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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Preparing for Death, Injuries, and Destruction at Vogtle Unit 3

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on June 29, 2023

An Analysis and Editorial Opinion


On June 21, 2023, I published a warning to all persons living within a 40-mile radius of the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant owned by Southern Company affiliate Georgia Power Company (along with three other utility partners) and operated by Southern Company affiliate Southern Nuclear Operating Company. The warning advised these residents that they are in grave danger of a Level 7 catastrophic nuclear disaster after Unit 3 begins commercial operations in July 2023.


On June 25, 2023, I published a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) letter describing how the Southern Company falsified critical test data on Unit 3. A catastrophic nuclear event was avoided during the hot functional testing of Unit 3 solely because no fuel was loaded into the reactor core.


Unit 3 at Vogtle is located near the city of Waynesboro in Burke County, Georgia.


Once Unit 3 is brought online for commercial service, it will become the first nuclear power plant built in America in more than 30 years.


Vogtle Unit 3 is a “Lemon” with a Potential for a Chernobyl Level 7 Nuclear Event


Vogtle Unit 3 is considered a “lemon" by many nuclear power experts. The construction of Unit 3 is 7 years behind schedule and more than double its original budgeted cost.


Based upon NRC records and industry reports, Units 3 and a companion unit designated as Unit 4 have the highest pre-operational testing failure rates among the nation’s 92 nuclear power plants. These failure rates are the product of:

  • A culture of production over quality

  • A culture of poor inspecting or non-inspecting of work

  • High personnel turnover and absenteeism

  • Significant work backlogs

  • High first-time component testing failure rates

  • Need for extensive rework and retesting, and

  • The willful falsification of tests results

Today, there is a 99% probability that a Level 7 nuclear disaster will occur at Unit 3 within 90 days after it becomes fully operational.


A Level 7 nuclear event is on the scale of the worst nuclear disasters at Chernobyl in the old Soviet Union in 1986 and Fukushima in Japan in 2011.


The Southern Company’s influence peddling in Washington and Georgia, coupled with “dark money” campaign contributions to key politicians in state and federal government, have brought the unthinkable at Vogtle Units 3 to the precipice of a disastrous reality.


To date, no state or federal government official has guaranteed the public that a Level 7 nuclear event will NOT occur at Unit 3 after it becomes fully operational. The reason for the lack of a public safety guarantee is simple: Politics have trumped public safety.


When the Level 7 nuclear disaster occurs, death and serious bodily injury from radiation poisoning, along with massive property destruction, will rain down upon the unsuspecting and innocent men, women, and children who live within a 40-mile radius of Vogtle.


This article discusses the need for affected residents to prepare for initial and delayed deaths from this Level 7 nuclear event.

While I sincerely hope I am wrong about the nuclear disaster at Unit 3, the credible whistleblower complaints and supporting documentation we have received to date suggests that no other outcome seems likely or probable.

Southern Company officials have: (a) consistently lied to state and federal regulatory agencies about the quality of their work at Units 3 and 4, (b) openly gouged and cheated the company's utility customers for over a decade, without adverse consequences from regulators or law enforcement officials, (c) co-opted greedy and morally bankrupt politicians who accepted “dark money” campaign contributions to sell out their constituents, (d) intentionally concealed design problems, engineering flaws, and shoddy workmanship from external safety monitors and inspectors, and (e) willfully falsified critical pre-operation test results.


Against this devastating backdrop, residents within a 40-mile radius of Unit 3 must decide whether they will entrust their lives to public officials who coddle corporate liars, shady contractors, and compromised politicians, or they will take the steps reasonably necessary to protect their own lives, as well as the lives of adult family members and children living with them.


This article discusses what these residents must know to prepare for initial and delayed deaths from the Level 7 nuclear event at Unit 3.


An upcoming article will address what the estimated 500,000 surviving residents need to know about the process of permanent resettlement, including their new life in old, nasty, and dilapidated Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer homes that are normally used to house hurricane victims on a temporary basis.


