Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The challenge of nuclear power

[Image of Three Mile Island from]

John McCain got on the bandwagon during last years presidential race. Others in and out of government have been touting the benefits of nuclear power. By and large, the dangers of nuclear technology have been pooh-poohed, or ignored.

But the dangers are real. France is often held up as an example of how a country can effectively use nuclear power to meet a majority of its energy needs. Seldom, however, are the problems France has, and is, experiencing, discussed. We have published at least two articles previously detailing some of those problems. One of those is here, and a more comprehensive article on the dangers of nuclear power is here.

Harvey Wasserman, writing for AlterNet, has brought the issue to our attention once again. He reminds us that we've had our own problems with nuclear power/plants in our country.

"People died -- and are still dying -- at Three Mile Island."

Some of us remember well the horror of 30 years ago, "America's most infamous industrial accident ... [and] we mourn the deaths that accompanied the biggest string of lies ever told in US industrial history."

Maybe that's the scariest part of all. We have discovered over and over again down through the years that our government has no compunction about lying to us when it serves the interests of those in power. Thus the Bush/Cheney gang, with straight faces, lied over and over again to justify their invasion of Iraq; or you may recall how the military lied to deflect investigation relative to its medical experiments on unsuspecting conscripts; or, in this case, how the government lied (and continues to lie) about what really happened at Three Mile Island.

Wasserman brings it all back: "As news of the accident poured into the global media, the public was assured there were no radiation releases.

"That quickly proved to be false.

"The public was then told the releases were controlled and done purposely to alleviate pressure on the core."

That was also untrue!

"The public was told the releases were 'insignificant."

Hah! The Nuclear Regulatory Commission still has no idea "how much radiation was released at Three Mile Island, or where it went."

Didn't matter.

Everybody lied. No problem, they said, just about the same radiation as an x-ray. They had no clue!

No problem, they said, the fuel did not melt inside the core. A lie. "...robotic cameras later showed a very substantial portion of the fuel did melt."

No problem, they said, there's no danger of an explosion. But there was!

Mr. Wasserman offers significant other information, including the fact that "the state of Pennsylvania hid the health impacts [of the meltdown], including deletion of cancers from the public record, abolition of the state's tumor registry, misrepresentation of the impacts it could not hide (including an apparent tripling of the infant death rate in nearby Harrisburg) and much more."

The truth? Surveys where fallout was the highest showed "very substantial plagues of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, respiratory problems, hair loss, rashes, lesions and much more."

Here's the real problem and the focus of this essay: We cannot and must not trust our government to tell us the truth, especially when it comes to nuclear energy! Or, as Wasserman put it:

"As the pushers of the 'nuclear renaissance' demand massive tax- and rate-payer subsidies to build yet another generation of reactors, they cynically stonewall the obvious death toll that continues to mount at the site of an accident that happened thirty years ago. The "see-no-evil' mantra continues to define all official approaches to the victims of this horrible disaster."

Even more frightening is that Three Mile Island had a state-of-the-art reactor, while "Every reactor now operating in the US is much older -- nearly all fully three decades older ... Their potential fallout ... could dwarf what came down in 1979."

So don't believe "them" when they say nuclear power is clean, safe, and the way to go. "They" are a bunch of rotten liars.

Read all of Wasserman's article here.


Alberto Vázquez said...

Nuclear power is indispensable in the energetic world mix. The motives grow day after day with the discoveries tied to the nuclear fusion and to the recycling of radioactive residues. I recommend

Grandpa Eddie said...

I remember the Three Mile Island 'accident' very well.

The Federal Govt should have done the same thing the Russians did after Chernobyl. Everyone should have been moved out and relocated. It would have been expensive at the time, but in the long run the cost would have been insignificant. Lives would have been saved and the suffering would have been greatly reduced.

Jacob said...

The questions raised are valid and must be looked into. Maybe they can be resolved; maybe they are merely from people frightened about the subject. We will not know if we automatically approve or eject anything. It has been many years and apparently the jury is still out.

Regardless though, building nuclear plants takes a long time and loads of money as does drilling for new oil. Both of these possibilities have been shouted about over long periods of time, by hucksters with an axe to grind. Under the present push for renewable energy, we must concentrate on what is possible right now, at costs that can be absorbed with some combination of private and government investors. Most of the ones we read about are not dangerous so they can be judged on their merits and feasibility. Most lend themselves to competition, with a little push by government that is open to all who dare risk and some protection from self seeking opponents of new competition.

I never liked Jimmy Carter and still don’t, but he was right on re energy and his policies worked! They were abandoned right after he lost to Reagan. We could have done so much more, so many years ago. Incidentally I personally was involved in having to make mandatory changes to energy use in commercial real estate AND WE PROFITED BECAUSE OF IT! It became industry standard as many others profited too. The government is not always wrong.

Bob Poris

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