We were just about to start getting back into the nuclear energy business ourselves after refraining from building any new nuclear reactors for decades.
The great cautionary tale of the 19th century is Frankenstein, Mary Shelly’s novel. It’s the story of a brilliant scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who builds a monster out of spare parts and then breathes life into it.
Instead of being grateful to his creator, the monster runs away. It eventually destroys Frankenstein and everyone he cares about.
The great cautionary tale of the 20th century is Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut’s novel. It’s the story of a brilliant scientist,
Tag: Nuclear Power
We were just about to start getting back into the nuclear energy business ourselves after refraining from building any new nuclear reactors for decades.
With a nuclear crisis ongoing it Japan, it may comfort you to know that our government has plans to keep America’s nuclear waste safe for a million years.
What a relief! Good to know that, unlike in Japan, America’s rulers have thought this stuff through.
Yes, the Energy Department says that it can keep all the waste from the nation’s 104 nuclear power plans, plus all the waste from nuclear weapons, safely stored under Yucca Mountain, Nevada, for one million years. Within that window, they have it broken down into two parts. For the first 10,000 years, the dose limit to “the public” from the stored waste is not supposed to exceed 15millirem per year of radiation. Then from 10,000 to a million years out, the dose to “the public” can go up to 100millirem per
When the apocalyptic cloud erupted over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world woke up to the dawn of the nuclear age. Today, if we survey the landscape of nuclear development across the planet, we see that the destructive impacts of the technology are often paired with the dehumanizing impacts of environmental racism.
At every point in the nuclear production chain, the industry has sloughed a disproportionate share of the risk on marginalized communities, from native peoples in the Southwest United States to the Australian outback. While the rest of the world hums along with nuclear power, many of these communities have fought a losing battle against the standard corporate line that technological advancements have led to seamless safety.
Last week in South Africa, environmental activists recharged their anti-nuclear campaign in light of the metastasizing disaster in Japan.
Today, in the shadow of Fukushima, the African continent’s one nuclear power plant, near Cape Town, is no longer a symbol of South Africa’s relative industrial advancement. Rather, it is an emblem of a ruthless pursuit of new fuel at the public’s
I have to admit that I was an anti-nuclear power activist back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I protested in front of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire, and worked for the Campaign For Safe Energy that in 1980 lobbied for anti-nuclear power resolutions in both the Republican and Democratic party platforms that year.
Protests, plus the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island and the more serious event in Chernobyl, contributed to the demise of the U.S. nuclear power program. But recently, a lot of politicians have called for us to build more nuclear plants.
But People Say It’s Now Safe
Despite my anti-nuke activist roots, I started to reconsider my feelings about nuclear power a few years
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar yesterday announced an enormous expansion in coal-mining that dwarfs the Obama administration’s clean energy initiatives — suggesting that President Obama’s response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster increasingly involves doubling down on other forms of dirty, unsafe energy.
A statement from Wild Earth Guardians, Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife put the announcement in perspective:
In other words, despite his administration’s rhetorical embrace of clean energy, when push comes to shove, Obama is effectively using modest wind and solar investments as cover for a broader embrace of dirty fuels. It’s the same strategy BP, Chevron, and other major polluters use: tout modest environmental investments in multimillion dollar PR campaigns, while putting the real money into fossil fuel development.
President Obama seems to be rushing to make this embrace even tighter: in the last week, the administration announced four new permits for deepwater offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico — the same type of exploration that led to the BP oil spill disaster – even as a huge new oil sheen covers the Gulf of Mexico and inundates Louisiana
Japan’s Fukushima disaster, stoking fears we’ve tried to bury since James Bridges’s 1971 epic “The China Syndrome,” is a sobering reminder of the fragility of our planet’s energy sources. As if on cue, 24-hour cable news studios were filled with experts who lamented our reliance on unsafe nuclear power and dirty fossil fuels. And we, the American people, wrung our hands, wondering why “they” aren’t doing anything to fix the problem.
The pattern repeats itself all too often: crisis, followed by a spike in consumer interest in renewable energy and a rapid return to normal, as we hop into our big cars and laze around our energy-guzzling
As Japan’s nuclear disaster stretched into its second week, traces of radiation from the stricken power plants showed up in several U.S. states, and as far away as Iceland.
