Reasons to be Cheerful (part 2)

Washington Post

Washington Post

30 years ago today, on March 28, 1979, roughly 25,000 people lived within five miles of the giant cooling towers that became symbols of the nation’s worst commercial nuclear accident.

So quickly have people forgotten. The reactor was so badly damaged that it has never been restarted. It sits there as a silent memorial to the dangers of nuclear power. And now we have many people calling once more for nuclear power plants to be commissioned – your very own ticking time-bomb, in someone else’s backyard.

Some quick facts before we all get too carried away. A typical nuclear plant could cost up to $16 billion. Electricity utilities have applied to build 26 of them. Now I know that $416 billion doesn’t sound like a lot in these TARP days. But, that sort of money would buy a lot of wind, sun, tidal and geothermal power facilities.

Maybe the biggest concern with nuclear power should be its consumption of water. The electric-power industry already accounts for half of all water withdrawals in the U.S. They might soon be joining oil companies who have been buying up water rights here in the West. Gosh knows, they’ll need it since nuclear plants require more water than other form of power plant. Virginia Power, for instance, has water rights to draw one million gallons of water a minute per reactor. Some nuclear plants require twice that. It could be a case of “Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink!”

Reasons to be Cheerful (part 1)


There’s lots of reasons to be cheerful. Maybe more nuclear energy will be one. Beginning this series of posts, I can’t help but ponder a number of questions.

Let’s start with nuclear waste. We already have spent fuel rods in storage at 121 operating and decommissioned reactors spread across 39 states of the union. Before we build anymore, I think it would be smart to figure out where all that nuclear waste is going.

But, of course, all that radioactive waste is safe, right? Like the unreported radioactive waste water spill near Godley, Ill. in 2006? Or the Braidwood nuclear plant, also in Illinois, that had been releasing wastewater containing traces of radioactive tritium into groundwater surrounding the plant since 1996? Or the radioactive barium, iodine, cesium, and cobalt that continue to leak from this country’s first nuclear reactor, Fermi? Did I mention it was also in Illinois?

Are we going to put the nuclear power plant in your backyard? Do you feel safe enough to live downstream of one? If not, then will you be happy having nuclear waste being trucked through your community? I can see it now, driving down the Main Street or trundling along the railway tracks … 55,000 metric tones of highly radioactive waste. Of course, those trucks won’t get in accidents and break open, will they?