'Nuke Nuggets' Glow for the Senate's Radioactive Rip-off

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CommonDreams.org

'Nuke Nuggets' Glow for the Senate's Radioactive Rip-off

by
Harvey Wasserman

Gargantuan loan guarantees for a "new generation" of nuke reactors define the Senate's version of the Energy Bill that Congress will consider right after Labor Day.

Its backers say the $50 billion-plus in radioactive pork will give us "inherently safe" reactors...

...which is what they said about the last crop, including Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and hundreds of billions in cost overruns and abysmal failure.

Nuke reactors are no safer than those coal mines just littered with fresh corpses, than that collapsed Minnesota bridge, or than the levees that let Katrina swamp New Orleans, and are poised to do it again.

The first "new generation" nuke is already swamped with cost overruns and absurd miscalculations. Finnish regulators are screaming at Areva, the French-based nuke pushers, about corner-cutting and costly delays.

But these are merely the latest in the endless flow of "nuke nuggets" that have made the world's 430-plus reactors history's most lethal and expensive technological failure:

* Faulty plumbing forced one US nuke operator to shut on-site toilet facilities while the cooling system was in use; * At another US reactor, a basketball wrapped in tape was used to stop up a critical reactor tube; * Consecutive global-warmed "hundred-year floods" threatened to swamp the two Prairie Island reactors (south of that collapsed Minnesota bridge) nearly irradiating the entire downstream Mississippi River; * Like coal miners, uranium miners die en masse from lung cancer and tunnel collapses; * Steam releases killed and maimed at least four workers at Virginia's North Anna complex; * "Too cheap to meter" was atomic energy's mantra until it delivered gargantuan cost overruns and ramshackle reactors in what Forbes Magazine has called "the largest managerial disaster in business history"; * In the 2000-1 deregulation scam, the nuke industry portrayed its own reactors as being "uncompetitive," thus demanding $100 billion in "stranded cost" subsidies for their bad reactor investments; * The Yucca Mountain nuke waste repository, which may never open, has already absorbed $10 billion, but its minimum official cost is now estimated at around $60 billion, which is likely to soar to at least $100 billion; * In 1957 the industry promised independent insurance companies would insure reactors against catastrophic accidents, but that has never happened, either for old nukes or for the proposed new ones; * Before March 28, 1979, nuke owners said the melt-down that destroyed Three Mile Island Two was "impossible"; * Before April 26, 1986, nuke owners said the explosion that destroyed Chernobyl Four was "impossible"; * For nine years, TMI's owners said there was no significant fuel melt, until a robotic camera showed that nearly ALL the fuel had melted; * TMI's owners say "no one died" there, but stack monitors failed during the accident and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not know exactly how much radiation escaped, where it went or who it affected; * No official systematic monitoring of the health of the people around TMI was initiated when the plant opened, or when it melted, and none has been maintained; * Some 2400 central Pennsylvania families have tried to sue for damages since TMI's fall-out hit them, but have been denied a federal trial for nearly three decades; * Some 800,000 drafted clean-up "liquidators" were forced into Chernobyl, thousands of whom are dying of cancer; * Seven atomic reactors in Japan were significantly damaged by an earthquake despite decades of official assurances that they were safe; * Japanese authorities now admit that the recent earthquake exceeded---by a factor of three---the design specifications of the seven reactors it damaged; * Far stronger earthquakes are expected soon at all or most of Japan's 55 reactors, where experts say at least some could be reduced to radioactive rubble; * Four reactors in California, one in Ohio and two in New York are among the many American nukes built very close to active earthquake faults; * The Perry nuke, east of Cleveland, whose owners denied it was in any danger from a nearby "geological anomaly," was significantly damaged by a January 31, 1986 earthquake; * Despite a lawsuit by Ohio's governor, Perry was allowed to open amidst damage to area roads and bridges that would have made evacuation impossible, and that could have meant disaster had it been operating at the time; * Near Toledo, dripping boric acid ate through the Davis-Besse pressure vessel, bringing it within a fraction of an inch of a catastrophe capable of irradiating Cleveland and all of Lake Erie; * Davis-Besse's owner blacked out the entire northeast, including much of Canada, partly due to uneven power surges from its nukes and the deterioration of its electric power grid; * On September 11, 2001, the terrorists who crashed into the World Trade Center flew directly over the two active reactors at Indian Point, but did not hit them apparently believing that they were protected by surface-to-air missiles; * Not one of the 100-plus US reactors is protected by surface-to-air missiles; * Virtually every US reactor has failed simple tests of security systems meant to protect them from terror attacks; * Early official government studies warned that a single meltdown could make permanently uninhabitable "an area the size of Pennsylvania"; * An attack on the Indian Point reactors on 9/11/2001 could have rendered the entire New York region---including the World Trade Centers---permanently uninhabitable, causing millions of long-term human casualties and trillions of dollars in damage, from which the US economy likely would never have recovered; * Huge heat emissions make atomic reactors major contributors to global warming, as do CO2 emissions from construction, decommissioning, the mining, milling and enrichment of uranium fuel, waste disposal, and more; * Despite being billed as a "solution to global warming," French reactors were recently shut because they overheated local rivers with their waste cooling water; * Despite being billed as a "solution to global warming," one reactor at Alabama's Browns Ferry was forced shut, and two cut back 25%, as summer river temperatures hit 90 degrees, the federal limit; * These shut-downs come precisely when power is most needed for air conditioning, and when the REAL solution to global warming, solar energy, is most abundant; * In 1975, a Browns Ferry reactor suffered a $100 million fire when a worker ignited its insulation with a candle; * Reactor regulators report a constant flow of "incidents" that endanger reactor operations and the public safety; * The former head of the Atomic Energy Commission's health research efforts has calculated that "normal" reactor emissions could kill some 32,000 Americans every year; * A dollar spent on energy conservation saves ten times the energy produced by a dollar spent on a nuke;

This tragic, terrifying "nugget" list could extend on for another few hundred pages, as per THE NUGGET FILE, by a former industry insider, and FISSION STORIES by David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

With a crippled infrastructure and corner-cutting mentality, the corporate operatives building these reactors are no more competent or trustworthy than the ones in charge of coal mines, bridges, levees.

Homer Simpson will run the new nukes, just like the old nukes.

Wall Street knows it. Does Congress? Better tell them.

Harvey Wasserman's SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH, A.D. 2030, is at www.solartopia.org. He is senior advisor to Greenpeace USA and the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, and writes regularly for www.freepress.org.

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