With the reactors and uranium fuel rods still proving difficult to bring under control, the disaster could be the “death knell” for nuclear power, some analysts said. Countries around the world — from China to Germany — are taking a closer look at their nuclear plants and plans, while the U.S. intends to complete an initial review of its reactors within three
Crossposted with TomDispatch.com
When nuclear reactors blow, the first thing that melts down is the truth. Just as in the Chernobyl catastrophe almost 25 years ago when Soviet authorities denied the extent of radiation and downplayed the dire situation that was spiraling out of control, Japanese authorities spent the first week of the Fukushima crisis issuing conflicting and confusing reports. We were told that radiation levels were up, then down, then up, but nobody aside from those Japanese bureaucrats could verify the levels and few trusted their accuracy. The situation is under control, they told us, but workers are being
JAKARTA — Indonesia says it will press ahead with plans to develop nuclear power, despite the severe risks highlighted this week as Japan struggles to control a meltdown and radiation leaks at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Ferhat Aziz, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Nuclear Energy Agency said nuclear power would remain a key part of the country’s energy strategy, but opposition from government officials reveals deep divisions on how Indonesia should best meet its energy needs.
Demand for electricity is growing at nearly seven percent per year in Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous nation. And still more than a third of the country is not connected to the power grid.
Some in government say nuclear power is key to meeting energy shortfalls that cause frequent blackouts. But like Japan, Indonesia sits amid the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area prone to earthquakes and seismic activity.
The country also struggles with corruption, weak governing institutions and a lack of coordination between regulatory agencies – issues nuclear experts fear will prevent the government from adequately monitoring such a fragile source of energy.
Energy campaigners at environmental organization Greenpeace say Indonesia needs to invest in reliable energy sources that don’t pose the same risks to human safety as nuclear
Nuclear power is not evil; it’s the devil. Evil of our own making can be overcome. The devil cannot be overcome, not even if we ourselves conjure him into being. This is why staking our future on nuclear power is a pact with the devil.
Spokesmen for the nuclear lobby claim nuclear reactors are
It is too soon for meaning-making with the ongoing crisis in Japan. There will be time later to determine its ramifications for the world economy, for the future of the much-vaunted “nuclear renaissance.” But now is not that time. The living are still finding their dead, or seeking and not finding. And workers brave an unimaginably hostile environment as they fight to keep nuclear reactors cool, battling the twin threats of explosion and
As the attorney who represented the community group TMI Alert during the legal battle over the “restart” of the Three Mile Island Unit 1 reactor (the sister plant to the damaged Unit 2), I learned quite a bit about this accident that was never supposed to happen (sound familiar?). Here is a short TMI primer:
In the early hours of March 28, 1979, the nuclear core at TMI-2, located in Middletown, Pennsylvania just outside of Harrisburg, was uncovered for about 2 hours until a shift supervisor finally guessed that water was leaving the reactor through a stuck-open valve. Workers shut the valve, but not in time to prevent much of the core from melting, followed by several days of chaotic attempts to stabilize this out-of-control plant. (Learn more here.) But for two days, officials at GPU, the company in charge, did not tell the public or the government what they knew or how serious this
I’m not sure if anyone would believe me unless I had proof, but exactly one week before the Sendai, Japan Earthquake and the beginning of one of the biggest nuclear accidents in history, as fate would have it I sat down and watched, for the first time ever, The China Syndrome the ’70s epic detailing a fictional cover up of a major nuclear disaster in the making.
But while part of my beat is technology and science, I wasn’t watching the film to weigh in on nuclear issues. In fact, I was only doing research on the film so the pun-intended title of my recent technology piece “The China Syndrome: Why Baidu is not more Evil than Google” would not inadvertently strike the wrong note due to some oversight from my not having seen the film. Yes, the viewing was a purely tangential exercise to cover my editorial hindquarters. I had no idea that what I was watching was a parable laced with issues and decisions I myself would have to grapple with just a week
At U.S. PIRG, we are struck with grief and deep concern as we watch events unfold in Japan. Based on recent news coverage and President Obama’a remarks on Thursday, significant releases of radioactivity have already occurred and more are possible.
On Thursday, President Obama took the obvious first step by calling on the “Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do a comprehensive review of the safety of our domestic nuclear plants in light of the natural disaster that unfolded in Japan.”
Nuclear power is inherently
It is raining outside right now. And coming down with the rain are measurable — if trace — quantities of radioisotopes from Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors. What we are being exposed to in California today is not a reflection of the current situation in Japan, though. These winds left Japan right after the first radiation releases, and the situation has gotten significantly worse in the past four
As heroic workers and soldiers strive to save stricken Japan from a new horror–radioactive fallout–some truths known for 40 years bear repeating.
