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3 Persistent Big Lies from the nuclear industry

liar-nuclear1Nuclear industry still engages in Big Lies http://www.dnj.com/story/opinion/readers/2014/09/07/guest-column-nuclear-industry-still-engages-big-lies/15135385/Kathleen Ferris  September 6, 2014  The article by Duane W. Gang in Sunday’s DNJ, “TVA makes $4.5 billion bet on nuclear future,” states only a few arguments of environmentalists against more nuclear reactions, yet it repeats the Big Lie that nuclear energy is clean because power plants don’t emit greenhouse gases.

Let’s examine that statement. How much fossil fuel energy do you suppose was required to transport tons of material for the construction of Watts Bar 2 since the 1970s? How much fossil fuel energy to build the reactor? How much more to mine and transport the uranium for fuel? How much to operate the plant for the many years it will function? (We know from Fukushima what happens if the power goes out.) And finally, how much energy will be needed to decommission the plant and to haul the waste to Tennessee landfills?

Another Big Lie told by the officials of the nuclear industry is that nuclear energy is safe. In fact, reactors must routinely emit radiation in order to operate “safely”. Studies have shown that cancer and childhood leukemia increase in areas where nuclear power is produced and decrease when plants close down. How safe is that? Not to mention the high-level radioactive waste, deadly stuff with nowhere to go.

Have we learned nothing from the disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima? Huge swaths of land in Russia and Japan will be uninhabitable for thousands of years. The results are death and horrendous genetic damage. Chernobyl happened because the aged plant was operated long after it should have been shut down. In this country, we have over a hundred old reactors operating on licenses that were extended decades beyond their expected life-span. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has never turned down an application for license renewal, only required that some retrofitting be done first. How safe is that?

In Japan, the rate of thyroid cancer in children has skyrocketed and food supplies have been contaminated. Fukushima continues to spew millions of gallons of highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, poisoning our seafood.

If you believe it can’t happen here, consider this: the reactor at Diablo Canyon in California sits on a major earthquake fault. Given the eastward flow of winds, a disaster there could contaminate the continent. Closer to home, Browns Ferry plant near Huntsville has three old reactors, same design as Fukushima, located in a tornado alley. The F5 tornado that destroyed much of Tuscaloosa in 2011 narrowly missed Browns Ferry, which lost power for several days. A direct hit could have wiped out Middle and East Tennessee.

You think the new reactors will be safer? Actually, the new Watts Bar 2 is built on an antiquated containment design from the 1960s. It relies on 3 million pounds of chipped ice hanging in baskets surrounding the reactor to allow a thinner (“egg shell”) containment vessel. This design is especially vulnerable to releasing massive amounts of radiation if coolant is lost.

The third Big Lie of the nuclear industry, suggested in the DNJ article, is that nuclear power is good for the economy because it provides jobs. Think about it. Right now 3,100 workers are constructing the new reactor at Watts Bar 2. If the project really is finished by 2015, those jobs will be terminated. Only a few more people will be needed to operate the plant.

If TVA had employed the same number of people to construct solar panels, the jobs would be on-going and the environment would have been free of radiation. Instead, what the Gannett reporter failed to tell, is that the board of directors voted at the last TVA meeting to reduce funding for energy efficiency (including renewable energy) by 25 percent and to raise rates on electricity for TVA customers. How much sense does that make?

September 8, 2014 - Posted by | general

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