Monday, January 04, 2010

Nobody Wants A Dirty Nukie

Just last week, a nuclear power plant in Ontario accidentally spilled 210,000 liters of tritium into Lake Ontario. That's enough tritium to fill more than two Olympic-size swimming pools. However, nuclear industry officials say that's OK. The spilled tritium was only 0.1 percent of allowable monthly releases.


Canada allows each nuclear power plant to release the equivalent of 2,000 Olympic-size swimming pools of Tritium per month? I didn't believe it. But this is not the only report I've found.

Hey, it isn't a coincidence that Canada just happens to be the world's biggest exporter of uranium. Paul McKay, a Canadian journalist who has won Canada's highest awards for business writing and investigative journalism; has written in his new book Atomic Accomplice “These exports generate $1 billion a year in Canadian cash flow – but bequeath to the world enough fissile material to make 5,000 nuclear warheads every year.”

Moreover, these accidental releases of tritium aren't just happening in Canada. Here's a report of a release happening just about the same time at Nine Mile Nuclear Facility - where they want to build another reactor (see map).

But things could be worse. In India, a fire at a nuclear lab just killed two people.

In Mubai, 3 people were arrested with 5 kilograms of “depleted” uranium. (Depleted uranium is still radioactive and poisonous.)

And in Germany, a University of Mainz study has concluded that German children under 5 years of age living within 5 kilometers of 16 nuclear reactors had a cancer rate 60% higher and a leukemia rate 100% higher than expected.

The verdict has been in for a long time. Nuclear power is dangerous – and will continue to be for hundreds of thousands of years.

I used to work within the nuclear industry – nuclear weapons that is. I used to work at the Nevada Test Site. I worked in containment. My job was to keep radioactive debris from escaping the ground, or at least the boundaries of the Nevada Test Site.

The one thing I learned in my decade of blowing up nuclear bombs was that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT CONTAINER. The radioactivity is going to get out. The best we could possibly hope for was to minimize the damage – and convince people that was good enough.

Video: Atomic Cafe

Yes, that's right. We've been systematically lied to about the safety of nuclear radiation for decades. But that's OK. The military/industrial complex made billions (and I got a paycheck for 10 years).

We can't just blame this all on a few corrupt executives and politicians. Hordes of us either want jobs in the industry, or want to keep our jobs - no matter the consequences. I saw it back when we stopped nuclear testing on my Native Homeland in Nevada. It was amazing. Almost to a man, all of the cold war employees cared more about keeping their jobs than irradiating America (and themselves). The inertia to keep doing the same thing (even if it is wrong), is huge.

Consider this: What if there were a better way to generate nuclear power that would cut out that billion dollars a year Canada gets for selling uranium? There may be. (See my next blog entry.) If so; do you think for one moment the companies (and employees) involved with mining, transporting, and utilizing uranium would support that new technology? ...Even if this new technology were far safer? Not for a moment. It would cut into their pay.

If you've got a dirty nukie, other people with clean nukies will run you out of business.

This is what the status quo is all about:

If it's still making you money, don't fix it.

This attitude is a sure sign that an industry is on its last feeble leg – or the nation's economy that supports this industry is about to collapse. Eventually, either competitors will develop an industry that races by, or the whole system will collapse of its own weight.

But does the nuclear power industry care? Sure they do. They see an opportunity for a quick multi-billion dollar profit. F*<# the future. Or apparently, in their minds, people of the future will be so technologically advanced, there won't be a problem we create that they won't be able to fix. (Just who are they kidding?)

The nuclear industry is so stuck in the days of the “peaceful atom” that they ignore the obvious. Competitors have already invented the technologies that will trivialize them.

But like all marginalized industries, they're not about to go without a fight. Even if it is obvious they are in the wrong... Hey, they just want things to be the way they used to be.

For instance, the magazine Power Engineering (in the article Executive Roundtable on New Nuclear) quotes nuclear industry executives trying their best to ignore the enormous nuclear waste issue they intend to make worse:

Q: Is Yucca Mountain really off the table? If so, where should we go from here?

James Miller (Southern Nuclear Operating): The spent fuel issue is not a barrier to the nuclear renaissance.

George Vanderheyden (Unistar Nuclear Energy): I'll simply tell you, I don't know... It is not a technological issue, it's not a safety issue... Our country just hasn't made the decision.

Michael Kansler (Enrergy Nuclear): I wouldn't call Yucca Mountain 100 percent off the table... it just means that they are going to look at it again.

Bryan Dolan (Duke Energy): We think a public corporation should assume responsibility for used fuel management; something that can operate outside the politics of an organization like the Department of Energy.

Steve Winn (Nuclear Innovation North America): It's not something that factors into the decision on whether to build the plant or not.”

This is cold, calculated ignorance. And they hope we'll buy it. In fact they hope we'll pay for it.

In the same article:

Q: How important is getting a Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee?

Miller: We feel strongly that the DOE loan guarantees are helpful to America...

Vanderheyden: Federal loan guarantees are absolutely critical to our proposed new project...

Kansler: would be nice to have some partners to share in some of that financial risk.

Winn: I think it's critical.”

In other words, if we left this up to the free market, the nuclear industry would be finished.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.