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The China Syndrome



  There is a media story coming from our great neighbor to north about a nuclear safety head honcho being fired because she refused to let a reactor be fired up after maintenance because all safety guidelines were not met.  So, the government convenes and makes legislation to make it happen anyway (an offline reactor is a big money deal, anywhere in the world), while simultaneously watchdogs get hearings scheduled to see what the heck is going on.  Apparently hours before she was to testify, the woman holding up progress is fired, a move the government says was justified because she was not resolving the "crisis." 

  This woman was not a whistleblower - it was her JOB to make the call she made.  Nuclear safety regulations are in place for a reason .... do the words Love Canal, Chernobyl.. mean anything to anyone?  We are complacent, again, and how quickly we forget. 

  While, in another lifetime, I have history with safety engineering (carbon fuels), a story comes to mind that I have never forgotten.  I was in a remote hospital in the nether regions of WV/PA in training.  This was a 2 or 3 story building in a remote hillside area.  All the hospital rooms on 1 side looked out onto countryside far and wide towards Pittsburgh and the Allegheny/Monongahela Rivers.  I was interviewing a patient, a man with decades of work under his belt in the area.  At 1 point during the interview as we talked in front of the windows, he looked out and said "Oh my God."  In the distance from my eye was the same scene we had looked at all morning.... countryside, stacks in the distance, various plumes of steam and smoke that rise every day with the operation of the mills and other operations in the area.  Of course, I asked him if he was okay, did I need to get the nurse, but he was focused on something out of that window.  He asked me if I saw a particular color plume of smoke in the distance, and I said yes, of course.  He said something to the effect that if I was truly interested in safety, I needed to get in my truck and get to that smoke.  He said I would have to hurry because roads would soon be blocked entering the site and absolutely no one would be let in. 

    This gentleman was absolutely right in his observation.  There was a nuclear "incident" and it was quickly contained and swept away without a lot of hype.  In fact, I learned later that it was classified a major incident but not quite a disaster, so it went away fairly quickly.  Had the gentleman not informed me, I would have thought it was just another bad accident up on the highway.

    What I've never forgotten was the look on his face.  It reminds me now that we depend on the knowledge of a few to protect us from bad, bad stuff.  I think the woman fired deserves a medal for standing up and doing her job.  Just my humble opinion.

Entry #23


justxploringComment by justxploring - February 1, 2008, 4:14 pm
I agree. I wonder how many other people hide the truth because they fear they'll lose their jobs.
time*treatComment by time*treat - February 1, 2008, 4:40 pm
Memories of the Challenger Space Shuttle accident & subsequent firings of the people who warned not to launch come to mind. It seems to be the nature of the majority. They get 'guard dogs', but don't want them to 'bark'. Form over substance.

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