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Institute for Policy Studies
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  • April 12, 2011

    The Guardian

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    Robert Alvarez, who worked on nuclear policy in the Clinton administration, said: "This is what we call in the US 'body banking' – just using bodies to absorb radiation and spread the risk around. Most of these workers are ill-informed and probably not being measured for risk."

  • April 11, 2011

    The Huntington (WV) News features blog “The FDA and the Fukushima Fallout”

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    “The FDA spokesperson should have informed the public that radioiodine provides a unique form of exposure in that it concentrates rapidly in dairy products and in the human thyroid,” wrote Robert Alvarez, a former senior policy adviser to President Clinton’s U.S. Secretary of Energy.

    “The dose received, based on official measurements, may be quite small, and pose an equally small risk," Alvarez said in a statement. "However, making a conclusion on the basis of one measurement is fragmentary at best and unscientific at worst. As the accident in Fukushima continues to unfold, the public should be provided with all measurements made of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima reactors to allow for independent analyses.”

  • April 7, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times

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    "There is nothing like this, on this scale, that we have ever attempted to do before," says Robert Alvarez, a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Energy Department.

  • April 6, 2011

    The Indypendent

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    According to Robert Alvarez, a former Energy Department official, enough plutonium is buried at the site to create 1,800 Nagasaki-size bombs.

  • April 6, 2011

    New Scientist

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    "TEPCO has downplayed the severity of what happened," says Robert Alvarez of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. "Could they have done more? Yes. And could they have been more candid? Yes," he says.

  • April 6, 2011

    Kennebec Journal

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    “Put it this way,” Alvarez says, “If you put five curies [of radioactivity] in a small crowded area, people would get a lethal dose in less than a half an hour.” In the event of a natural disaster or terror attack, the spent nuclear fuel stored at Maine Yankee, and at other sites around the U.S., would be a considerable threat. “These are some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet, and it’s going to be awhile before the U.S. government figures out what to do with this stuff,” said Alvarez. “We’ve been so complacent about storage in the U.S. We’ve really put the disposal cart before the storage horse.”


    According to Alvarez, “This adds an additional layer of protection from the potential release of radiation should the dry cask storage system fail. If Maine Yankee’s casks are going to be sitting there out in the open, berm them, or surround them in concrete. They aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.”


    “The consequences would be nothing, absolutely nothing compared to what they would be if the spent fuel was stored in a pool,” Alvarez says.

  • April 5, 2011

    Seattle Times

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    "If a university professor and his students can collect samples and turn them around in a reasonable amount of time and report it, you would think government officials could do the same," said Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the liberal think tank Institute for Policy Studies and a former DOE deputy assistant secretary for national security.

    Alvarez agrees that U.S. levels are not dangerous, but the "lack of transparency" fuels mistrust, he said.


    The crippled reactors are still emitting radioactive material, Alvarez said, particularly in the form of contaminated water being dumped into the sea. But the type of releases that loft isotopes into air currents headed for North America appear to have stopped for now.


    Alvarez is critical of those kinds of comparisons, which are also offered by EPA and health agencies. Isotopes like iodine-131 are not part of normal background radiation, and have unique properties that background radiation does not, like accumulating in the thyroid gland, he pointed out. "The doses are extremely small, and so, too, are the risks," he said. "But they liken it to everyday life and it's not like everyday life. You shouldn't have radioactive iodine even in tiny quantities finding its way into your milk supplies."

  • March 29, 2011

    The Huffington Post

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    "'Spent fuel is going to stay at these reactors and accumulate for decades to come, and we should have a much better policy to ensure the safety and security of that fuel over time,' said Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar on nuclear policy at the Institute for Policy Studies and a former advisor in the Department of Energy.

    "'Let's assume we have the ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning. It's still going to take 25 to 30 years to transport and place the current inventory of spent fuel,' Alvarez said, noting that the managing the transportation of all of the different waste stockpiles to a single site would be a herculean effort."

  • March 29, 2011

    USA Today

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    The industry, though, has money issues. Nuclear plants cost billions, and "Wall Street won't touch this with a 10-foot pole" because of the perceived risk of default in financing their construction, said Robert Alvarez, a scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and former senior adviser at the Department of Energy.

    Alvarez said plants will only get built with federal loan guarantees. Given budget cuts, he doubts members of Congress will stomach the tab, adding: "The prospects for building any nuclear reactor are dimming and are almost completely out."

  • March 28, 2011

    BusinessWeek

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    "According to Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar for nuclear policy at the Institute for Policy Studies, there’s enough cesium-137 in the spent fuel pool of unit 4 at Fukushima Dai- Ichi to equal all the cesium-137 released from Chernobyl’s shattered reactor core. Cesium-137 has a long half-life -- 30 years as opposed to eight days for iodine 131 -- and it persists in the environment at dangerous levels for many decades.

    "Because Cesium-137 mimics potassium, it accumulates in muscle tissue as well as in plants, and has the ability to chemically bind to concrete, making it difficult to remove. If the spent nuclear fuel in unit 4’s cooling pool caught fire, some Japanese communities could, depending on weather conditions, become so saturated with cesium-137 that they would have to be abandoned for generations."

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