Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nuclear power - going out with a bang or a whimper

[Photo is of cooling towers at French nuclear plant]

Nuclear power is all the rage. Lately.

Bush, McCain, Obama, Pelosi and numerous other political poohbahs have praised the possibilities of meeting our energy needs by going nuclear.

Nuclear bespeaks danger. Nuclear is not a topic for casual conversation. Going nuclear means we can go out with a bang, or we can go out with a whimper.

As more and more unstable regimes develop nuclear arsenals, the chance of going out with a bang increases exponentially. As more and more countries seek to go nuclear to satisfy their energy requirements, the chances of going out with a whimper rise in proportion to their number.

There is a new nuclear plant on track to be built in Levy County, Florida. Many people in the area are not happy about that.

According to an article by James Ridgeway, titled "4.5 Billion Years in Provence," energy companies are enthused about nuclear energy "especially when it is fueled by substantial government subsidies. In a country that hasn't broken ground on a new nuclear plant since the 1979 near-meltdown at Three Mile Island, on June 30 the US government's Energy Information Administration listed 19 license applications to build commercial nuclear reactors under review of anticipated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The number is expected to exceed 30 by the end of near year."

That's rather frightening in itself, but Ridgeway continues: "The NRC has hired 400 new staff to deal with the flood of applications, and 'streamlined' the process for siting, licensing, and constructing new nuclear plants."

I have big problems with the word "streamlined" in the same sentence with "siting, licensing, and constructing" ... we're talking about NUCLEAR plants! Living in north central Florida, I don't want them "streamlining" anything relative to the new plant in Levy County!

Ridgeway notes that many nuclear enthusiasts are looking to France for validation of their nuclear dreams. Even John McCain, who, not so long ago attacked France for opposing the war in Iraq, is now kissing that nation's ass, so to speak. McCain went to France last February and came back convinced that if the French can "generate 80% of their electricity with nuclear power," the U.S. can, too!

Ah...not so fast. Last month, there was "a leak from a cracked pipe at a nuclear fuel plant in the southeastern Drome region ... the leak was small and had not contaminated groundwater."

On July 7, that was not the case when "75 kilograms ... of untreated liquid uranium were spilled at the Tricastin nuclear plant in the Vaucluse, north Avignon." All persons located in that part of Provence were told not to drink, swim or fish in the water.

According to Mr. Ridgeway, "Incidences of radioactive contamination are common in France, which has had no more success than any other country in solving the intractable problem of radioactive waste. At the Tricastin site, for example, about 770 tons of nuclear waste have been buried for the past 30 years, and four smaller incidents took place in 2007 alone..."

Greenpeace, in 2006, found that contaminated groundwater threatened the Champagne vineyards of eastern France. And in Normandy, the "radioactivity was more than seven times the European safety limit in local underground aquifers, which are used by farmers for their dairy cattle in a region renowned for its Brie and Camembert."

Radioactive waste from spent fuel rods is a danger for 240,000 years! "Depleted uranium, the byproduct of the enrichment process, is even more robustly radioactive, with a half-life of 4.5 billion years."

This next comes in the "did you know?" category. Reprocessed plutonium is further along on the danger scale -- "and [is] far more easily utilized by terrorists." Nuclear waste is shipped "secretly" all over Europe. La Hague, where large amounts of "highly radioactive nuclear waste" are stored, is "an especially devastating target for a terrorist attack."

La Hague, and Sellafield, "its more notorious British counterpart ... releases low-level radioactive waste into the air and sea. Several studies have found elevated levels of childhood leukemia around the Normandy site."

Mr. Ridgeway continues to describe how "Areva--the French state-owned nuclear giant responsible for the waste sites in Normandy and Champagne, as well the two plants that had leaks this month--is positioned to take full advantage of the US nuclear revival."

Areva has already obtained "several major contracts to supply fuel to current US nuclear facilities, and signed on to build a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant in Idaho. ...

There's much more, including Ridgeway's observation that this push to go nuclear derives in part from Dick Cheney's 2001 (secret) Energy Task Force.

Follow the money and you'll find out who's benefiting from all of this -- many of which are closely-related to or involved in the Bush administration.

Ridgeway also notes that the French are rethinking their commitment to nuclear energy. "Anti-nuclear protests seem to be on the rise in France, against both new nuclear plants and the high-risk transportation of radioactive fueld and waste."

Is nuclear energy a necessity? Are there other options out there? Are those other options off the table because the Bush administration has already committed itself to the corporate pirates who will make out like the bandits they are in the surge to go nuclear?

When push comes to shove, we do NOT know yet all of the ramifications of going nuclear! We do KNOW that it's dangerous as hell and that accidents happen and that we might "accidentally" end up raising a generation of children, all of which suffer from maladies such as leukemia!

It appears likely that if we choose to go nuclear, we will go out, either with a bang, or with a whimper.

What should sane people do?

Please read the entire article by Mr. Ridgeway here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have scared me! Perhaps a requirement of any approval for a nuclear plant should include a provision that all backers must live in close proximity to the plant for generations to come. Let the risk be taken by those that are convinced it is safe. I really do not know the answers. Once upon a time, I trusted the scientists. Now I am not sure that scientists know it all. We have science being questioned re climate change, global warming, evolution, and now nuclear problems. What does the Bible say about nuclear energy? Has anyone asked the popular ministers what they think?
In general, drilling and nuclear will take years before we get any benefits and even those benefits will not solve the entire problem of energy. Why not immediately start on solar, wind and new combinations of fuel that can be started quickly with government’s help? We could be solving part of the problem while working on the long term solutions. If we can get a portion of our fuel problem solved, then perhaps we can produce enough old fashioned fuel to be self-sufficient. We could start by uncapping capped wells and drilling in all the current oil leases; building new refineries and stopping the export of any oil from Alaska or the continental USA. We could also immediately work on cleaning up coal, even if that took some governmental subsides. Either we, as a nation have a problem or we don’t. Open the discussions and get the profit notions out in the open, so we can work on national security re energy.
Bob Poris

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