In the first half of the program, George Knapp welcomed nuclear power expert, Arnie Gundersen, who discussed how, more than four years after the triple meltdown at Fukushima, nuclear waste inside the reactors continues to bleed into the Pacific Ocean creating low concentrations of radioactivity that have already migrated across the Pacific to the west coast of North America. Steven Starr of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation briefly joined the conversation during the second hour. Gundersen explained that the earthquake which struck the area "shattered the aquifers near the plant" and also cracked the basins which contain radioactive water at the facility. This has resulted in an astounding 300 tons of contaminated water being fed into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima site every day.
Despite this ongoing problem, he lamented, the Japanese government has refused outside help to stop the leakage and continues to focus on a radical plan to freeze the ground around Fukushima which he believes will ultimately fail to work. Due to this continuous outflow of contaminated water, radiation from Fukushima has been detected in an area ranging from Alaska and the Canadian coast down to northern California. Additionally, Gundersen expressed concern over the problem of bioaccumulation, where organisms living on the bottom of the ocean absorb the radiation and are then eaten by larger creatures which, in turn, drives the radioactivity up the food chain in larger increments. Moreover, he observed that Japan has far stricter standards for radioactivity in food than the United States does, so "if a fish fails in Japan, they can ship it to us and we'll never inspect it."
In the latter half of the program, former Nevada consumer advocate and public utility commissioner Timothy Hay addressed the attempt by power companies to crush rooftop solar energy by throwing up roadblocks to make it harder for homeowners to install, and how electric companies hate the idea of clean, plentiful solar taking away their business. He marveled that cost estimates for solar power projects that were considered extremely optimistic ten years ago have actually been shattered in recent years as the cost of producing panels has rapidly gone down while the efficiency has increased tremendously. As such, he said, power companies have been forced to quickly adjust to this new landscape and are using their legislative influence to push for regulations which would slow down the further adoption of solar technology.
Beyond regulatory roadblocks, Hay noted that utility companies have adopted another shrewd method for maintaining their profits. According to him, a new trend has emerged where customers are being charged for non-consumption related fees so that utility companies can recoup money lost as a result of lower energy use and people who have adopted alternative power sources. "Even if you are a very efficient household," he observed, "a larger portion of your bill is represented by those fixed charges." Although this trick has been practiced for decades, Hay pointed out that it has become more prevalent and acute in recent years as utility companies have become more desperate to maintain their revenue.