In Wake of Japan’s Nuclear Crisis The US Moves for a Nuclear Time Out

Mar 14 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

A second blast at Fukushima

Jason Easley drew attention the other day to how on Fox Business today, Eric Bolling made the case today that nuclear power is so safe that it can survive the an earthquake and a tsunami. He used Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi power plant as an example of the safety of nuclear power. As Jason pointed out, “The problem is that there has been an explosion at the plant, and radiation has leaked out.” This is the kind of inconvenient fact FOX News, pushing its corporate, big-business-friendly message, doesn’t like to leak out. It would rather see radiation leak out than the truth. Radiation only kills people.

The truth kills profits.

But the truth is becoming more difficult to hide with each passing day as the world’s attention is focused on Japan in the aftermath of the devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami, leaving thousands dead and many more homeless. It is difficult to avoid noticing therefore that even a few days after the disaster, the nuclear problem is far from resolved. As today’s CNN headline reads, “Japan’s nuclear reactor problems mount.” Another, also hard to avoid noticing, reads, “Tests detect radioactivity on 17 U.S. Navy crew members in Japan.”

Tests detected low levels of radioactivity on 17 U.S. Navy helicopter crew members when they returned to the USS Ronald Reagan after conducting disaster relief missions in Japan, the military said Monday.

Airborne radioactivity can be detected 100 miles away from the plant. As a result, the Navy has moved U.S. 7th Fleet ships away from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Nuclear reactors have not looked this unsafe since Chernobyl. Will FOX News continue to push them?

It is being reported that on Monday there was a second blast: a hydrogen explosion at another reactor at Fukushima; not only No. 1 but now No. 3 as well. The blast at the No. 1 reactor occurred on Saturday according to Japan’s Kyodo News. Not only are people in danger from the “normal” aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, but man-made dangers in the form of radiation, which the wind can blow around to cover large areas otherwise unaffected.

CNN reports that,

After Monday’s blast, authorities ordered at least 500 residents remaining within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the plant to stay inside, Edano said. About 200,000 people evacuated the area over the weekend after a government order.

Now, while FOX News sings the praises of nuclear power, there are calls coming in for a “nuclear time out.” Democratic Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey is one of those voices, calling for a moratorium on the building of new plants. He says, “We just have to call a time out and examine whether those safety features which are going to be necessary in the future are built into new nuclear power plants in our country.”

Rep.  Markey states that the San Onofre plant in CA was built to withstand only a 7.0 earthquake but Japan “was 100 times greater in terms of its intensity.” And San Onofre, it should be pointed out, is near San Clemente in San Diego County, right on the ocean’s edge (like Fukushima) and square in the middle of earthquake country.

CBS News reports that the American nuclear industry is telling folks not to panic. And as far as San Onofre goes, “San Onofre’s owner insists there’s no reason for the public to worry.”

“The science says that we could see about five miles from the plant an earthquake, perhaps equal to a magnitude 6.5, 6.6,” said Gil Alexander of Southern California Edison. “So we designed the plant to exceed the maximum threat. It’s designed to withstand a 7.0.”

I’m not certain how confident I am, hearing that. I’m sure the Japanese thought Fukushima was safe too. And warnings like “don’t panic” generally mean you should indeed panic, very much.

These discussions are very important, because as CBS News also reports, “There are 104 nuclear power reactors in the United States, and operators are seeking permission to build at least 20 more.”

Another voice in opposition to building new nuclear plants is the controversial Joe Lieberman. According to CNN,

Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who sits with the Democratic caucus, told the CBS program “Face the Nation” that the United States should “put the brakes on right now until we understand the ramifications of what’s happening in Japan.”

Agree or disagree with Lieberman’s politics, this is only good common sense. We don’t yet know how things will turn out in Japan, if we will end up with a disaster on top of a disaster, or if the Japanese will be able to prevent another Chernobyl.

Lieberman is a supporter of nuclear power and says he remains so.

CNN goes on to observe that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, “another nuclear energy proponent,” declined to offer “a final opinion in an appearance on Fox News Sunday,” but “indicated no change in his thinking.”

“I don’t think right after a major environmental catastrophe is a very good time to be making American domestic policy…We ought not to make American and domestic policy based upon an event that happened in Japan.”

In other words, we should ignore evidence that suggests our own nuclear power industry may not be able to withstand similar earthquakes in the United States.

Money is always more important than lives for men like McConnell and the moneyed interests who have a stake in the billions in profits they will take in if we continue on with business as usual. And business as usual is, after all, behind all anti-regulatory legislation promoted by Republicans in office. Just leave it alone and let the good old boys get back to making money hand over fist.

For updates please see the All Things Nuclear blog maintained by the Union of Concerned Scientists

 

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