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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

No To Nuclear

If I haven't said it enough, I am about as Anti-Frack as one can be.  In my opinion we shouldn't be just limiting where fracking is permitted, we should be banning it all together.  And in time I feel we should take that same approach to coal and other fossil fuel dependent forms of energy production.  Looking at the headlines lately, I would say that a great deal of American's agree with me, at least where Fracking is concerned.

In an effort to escape the clutches of fossil fuel dependency our government has taken steps funding Nuclear Energy options.  They are touting nuclear energy as "safe" and "green."  In other words, they are lying straight to our faces!

Oh how short the memories of politicians (and a great many citizens) are.  Nuclear power is "green" compared with fossil fuel related pollution.  But lets think for a moment what is "green" power?  What does it mean to be "green?"  In my mind, and I believe in the minds of most Americans, it means "eco-friendly" or "Earth Friendly," which Nuclear Power is NOT!  IF we skip over discussing all of the dangers associated with accidents, and purely focus on what happens with properly working nuclear power plants, we still have some rather horrific issues to discuss.  And of course that means we don't mention all of the inevitable accidents and mistakes which take place whenever humans and nature get involved in anything.

In fact, even when handled properly and without ever being affected by natural or man made disasters, the post fission waste products are extremely toxic (and radioactive) to everything surrounding their disposal sites.  Ground and Water toxicity are common near both waste storage sites and surrounding the plants themselves.  Radiation surrounding plants and storage sites have lead to HUGE spikes in cancers, plant deaths, water contamination and mass animal die offs.

And of course that's all ignoring the fact that Nuclear Power has a tendency to blow up in our faces!  Think, if you will, back just a few short years to the Fukushima disaster.  Nothing the staff did was improper.  In fact from what all reports have said the plant was run extremely well and there was no foreseeable risk of disaster prior to the disaster.  But as usual, Mother Nature had her own agenda which ended in a complete meltdown in March 2011, from which we have not recovered.

Although all of the relocations, injuries and deaths associated with the Fukushima disaster are NOT directly linked to the atomic meltdown, the fact is this - Those living within 12 miles of the plant had to be evacuated from the surrounding area, few of which will ever have any hopes of reclaiming their homes. And of course because of it's placement along the ocean, we are STILL hearing warnings about eating fish coming out of Pacific waters...  Radiation from the disaster didn't just affect those local to it though, in fact radiation warnings were announced even as far away as Southern California.

Rewind back a few more years to the 1986 and we find another major disaster associated with Nuclear Power.  Chernobyl is possibly the most well known nuclear disaster as it's remains have become popular among the many programs which focus on the decay of abandoned man made structure.

The Remains of Reactor 4, Chernobyl
Unlike the disaster in 2011, Chernobyl was not caused by the wrath of Mother Nature, but was purely man made.  According to reports from USSR officials there was a "sudden and unexpected" power surge.  Workers attempted an emergency shutdown which caused an much larger spike in power output which then lead to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of explosions.  As a result the graphite moderator of the reactor became exposed to the air and ignited. The radioactive fallout set off alarms in a nuclear plant in Switzerland and have since lead to the evacuation of over 350,000 people from what their governments believe to be the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. It's worth noting that these evacuations are ONGOING!

The death toll related to Chernobyl is difficult to track down.  The direct death toll from the accident has been completely limited to the reactor staff and emergency workers, at 31 individuals.  Since that time the "official" number has climbed to 64 as of 2008. But, the eventual death toll estimates reach as high as 4000 from radiation related illnesses and injuries. It's worth noting though that this estimate ONLY takes in to account deaths, and makes no mention of the thousands of individuals who have been affected by thyroid, immune system and brain damage related to radiation and chemical exposures following the disaster. Nor does it take in to account those who are affected YEARS after by ingesting affected foods and waters or living in areas which were exposed to low levels of radiation or other contaminations but which were never evacuated (or weren't evacuated soon enough.)

Of course these disasters didn't happen here, and with few exceptions they didn't directly affect the American population.  So it's easy to brush these off or include them in to the "other" category when discussing all the reasons why Nuclear Energy should be cautioned.  In fact, when discussing Nuclear Energy with my American peers I'm often surprised to hear that these examples are seen as something that won't or can't happen here. There are arguments like "American's wouldn't make those mistakes" or "America doesn't have tsunamis" or others similar statements which seem to imply that while the Japanese and Ukranians can make mistakes, Americans are somehow exempt...

The Three Mile Island Accident in Progress
Which of course brings me to the topic of Three Mile Island.  Raise your hand if you remember that one!  NO? That's most likely because unless you are a member of my mother's generation or older, you've never heard of it - or don't really have any understanding of what happened even if you heard the name. No, as a rule it's not something our government prefers for us to talk about. But in fact, it was our very own Nuclear Disaster.

So what happened?  Well, it began with failures to a secondary (non-nuclear) system, and then one of the pilot-operated relief valves in the primary system got stuck open. This lead to the escape of a large amount of reactor coolant.  Due to a lack of proper training and inept design plant operators failed to identify the accident as loss-of-coolant soon enough. Because the accident was not properly classified, when the automatic emergency cooling system started, an operator manually overrode the program, believing there was too much coolant water present in the reactor.  This lead to a steam pressure build up and release. This a partial meltdown resulted in the release of an unknown amount of radioactive gasses and iodine.  It was eventually rated a 5 out of 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.  The cleanup took 14 years and over a BILLION dollars of tax payer money.

Thankfully, it was not on the scale of Chernobyl or Fukushima and there have been very few directly related deaths.  However there HAVE been a great number of cancer and other health related illnesses linked to the disaster in the area surrounding the plant.  As our government so often does however, they have held tight to the idea that there is no correlation between higher cancer and illness rates in that area and the 1979 nuclear disaster.  They are now claiming that the disaster which took place on Three Mile Island was ever of any danger to the public.  Their claims however are at extreme odds with the facts of the incident.

Toxic water, toxic soil, radiated plants, higher rates of disease and cancer in humans and animals...  None of these things occur with truly "green" energy forms!  I'm not going to say there aren't some issues with wind, hydro and solar electric issues, because they aren't perfect.  But when there's a solar spill, people don't die - hell, they go out and play...

So my question now becomes WHY is our government putting BILLIONS more into the development of new Nuclear Power sites instead of energy sources which are truly ecologically friendly?  In my opinion, it's all about the money!  Energy sources such as water, wind and sun light have low long term income potentiality.  It's sad, but true!  And from where I sit, there are just two ways this renewed love of nuclear power is going to end - 1.) we the people step up, in mass, and refuse to support it or 2.) a massive disaster forces the reality of nuclear disaster to be realized.  I for one would prefer not to see yet another disaster, so it's time step up, put our foot down and tell Washington - NO TO NUCLEAR!!!

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