SHOULD WE SHUT DOWN OUR NUCLEAR REACTORS?

The news from Japan is ominous.  The nuclear reactor meltdown in that country is threatening death and destruction in that country?

Is there a lesson here for us and the United States?

So far as I can figure out Canada has seven active reactors, the U.S has 65 and is planning to build more.

We have already had serious malfunctions at the Pickering plant in Ontario. A senior American scientist said last week that U.S. reactors lack adequate backup power to shut down a reactor safely in the event of an emergency – one of the problems affecting the Japanese facilities.

And what about nuclear reactors’ by-product – spent fuel rods – remains an additional lethal hazard.  In Canada alone there is enough such waste to fill six hockey rinks from the ice surface to the top of the boards.  They are supposed to be buried deep underground but nobody wants them. As of now the rods have found a temporary home on the reactors’ sites, either colling in pools of water or encased in concrete.  They provide tempting targets for terrorists.  To p ut them deep in the ground will cost $16 billion to $24 billion.  Imagine how muchgood that amount of money would do if it were invested in genuine green sources of power.

In view of what is happening in Japan and the dangers of our own reactors, should we shut our reactors down and get out of the nuclear business?

What do you think?

7 Comments »

  1. 1
    jim Says:

    There are over 400 nuclear power plants worldwide. There have been 3 different accidents over the last half century.
    There are too many sloppy plants around.
    This Japanese case sounds odd to me. First, why wasn’t there a higher seawall at those locations, Second why was the plant built to accomodate a level 7 earthquake which is an average earthquake. They were hit with a 9.4. The difference is a factor of 24 times stronger.Finally they say that the diesel generators would not start because there was no electricity.
    A diesel does not need electricity for it to work. All it needs is battery to kick-start the engine. The battery can be kept full charged with a trickle of electricity. If the electricity goes off, the battery takes its place. Now the generator pumps can’t supply water to the hot cores. This need not have happened. They say that we will be running out of oil, at the current consumption rates in 2050. Greening is OK for stationary plants. We will need oil for mobile vehicles even if they are electric.

  2. 2
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Thanks, Jim, for a very informed comment.

  3. 3
    Vin Smith Says:

    Actually, there are 104 nuclear power plants in the U.S. and they are up and running. No new plants have been built in 30 years, and it is unlikely they ever will be.

    It is exactly the fact that mankind has had to struggle with Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and now Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in northern Japan, that I and many other progressives demonstrated against Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant at Avila Beach in the 70’s. The Hosgri Fault was discovered AFTER construction was “too far along” to halt, according to the powers that be. Instead they constructed the plant to withstand “an appropriate” earthquake. What they actually designed was a plant to withstand a 7.5 magnitude earthquake from four faults, including the nearby San Andreas and the above mentioned Hosgri fault. About a year or so ago, a new fault, called the Shoreline Fault, was discovered roughly half a mile off the coast at Diablo Canyon.

    If that power plant were to suffer the proverbial China Syndrome, vast areas of Central California would be uninhabitable–as is Chernobyl.

    We are like children playing with matches around open 55-gallon barrels of gasoline. How stupid can we get? Yet, the conservatives will argue steadfastly for nuclear power. Why? There is a fortune to be made in nuclear power plants. Plaiin and simple.

    Is a 9.0 on the Richter Scale, survivable for Diablo Canyon? Absolutely not. Wholesale destruction. “They do not anticipate such a powerful quake,” we are told. Of course they don’t. No one ever anticipates the full measure of the planet’s ability to wreak destruction–be it earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, or tornado.

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  5. 5
    Vin Smith Says:

    I wish to add a tiny bit more, a general look at the realities of the energy conundrum. Getting away from the 900 pound gorilla that is the neighborhood nuclear power plant, why not undertake a Manhattan-style crash program to fully develope alternative fuel sources?

    Let’s start with the fact that industry is currently ignoring photovoltaic cells–for the most part. Too costly, they say… Well, that is just an excuse. Why would the petroleum industry, with perhaps 500 years of oil in the ground (nobody really knows for sure, as OPEC, for one, will not disclose how much oil they have found), not wish to obstruct the further development of the photovoltaic cell? No oilman (with the exception, perhaps, of T. Boone Pickens) wishes to replace the sale of some 90-plus million barrels of oil per day, with affordable fuel cells.

    Hydrogen fuel for vehicles needs to be in on a Manhattan-style crash program; not yet developed to a proper degree of refinement. All-electric cars do not have an appreciable increase in range from what was available a hundred years ago. That is rather startling, actually. Steam power? From a technology standpoint, a bit Rube Goldberg-esque… You still need to burn some type of carbon fuel to even make the steam. One sort of wishes the Stanley Steamer had been the object of technological development; like Standard Oil would have allowed that… We might have found a way to keep our air more breathable, if the oil companies had not suppressed so many technologies…

    Did industry allow Broadcast Power (an invention by the great Nikola Tesla) to gain a foothold in the marketplace? Of course not. The deep-seated, rotten corruption of big industry made sure that extremely low cost energy for the masses never would see the light of day.

    The fact is, energy is needed to fuel transportation, heat and power our homes, drive industry, and just generally move the wheels of civilization. That obviously will take a multiple model approach to provide the power to make things work.

    Hydroelectric power, always an energy source that Canadians have utilized more than Americans (Canadians talk of paying their “hydro,” while Americans speak of paying their power bill–usually fueled by coal-powered plants in the U. S., or in recent decades by nuclear power stations).

    Coal needs to be retired as soon as possible. Clean coal? No such thing. Talk of people dying just mining the stuff. Or death on the installment plan for coal miners (black lung disease). The coal industry continues to bleat “scrubbers,” but when legislation was first proposed, the coal industry balked. Too expensive, they said…

    Unless the U. S. develops a really intelligent energy policy (none seems to be on the horizon), we will the situation getting increasingly bitter.

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  7. 7
    Rwolf Says:

    Nuclear Reactor Risks

    If Japan’s damaged nuclear reactors continue to leak radiation into the air and oceans, many exporting industries may be damaged by radiation contamination. For example fishing industries. How far will millions of gallons of radioactive water travel dumped from damaged Japanese reactors? Will Radioactive Fish migrate to other nation’s waters affecting other countries? One can foresee grocery store and seafood restaurant customers checking purchased seafood with a Geiger counter. If Japan’s damaged nuclear reactors continue leaking radiation into the air, could over a period of time that cause dangerous levels of radiation to be absorbed by U.S. farm crops and cattle, making U.S. farm products unmarketable; cause U.S. food shortages and high prices. Could several of Japan’s industrial products become too radioactive to export? So much for clean nuclear energy.

    In the U.S. most nuclear reactors have to be subsidized by taxpayers. When nuclear reactors leak as shown in Japan, it can be hugely expensive; unaffordable when damaged reactors melt down spreading high levels of radiation. In the U.S. too many nuclear reactors are close to large U.S. populations; 500 miles may be too close when communities are downwind. In addition to catastrophic health costs, a leaking reactor can contaminate for decades and longer large geographic areas, destroying real estate values of entire cities, shutdown industries. The potential risks of operating or building more nuclear reactors in the U.S. can’t be justified considering their catastrophic downside. The U.S. has approximately 104 nuclear reactors. From a military standpoint, U.S. enemies would only need target several U.S. nuclear reactors to spread deadly radiation to large cities crippling America. Nuclear reactors are a losing bet.


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