturn “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and I’m thrilled that very soon, LGBT Americans will be able to serve openly in our armed forces. This is a big victory for equality, but there’s still so far we have yet to go.

I believe every American should be able to marry the person they love. Yet in 1996, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) codified the discriminatory notion that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

DOMA denies same-sex couples the basic privileges enjoyed by straight couples, and prevents state-approved legal marriages from being recognized across the country.

This is wrong.

If we are to achieve full marriage equality for all, Congress must repeal DOMA now.

That’s why I’m proud to partner with Democracy for America to make sure the repeal of DOMA becomes a reality.

http://act.democracyforamerica.com/go/561?akid=577.1480546.tmfy-d&t=1

Recently, President Obama ordered the Justice Department to stop defending DOMA in federal court. This is a huge first step, but the fact is that as long as DOMA remains on the books it will continue to be enforced until Congress repeals it legislatively.

Tomorrow, I will join Senator Feinstein as we introduce DOMA repeal legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Can I count on you to join us on the frontlines of this fight?

Please sign here to join the fight for marriage equality by urging Congress to repeal this discriminatory and unconstitutional law. >> http://act.democracyforamerica.com/go/561?akid=577.1480546.tmfy-d&t=2

It’s simply not right that my husband and I should be able to enjoy rights and privileges that LGBT Americans are denied.

Thank you for everything you do to ensure marriage equality for all Americans,

– Kirsten

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

what is going on in Congress: debates/votes -the Republican led House & -the Senate …small biz jobs bill


The Senate Convenes at  10:00amET March 15, 2011

Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will proceed to a period of morning business until 11:00am, with Senators permitted to speak therein for up to 10 minutes each, with the Majority controlling the first half and the Republicans controlling the final half.

Following morning business, the Senate will proceed to the consideration of S.493, SBIR and STTR Reauthorization.

The following amendments are pending to S.493, SBIR and STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011:

– Nelson (NE) #182 (Sense of the Senate regarding a 5% cut in Senate budget)

– McConnell amendment #183 (Prohibits the EPA from regulating carbon pollution)

– Vitter amendment #178 (require Federal government to sell unused Federal real property).

– Johanns amendment #161 (1099 repeal)

– Snowe amendment #193 (strikes Federal authorization of the National Veterans Business Development program)

The Senate will recess from 12:30pm until 2:15pm for the weekly caucus meetings.

At 2:15pm, Senator Coats will be recognized to speak for up to 30 minutes to deliver his maiden speech. Following his statement, Senator Portman will be recognized to speak for up to 15 minutes to deliver his maiden speech.

There will be no roll call votes this evening.

The Senate is in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to 10 minutes each.

Unanimous Consent:

Adopted S.Res.96, congratulating the Army Dental Corps on its 100th Anniversary.

Passed S.J.Res.7, reappointment of Shirley Ann Jackson as a citizen regent of the Smithsonian Board of Regents.

Passed S.J.Res.8, appointment of Stephen M. Chase as a citizen regent of the Smithsonian Board of Regents.

Passed S.J.Res.9, reappointment of Robert P. Kogod as a citizen regent of the Smithsonian Board of Regents.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CURRENT HOUSE FLOOR PROCEEDINGS

LEGISLATIVE DAY OF MARCH 15, 2011

112TH CONGRESS – FIRST SESSION

6:03 P.M. –

The House adjourned. The next meeting is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on March 16, 2011.

On motion to adjourn Agreed to by voice vote.

Mr. Sessions moved that the House do now adjourn.

6:01 P.M. –

Mr. Sessions filed a report from the Committee on Rules on H. Res. 170.

3:54 P.M. –

SPECIAL ORDER SPEECHES – The House has concluded all anticipated legislative business and has proceeded to Special Order speeches.

3:49 P.M. –

ONE MINUTE SPEECHES – The House continued with one minute speeches.

H. Res. 168:

electing certain Members to certain standing committees of the House of Representatives

3:48 P.M. –

Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.

On agreeing to the resolution Agreed to without objection.

Considered as privileged matter.

3:45 P.M. –

ONE MINUTE SPEECHES – The House proceeded with further one minute speeches.

3:44 P.M. –

The House received a communication from the Honorable Mr. Marchant . Mr. Marchant submitted his resignation from the Committee on Financial Services. The resignation was accepted without objection.

H. Con. Res. 30:

providing for a conditional adjournment of the House of Representatives and a conditional recess or adjournment of the Senate

3:41 P.M. –

Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.

On agreeing to the resolution Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: 232 – 197 (Roll no. 180).

3:33 P.M. –

Considered as unfinished business.

3:32 P.M. –

UNFINISHED BUSINESS – The Chair announced that the unfinished business was the question of adoption of H. Con. Res. 30 which had been debated earlier and on which further proceedings had been postponed.