An earthquake-and-tsunami zone crowded with 127 million people is an un-wise place for 54 reactors. The 1960s design of five Fukushima-I reactors has the smallest safety margin and probably can’t contain 90% of melt-downs. The U.S. has 6 identical and 17 very similar
Up until about a week ago, nuclear energy had been broadly embraced as our great radioactive hope for a clean energy future. In the face of a scary and uncertain situation in Japan, the president and some Congressional Republicans have urged us to stay the course on nuclear energy despite renewed safety concerns. The truth is that even without the safety concerns we should forgo new nuclear reactors because they are fundamentally uneconomic. Nuclear reactors are a bad deal for the private sector and they are a bad deal for American taxpayers.
Nuclear construction has been stagnant since the
The Apocalyptic horrors still unfolding in Japan are causing many of us to search within. I am not a philosopher, or ethicist or expert on death and dying. Like most of us, I’m in awe when I read about the 50 heroic workers who have been fighting the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushia Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. I wondered what motivated them to give up their
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Wednesday, confirmed to Congress that the Obama administration would continue to propose more than $8 billion in loan guarantees for the construction of a new fleet of nuclear power plants. As Secretary Chu cautiously acknowledged the administration’s budget request during congressional testimony, reactor number four at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station was on the verge of melting down — one of its spent fuel tanks completely drained of water.
It’s confounding why and how the White House can continue to endorse this policy, given what we’ve witnessed in Japan, while everyone from Europe to China is backing away from nuclear power until they can reassess the dangers of a Fukushima-style event.
Originally, the administration’s inclusion of nuclear as part of its comprehensive energy policy wasn’t quite as head-scratchingly bizarre as its support for, say, the fairy tale of “clean coal.” But it still indicated a major shift for the Democratic Party. Democrats are doing nuclear power now.
There is no question that the devastation caused by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accidents in Japan, already estimated at $180 billion, will get worse before it gets better. With thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, the damage is staggering and heartbreaking.
Japan will require a massive reconstruction, including a dramatic reconstruction effort to rebuild the nation with the world’s third largest economy. They will need the help of the world, and the
When a confluence of events line up to expose an irrefutable but wickedly ugly truth, the phenomenon comes to be known as a perfect storm. Japan’s devastating March 11 earthquake, tsunami, nuclear emergency and humanitarian crisis would better be described as a series of ever-worsening perfect storms.
Though few people yet realize it, these events are a clear but frightening glimpse into the future of our world as carbon fuels upon which we have relied for the past two centuries dwindle. These incidents have already exposed the world’s energy vulnerability.
The sooner people and policy makers realize it, the faster and more effective we can be at implementing clear-headed, sensible plans for our energy future. No country is anywhere close to being prepared.
The hydrogen explosions and venting of radioactive materials at the Daiichi nuclear power plants at Fukushima, only 150 miles north of Tokyo, already represent the second worst nuclear accident in history, and the situation is becoming increasingly
A nuclear power reactor is an extraordinary machine. All other machines generate heat while they are running, but stop generating heat when they are turned off. A reactor continues to generate heat, even when it is turned off. That is the root of the problem in Fukushima,
When it comes to the safety of nuclear power plants, I am biased. And I’ll bet that if President Barack Obama had been with me on that trip to Chernobyl 24 years ago he wouldn’t be as sanguine about the future of nuclear power as he was Tuesday in an interview with a Pittsburgh television station: “Obviously, all energy sources have their downside. I mean, we saw that with the Gulf spill last summer.”
Sorry, Mr. President, but there is a dimension of fear properly associated with the word nuclear that is not matched by any oil spill.
Even 11 months after what has become known simply as “Chernobyl” I sensed a terror of the darkest unknown as I donned the requisite protective gear and checked Geiger counter readings before entering the surviving turbine room adjoining plant
Fermi Nuclear Reactor, Monroe Michigan
Courtesy Michael Rose
Nuclear power was sold in the United States as being “Too cheap to meter.” This miracle power source that harnessed the might of the atom to light American homes and power their TVs was seen as a way to put a happy face on the horrors visited upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Lewis Strauss who chaired the Atomic Energy Commission in 1954, the predecessor of today’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRC), spoke of an era when “atomic furnaces” from fission and fusion reactors would provide clean, safe, reliable, abundant and cheap power for generations to come. It hasn’t been the panacea he foretold. In fact, it’s been a train wreck of accidents, cost overruns, nuclear weapons proliferation and an ever-growing waste problem that is always on the verge of being solved.
This hasn’t stopped the nuclear power industry from promoting its product as the safe, clean alternative to coal for a green