Nuclear power: A costly gamble
It's my opinion, formed over years, that electricity generated by nuclear power plants is an insanely dangerous and costly gamble (i.e. Japan).
Masterful sales jobs by nuclear power lobbies have persuaded a majority of citizens and nearly all governmental officials in the United States and in developed and developing countries that nuclear power is an incomparably clean, environmentally compatible, economical and safe means of electric power generation that doesn't pollute and emit greenhouse gases. It's in fact a very polluting, very costly and extremely dangerous technology.
See the introduction and chapters 1, 2 and 3 of Helen Caldicott's well-documented book about all aspects of nuclear power, namely 'Nuclear Power Is Not The Answer.' Also see www.beyondnuclear.org/.
Manufacturers of nuclear power plants and electric utilities who wanted a major part of their generation facilities to be nuclear, have persuaded practically all U.S. Congress members over the last 40 years to vastly subsidize the building of 104 nuclear plants (now providing about 20 percent of the nation's electricity generating capacity) and recently to plan considerably more such plants. Even excluding the huge costs of disposal of ever-increasing vast amounts of radioactive waste (not yet technically resolved), this is by far the costliest means of power generation. See Caldicott's book, chapter 2.
The U.S. nuclear plants would never have been built without massive subsidization by taxpayers, and any additional plants will be likewise subsidized.
Private insurance companies won't insure nuclear plants against disbursements of various long-lived highly radioactive elements from a major meltdown, explosion or fire that could cause many to become ill, accompanied with thousands of immediate and delayed deaths while rendering large surrounding areas uninhabitable for many years. Taxpayers are held chiefly liable for the huge costs of coping with such consequences. See Caldicott's book, page 30.
The most noted nuclear power plant failure in the U.S. involved almost a total meltdown at a Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania in 1979. Near misses occurred at Alabama's Brown Ferry reactor and at Ohio's Davis-Besse reactor. In 1993, the Trojan Nuclear Plant near Portland was decommissioned years early due to progressive insoluble radioactive water leaks.
Regarding Three Mile Island, officialdom whitewashed it as causing no harm. That's much disputed by the many reported near and long-term very serious health effects, including many deaths, due to the accident's radiation releases. Google 'Three Mile Island' and click on 'ISS-Investigation: Revelations etc.' Also see Caldicott's book, pages 64 through 74.
The nation most heralded as proving the safety and economics of nuclear power is France. France now has 59 plants generating over 80 percent of its electric power consumption. Like in the U.S., France's nuclear industry wouldn't exist without having received massive taxpayer subsidies. The rates charged their consumers are relatively low due to ongoing subsidies.
France's land area, like other European countries, is relatively small. Any major nuclear plant disaster could very seriously impact France and its neighbors. To keep risking that is insane. Germany is phasing out its 19 nuclear plants.
It's urgent to develop improved efficiency of energy consumption and environmentally compatible means of adequate power generation.
Bob Thomas is a
West Linn resident