It Ain’t Sustainable – Part 2

The risks of nuclear power I described in Part 1 are startling enough, but once you put them in context they become much scarier.  That would not be so bad if we had a regulatory agency that was truly dedicated to the safety of our citizens or a government willing to take action even if it costs energy corporations a large chunk of their bottom lines.

We have approximately 70 nuclear power plants that are approaching their 40-year licensing limit.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the U.S. licensing agency, is in bed with the energy companies they are suppose to regulate and inspect.  They have looked the other way, in order to insure profits while minimizing safety risks.

For 20 years, Dave Lochbaum, Director of Nuclear Safety Project, and other nuclear engineers have been pushing for design corrections to reduce a major risk at 31 nuclear plants.  Lochbaum states, “The safety problem basically boils down – no pun intended – to the spent fuel pool being located inside the same building that houses ALL the emergency pumps for providing cooling and makeup water to the reactor core during an accident.”  “There’s no emergency system to cool the spent fuel pool’s water under accident conditions and the cooling system for the building containing the spent fuel pool and ALL the emergency cooling pumps for the reactor core cannot remove the spent fuel’s heat.”  In the case of the 23 Mark I reactors, like those at Fukushima, the spent fuel pools are suspended 100 feet above the containment floor!

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on April16th of last year, after visiting the Fukushima site:

“These buildings–still contain many spent fuel rods.  While it will likely take a number of years to fully retrieve damaged fuel from the reactors themselves, retrieval of spent fuel stored in the existing on-site spent fuel pools to safer storage ….. should be a priority given the possibility of further earthquakes over the several decades of response activities now proposed by the plant owner – Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).  Loss of containment in any of these pools, especially the pool at Unit 4 which has the highest inventory of the hottest fuel, could result in an ever greater release of radiation than the initial accident” [my emphasis].

What has been done since this letter to Hillary Clinton?  The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was forced out of office for suggesting stronger safety regulations are needed before extending current nuclear plant licensing.  Fukushima is in the same teetering state of collapse.  If Unit 4 topples there are estimates that it will release 85 times the radiation of Chernobyl.

Recently, Russian scientists have compiled reports that indicate approximately one million people have died in the Northern Hemisphere, mostly of cancer, as a result of the Chernobyl disaster that occurred in Russia in 1986.  Some currentestimates of the Fukushima disaster are that it is 7 times worse than Chernobyl, and that North America has and will receive the brunt of the fallout (this does not include the millions of gallons of radioactive water being dumped into the Pacific Ocean).  That equates to 7 million people dead and 56 million disabled in the next 30-35 years!  Many of the people affected will be in the U.S. and Canada.  Fukushima is not a Japanese catastrophe it is an ongoing global catastrophe.

We have several plants that are an earthquake or a super storm away from a major accident.  Some of them are closer to major centers of population than Fukushima, such as the 40-year-old Indian Point Reactor, just 25 miles outside of New York City, and the Oyster Creek Nuclear Facility, 60 miles east of Philadelphia; both underwent emergency shutdowns recently due to Hurricane Sandy.  The San Onofre Plant sits crippled on an ocean cliff between San Diego and Los Angeles releasing radiation.  Major failures of these plants would mean the contamination and evacuation of our largest economic and population centers.

Other nations like Germany and France have shutdown reactors and are considering decommissioning them.  Why?   Because they understand that the risks to life on the planet are too great, and the economic viability to safely build, maintain and operate these nuclear plants is not feasible.

Nuclear power is one of those ill-conceived missteps of our culture that “simply cannot go on much longer.”  Nuclear power does not make sense economically or ecologically.  Simply put, “It Aint Sustainable.”

Doug Bennett is local talk show host on KKRN, 88.5 FM; community organizer; and retired general contractor.

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8 Responses

  1. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    And most of the population just puts its head down and says, "As long as my house is supplied, what do care?" At some point we all will be forced to care and the picture ain't pretty!

  2. Avatar pmarshall says:

    Yes, I am inclined to agree with all of that. WEe are in an "accident waiting to happen" mode.

  3. Avatar Sunnie says:

    I've never commented on anything I've read online, but I am breaking the mold for your articles on nuclear energy. Thank you for putting that information out there. I sometimes despair that we will ever wake up our world in time to the danger of nuclear energy. It is not a disaster that is waiting to happen; it is a disaster already underway.

    As a number of readers have pointed out, NE is not clean energy. And as you state, it is not sustainable. Perhaps if we had more people sharing info such as you have done, we can yet avert the catastrophe we are crafting. Link, link, link is good. But somewhere, somehow, we have to develop the political will and the political power to act now to mitigate this. Otherwise, it will simply become a case of too little, too late. And what a terrible and final legacy that will be.

  4. Avatar Hollis Pickett says:

    Do we have substantive detectible radiation data here on the West Coast for before and then after Fukushima?

  5. Avatar wow says:

    please cite your sources for your absurd statistics. are you aware that the earth contains a large amount od radioactivity and the average person is exposed to 400-600 mrem per year from that and cosmic sources? this accident raises that exposure by less than 1 mrem per person per year and the effect diminishes exponentially over time. your sources are flawed. and chernobyl released billions of times the contaminants to the environment that fukushima did. stop reading what hairbrained people write. fukushima like acccidents are unscceptable, but don't fear monger and make people think everyone is going to have cancer now when the actual effect is nothing.

  6. Avatar Jim says:

    WOW indeed. "Hairbrain people"? The wise, WOW, speak only of what they know. If you want the straight scoop on NE go talk to Dr. Fard our local scientist/expert at Shasta College. I don't know where you get your information, WOW; but Doug is spot on. Rather than help you get your facts straight, I shall look forward to his response as well.

  7. Avatar Pamela says:

    Thank you Doug for your great article, Part 2. The information that you cite is readily available for those people who want to see, know and understand. Good job.

  8. I produced/directed many of Senator Ron Widen's political ads for years (he was a Congressman then)… he is a good family man, rare politician, and has consistently been a GREAT humanist beyond corruption, IMO.

    “We cannot hope to create a sustainable culture with any but sustainable souls.”

    ~ Derrick Jensen

    As with corrupted oath-taking, non-sustainable souls in the Family Law Industry, we can't foster sustainable estranged-families when protective parents have their children abducted and are marginalized under the color of law… while their children suffer in silence under a preventable fallout. However Machiavellian-sounding, it's a troubled system that can still be fixed.

    With other industries and corporations, much the same can be said, really.

    Many rationalize and theologize indulgence to the detriment of others. But when sustainable souls coalesce, there's hope.

    Only, withnuclear falloutand non-sustainable souls at the helm we could render our spaceship-planet unfixable with permanence!

    (Great read and citations Doug – than you!)