H.J. Res. 48:

making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2011, and for other purposes

3:31 P.M. –

On passage Passed by recorded vote: 271 – 158 (Roll no. 179).

Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.

3:22 P.M. –

On motion to recommit with instructions Failed by the Yeas and Nays: 190 – 239 (Roll no. 178).

3:00 P.M. –

The previous question on the motion to recommit with instructions was ordered without objection.

2:51 P.M. –

DEBATE – The House proceeded with ten minutes of debate on the Critz motion to recommit with instructions. The instructions contained in the motion seek to prohibit use of funds in the joint resolution to develop or implement a system that cuts Social Security benefits, or that privatizes Social Security, or to develop or implement a system that cuts Medicare benefits, eliminates guaranteed health coverage for seniors, or establishes a Medicare voucher plan that limits payments to beneficiaries in order to purchase health care in the private sector.

2:50 P.M. –

Mr. Critz moved to recommit with instructions to Appropriations.

2:49 P.M. –

The previous question was ordered pursuant to the rule.

1:29 P.M. –

DEBATE – The House proceeded with one hour of debate on H.J. Res. 48.

1:28 P.M. –

Rule provides for consideration of H.J. Res. 48 with 1 hour of general debate. Previous question shall be considered as ordered without intervening motions except motion to recommit with or without instructions. Measure will be considered read. Bill is closed to amendments. All points of order against consideration of the joint resolution are waived.

Considered under the provisions of rule H. Res. 167.

1:25 P.M. –

AGREEING TO SPEAKER’S APPROVAL OF THE JOURNAL – The Chair announced that the unfinished business was on the question of agreeing to the Speaker’s approval of the Journal and after putting the question to a voice vote, the Chair announced that the ayes had prevailed and the Journal stood approved.

H. Res. 167:

providing for consideration of the joint resolution (H.J. Res. 48) making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2011, and for other purposes

Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.

On agreeing to the resolution Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: 241 – 181 (Roll no. 177).

1:02 P.M. –

Considered as unfinished business.

1:01 P.M. –

The House convened, returning from a recess continuing the legislative day of March 15.

12:58 P.M. –

The Speaker announced that the House do now recess. The next meeting is scheduled for 1:00 P.M. today.

H. Con. Res. 30:

providing for a conditional adjournment of the House of Representatives and a conditional recess or adjournment of the Senate

12:56 P.M. –

POSPONED PROCEEDINGS – At the conclusion of debate on H.Con.Res. 30, the Chair put the question on agreeing to the resolution, and by voice vote, announced that the ayes ha d prevailed. Mr. McGovern demanded the yeas and nays and the Chair postponed further proceedings on the question of adoption until later in the legislative day.

12:54 P.M. –

Considered as privileged matter.

H. Res. 167:

providing for consideration of the joint resolution (H.J. Res. 48) making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2011, and for other purposes

POSTPONED PROCEEDINGS – At the conclusion of debate on H.Res. 167, the Chair put the question on agreeing to the resolution, and by voice vote, announced that the ayes had prevailed. Mr. McGovern demanded the yeas and nays and the Chair postponed further proceedings on the question of adoption until later in the legislative day.

12:53 P.M. –

The previous question was ordered without objection.

12:18 P.M. –

DEBATE – The House proceeded with one hour of debate on H. Res. 167.

12:17 P.M. –

Considered as privileged matter.

12:03 P.M. –

ONE MINUTE SPEECHES – The House proceeded with one minute speeches, which by direction of the Chair would be limited to 15 per side of the aisle.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE – The Chair designated Mr. Baca to lead the Members in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

12:02 P.M. –

POSTPONED PROCEEDINGS ON APPROVAL OF THE JOURNAL – The Chair announced that he had examined the Journal of the last day’s proceedings and had approved it. Mr. Poe (TX) demanded that the question be put on agreeing to the Speaker’s approval of the Journal and by voice vote, the Chair announced that the ayes had prevailed. Mr. Poe (TX) objected to the voice vote based upon the absence of a quorum and the Chair postponed further proceedings on the question of agreeing to the Speaker’s approval of the Journal until later in the legislative day.

12:00 P.M. –

Today’s prayer was offered by the House Chaplain, Rev. Daniel Coughlin.

The House convened, returning from a recess continuing the legislative day of March 15.

10:46 A.M. –

The Speaker announced that the House do now recess. The next meeting is scheduled for 12:00 P.M. today.

10:01 A.M. –

MORNING-HOUR DEBATE – The House proceeded with Morning-Hour Debate. At the conclusion of Morning-Hour, the House will recess until 12:00 p.m. for the start of legislative business.

The Speaker designated the Honorable Michael R. Turner to act as Speaker pro tempore for today.

10:00 A.M. –

The House convened, starting a new legislative day