Another future article in this series will address the relocation of the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta, Georgia and what that entails for the PGA Tour.


Nuclear Reactor Accident


According to an April 4, 2018, report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on radiation emergencies, a nuclear reactor accident can result in the environmental release of radioactive material that is present inside the reactor core. If the core is damaged severely, exposure to high doses of radiation will cause injuries and deaths. Unrelated trauma may also be involved. This will occur in potentially hazardous areas of the nuclear plant and would likely affect only workers or responders. Environmental contamination with radioactive material can lead to internal contamination of the public with radionuclides like iodine. This internal contamination may increase the risk of developing cancer years after the incident.


Initial Deaths and Delayed Deaths


A radiation emergency from a nuclear power plant accident may result in initial deaths during the emergency and delayed deaths after the emergency.


Initial deaths would occur at or near ground zero, caused by the blast, heat, prompt radiation, or flying debris.


Blast injuries would include perforated ear drums, lung and gastrointestinal injuries, trauma due to flying debris, fractures and crush injuries, smoke inhalation, and exacerbation of chronic conditions.


Heat or thermal injuries (from direct absorption of thermal energy) would include flash burns and flame burns caused by ignition of clothes or indirect effects of fires.


Delayed deaths would occur from

  • Injuries sustained in the initial blast

  • Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS)

  • Combination of injuries and ARS

Clinical effects decrease with increasing distance from the reactor meltdown and/or explosion; therefore, it’s important to know the location of injury or death of the affected resident.


Exposure to radioactive materials also increases risk of malignancies years after exposure. The effects of radiation on the human body are depicted in the chart below.

Deaths Caused by Acute Radiation Syndrome


Radiation emergencies may lead to Acute Radiation Syndrome. ARS occurs when a person is exposed to very high levels of radiation, usually over a short period of time. These 3 types of ARS may result in death:

  • Hematopoietic syndrome (absorbed dose 0.70 – 6 Gy) Nausea and vomiting (within hours), reduced lymphocyte count (1-2 days), reduced neutrophil and platelet count (days to weeks), infection, possible death within 30 days. Survival is possible, but less likely with combined injuries (thermal burns or trauma).

  • Gastrointestinal syndrome (absorbed dose 6 – 10 Gy) Nausea and vomiting (within about an hour), reduced lymphocyte count (one day), reduced neutrophil and platelet count (less than one week), severe infection, bloody diarrhea, dehydration, death from 3 to 10 days. Very few will survive at this absorption dose level even with treatment. Survival is not possible with combined injuries (thermal burns or trauma).

  • Neurovascular syndrome (absorbed dose 20 – 50+ Gy) Nausea and vomiting (within minutes), mental status changes (disorientation), shock, cerebral edema, death within 48 hours. Survival is not possible.

Epilogue


A catastrophic nuclear power event has occurred only once before on America soil, and it resulted in the Level 5 nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island.

Vogtle Unit 3 will become the second and most deadly nuclear disaster in U.S. history. Based upon the estimated number of deaths from the Chernobyl nuclear accident, between 4,000 to 60,000 people within a 40-mile radius of Unit 3 will die a slow, painful, and needless death.


Politicians from across the nation, led by President Joe Biden, will offer their empty “thoughts and prayers” to the families of those killed from the reactor meltdown and/or explosion. The U.S. flag atop the National Capitol in Washington will fly at half mast for a few days. Numerous investigations into the cause of the nuclear disaster will be launched. Criminal prosecutions will ensue against top Southern Company executives and key regulatory officials.


Finally, the Southern Company has decided that it is cheaper to pay claims for death, personal injury, and property damages from its $13.7 billion nuclear insurance policy than it is to fix the fatally flawed, highly defective, and extremely dangerous Units 3 and 4 nuclear power plants at Vogtle, which have cost the ownership group over $35 billion to date. Only time will tell whether the Southern Company will pay dearly for this cold, hard, calculated, deadly, corporate decision.


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