February 4th, 2010
There is no such thing as safe, clean nuclear power, and there never will be. There is no such thing as safe containment of nuclear waste, and there never will be. Therefore, we should not put our money into President Obama's misguided nuclear dementia.
Did we learn nothing from 9-11? Did we learn nothing from the tsunami in Banda-Ache? Did we learn nothing from the earthquake in Japan that nearly initiated "Genpatsu-Shinsai"? Did we learn nothing from Davis-Besse's near-meltdown in 2002? Did we learn nothing from Chernobyl?
So far we have been lucky: Lucky the terrorists only flew directly over, instead of into, the Indian Point Nuclear Power Facility. Lucky the nearest nuclear power facility to the 2004 tsunami was thousands of miles away and the waves only did "minor" damage. Lucky none of the seven nuclear power plants at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Facility melted down when a "beyond design basis" earthquake occurred in 2007. Three years later, only two of those plants have come back online. Lucky a worker at Davis-Besse inadvertently leaned against a control rod housing during maintenance, and it gave way, alerting them to the severe corrosion in the reactor pressure vessel head below them. Lucky Chernobyl happened there, not here.
Steven Chu and the entire DOE (Department of Energy) couldn't stop 9-11 style terrorists no matter how much money Obama gives them to "solve" the nuclear waste problem with so-called "temporary" onsite storage. In fact, DOE won't even try -- they say the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) handles that. Since no planes will ever be hijacked again, they don't have to protect against airplane strikes structurally. No airplane will fall uncontrollably out of the sky onto a nuclear power plant, either -- even though numerous commercial flight paths overfly nuclear power plants around the country. The containment domes are touted as being airplane-proof but they aren't. And even if they were, MOST of the nuclear poisons at each reactor site are stored OUTSIDE the containment domes, in the spent fuel pools and dry casks. The control rooms are also outside the domes, and without the control rooms, the plants would surely melt down, releasing billions of Curies of deadly radiation.
Only geologic storage combined with constant monitoring has any hope of protecting nuclear waste from a 9-11 type of attack, and even then, rogue employees can sabotage any physical fortress.
Geologic storage also may not be able to protect the radioactive waste from earthquakes or other hazards. For the past 20 years Yucca Mountain was the presumed future national repository for nuclear waste, but it has technical flaws as well as political hurdles. Any repository will have such problems. Over time, water, rodents and insects will always move the waste out of the repository. Finding a community that accepts nuclear waste means finding a community that is desperately poor, poorly educated, and has corrupt leaders. The Yucca Mountain team was allowed to suggest anything different if they could -- just not the same thing in a different place.
Obama is correct that Yucca Mountain is a flawed solution for the waste problem, but so is Obama's current plan for spent fuel -- known as "on-site storage" -- which means dozens of different things at dozens of different reactor sites, each with a scandal behind it.
Reprocessing is intensely polluting and expensive, and doesn't eliminate the deadly fission products. And worst of all, reprocessing enables the nuclear weapons industry.
Rocketing spent nuclear reactor cores to the sun costs too much and would fail too often, because humans fail, and so do their materials. Materials ARE failing at all our old nuclear power plants, and so are the humans. Fraud, cover-ups, circular arguments, intimidation of activists, and lies are the stock-in-trade of the nuclear industry.
Radiation, heat, pressure, and vibration are all very damaging, even to so-called super-alloys. New steam generators start to fail almost as soon as they are installed, but the industry accepts this, and makes wild claims about the great research and new materials that will be used to replace the old stuff. And then they deliver the same old leaky parts made of the same old leaky materials, and that's why there is tritium (and other radioactive substances) in the groundwater under so many reactors.
Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen, the most common element in our bodies and in the universe. Hydrogen is used in our bones, brains, heart, blood... everywhere. The legal limit for reactors to release each year is about one thirtieth of a teaspoon of tritium, and they have to dilute even that much in billions of gallons of water before they can legally release it. Neither the Nuclear Regulatory Commission nor the nuclear reactor operators care about tritium leaks as long as the deadly pollutant is diluted to legally-dispersible (but still hazardous) quantities.
The nuclear industry assumes that a little radiation, of any type, absorbed by any part of the body, is good for you. Therefore, they believe that every release is harmless as long as it's sufficiently diluted. In reality there is no safe dose of radiation. Benefits from using radiation in medicine come at a price in cancers for some percentage of the patients later, and even in cancers for the medical personnel.
The nuclear industry and its supporters insist that renewables won't work. But wind power ALONE could supply all of America's energy needs -- with a properly-designed power grid. We need a better grid anyway, to avoid colossal blackouts like we had in the Northeast in 2003, impacting approximately 50 million people and causing emergency shut downs at dozens of nuclear power plants, when their offsite emergency backup power supplies failed. Even Obama favors investing in a better, more robust power grid.
The nuclear industry claims nuclear power can be a cure for global warming. It can't be. There are the uranium mining companies with their enormous earth-moving equipment, the construction process, the storage of the waste for millennia afterwards, the operational costs in fossil fuels for the thousands of employees at the plants, the superfund cleanup sites the nuclear fuel cycle has already created, and the hospitalizations resulting from accidental (and intentional) releases of radiation. These are all "carbon intensive" activities.
President Obama wants to invest $54 billion dollars (of taxpayer's money) in a "new" generation of nuclear power plants which will be marginally more efficient -- if that -- and marginally safer -- if that -- and dozens of times more expensive than previous generations of nuclear power plants. And they'll generate thousands of tons of new nuclear waste each year, just like the currently-operating, "old" generations of nuclear power plants do.
Instead of finally ending the senseless production of more nuclear waste, Obama has set up a new committee to "study" the waste problem for two more years. In two years, these people will throw up their arms, like everyone else before them, and declare, as quietly as possible, that they couldn't solve the problem either. But creating the committee gives the 104 currently-operating nuclear power plants a green light to keep making more waste. Over the next two years, thousands of TONS of NEW nuclear waste will be created, any milligram of which can kill, and kill, and kill, and will destroy any container you put it in.
All just for electricity (or so they say). Electricity which is easily obtained through other methods that are truly safe, clean, and green.
The author has written thousands of essays about nuclear power but only one book, THE CODE KILLERS, which is available as a free download from his web site: www.acehoffman.org . The author is also a computer programmer; his educational software programs are used by students and teachers at over 1000 universities around the world: www.animatedsoftware.com .
Author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download: acehoffman.org
phone: (800) 551-2726; (760) 720-7261
address: PO Box 1936, Carlsbad, CA 92018
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