Quake shows need for nuclear regulation

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The 5.8-magnitude East Coast earthquake that rocked Ohio, Michigan, and other states east of the Mississippi River … does not justify hysteria as major utilities mull a greater investment in nuclear power.

But much like the tsunami-triggered Fukushima disaster in Japan, the quake underscores the need for effective regulation of nuclear plants, and an adherence to modern, scientifically robust engineering principles.

The Virginia-based temblor was mild compared to many California quakes. Its effect on the psyche of East Coast residents may be greater than the physical scars it left, damage to the Washington Monument notwithstanding. …

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the Indian Point complex outside New York City is the most susceptible to earthquake damage among U.S. nuclear plants. The commission’s list of the 10 most at-risk facilities includes eight other plants east of the Mississippi.

The NRC has never completely shed its image as a cheerleader for the nuclear industry. The commission endangered northern Ohio when it failed to provide effective oversight before the near-rupture of the original reactor head at FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Oak Harbor in 2002. The NRC never publicly admonished anyone in the agency by name. …

When tremors from a relatively mild earthquake in Virginia reverberate along the Eastern Seaboard and throughout much of the Midwest, we need to be assured there are no shortcuts on nuclear engineering, construction, or training.

The (Toledo) Blade

Russian crash highlights flaws in space plan

A Russian rocket that the U.S. must now rely upon to do shuttle-like duty failed on launch. It crashed in Siberia carrying almost three tons of supplies for the six astronauts in orbit aboard the International Space Station.

An official in the region of the crash said, “The explosion was so strong that for (60 miles) glass almost flew out of the windows.”

… (T)he crash … sharpens our argument that NASA was wrong to have retired the shuttle fleet before the U.S. had a successor rocket ready. …

President Obama and NASA were content to buy rides on Russian spacecraft to and from the space station, and Obama wants private business eventually taking over the space transportation role.

One company, Space X, headed by PayPal founder Elon Musk, has a Nov. 30 test launch date set for its Dragon space capsule to bring supplies and equipment to the space station. If it works, it will be a space-age first. An unmanned Dragon has been orbited only once before.

It’s fine for private commercial rockets to get into the space shuttling business — but that’s a long way from being a common, reliable reality.

Meanwhile, it’s just wrong to put our astronauts lives and our nation’s spacefaring future in the hands of a former mortal enemy, and questionable current “friend” like Russia.

The (Lorain) Morning Journal