Last Friday (March 21st, 2008) California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger claimed that nuclear power has "a great future" and that we should stop "looking the other way and living in denial."
It is the governor who is in denial.
He is in denial of the fact that some 10,000,000 pounds of used reactor cores currently endanger our precious California coastline. We don't need ANY more. There is no place to put the waste because the Federal government is in denial of the fact that Yucca Mountain, the proposed repository, is technically flawed and politically stagnated. In addition to the technical flaws of the repository itself, any repository plan is flawed due to the dangers inherent in actually shipping the nuclear waste. And these are no small hurdles: They've held up the project for more than 20 years already!
But keeping the waste where it is, in dry casks and spent fuel pools, is insanely dangerous. Didn't we learn from Banda Ache in 2004 (or Alaska in 1964) that the sea walls could NEVER be high enough? Didn't we learn from Loma Prieta, Northridge, and other seismic events that building codes don't mean buildings will stay up according to the code? Didn't we learn from the 2007 wildfires which almost cut the off-site power to San Onofre (which was completely down at the time, thus failing, once again, to provide "baseline" in an emergency) that evacuation after a nuclear event will be IMPOSSIBLE?
(Did you say, "duct tape," Mr. Governor? Duct tape and KI? You ARE in denial! Do you think band-aids are sufficient for amputations, too?)
Governor Schwarzenegger is also in denial of the true economic burden that electricity generated by nuclear power puts on the people of California. The fact is, using nuclear power for "baseline" energy is illogical. But nuclear-generated power certainly isn't good for anything OTHER than "baseline" because nuclear power plants are so difficult (and expensive, and dangerous) to stop and restart. They certainly cannot be "peaking power" plants. BUT -- and this is the part being denied -- they are prone to sudden, unexpected, and prolonged failures. AND when they fail, they fail completely -- you go from 1000 megawatts to zero megawatts output (or even to a 100 megawatt suck) in a fraction of a second. NOT GOOD for any state whose citizens love delicate electronic equipment as much as Californians do! To call nuclear power a useful "baseline" energy source -- as the industry routinely claims -- is to be in denial of the reliability benefits of a power grid supplied by distributed small-scale renewable energy generation systems. Or, for that matter, powered by ANYTHING half-way reliable, like, say, the sun or the wind.
Governor Schwarzenegger is also in denial of the true costs of nuclear power to our citizens in terms of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, and other ailments. Over the past six decades, independent study after independent study has SHOWN radiation to be MUCH MORE DANGEROUS than previously admitted -- or than the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) or Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) want to admit. Over the decades, the limits for virtually every possible ionizing radiation dose have been reduced -- x-rays, exposures for nuclear workers, contamination of drinking water -- EVERYTHING. But the one thing they CAN'T reduce is the pollution generated every day by nuclear power plants: Tritium, cesium strontium, cobalt, plutonium, uranium -- ALL possible radioactive elements are released ALL THE TIME. The nuclear power industry simply DENIES IT. They leak only "legal" amounts and CALL IT "zero leakage." The two numbers are vastly different. The legal amounts are dangerous, and the denial is killing Californians.
Governor Schwarzenegger is also in denial about the alternatives. Even though we have added the energy equivalent of the entire output of California's four nuclear power plants about every two years for the past 15 years, the Governator evidently believes we can't simply close the four nuclear power reactors forever and be done with this awful mistake. We can. All nations, and all states, will have to some day soon, anyway -- it's INEVITABLE: Nuclear is unsustainable if only because its "oil" -- uranium -- is in short supply (and has gone up more than ten-fold in price in the past few years). Getting a head start on all the wondrous ways to get RID of this technology would be a good leadership position for California. And a typical one. We once cared about the land, the sea, the air, and our health. Perhaps we just don't anymore. Perhaps Arnold is not so health-conscious now, either.
Governor Schwarzenegger is also in denial about the democratic principles which were destroyed to force nuclear power on the citizens. When San Onofre and Diablo Canyon were being built, if you leafletted a parking lot, the authorities made a note of it. Even today, if you so much as simply speak at a hearing, you can be ABSOLUTELY SURE they'll investigate you and start a permanent file on you (and, of course, deny they've done that, too). If you become well known to the media, the NRC and the nuclear industry will counter everything you say with a press release. The nuclear power companies will provide biased full-color brochures for students from kindergarten through college, whenever they feel the community is starting to waver in their complacent disinterest in the complexities of nuclear power. The operators of San Onofre are funding 48 full scholarships in nuclear plant operations at a local college. The scholarships include room, board, books, tuition, and a paid summer internship at the plant. The college loves the money in these tight times. And all you have to give up to join is your open mind, your health, the health of any children you might have, and their children, and the life and health of millions if you make a mistake.
Governor Schwarzenegger is also in denial about what the public KNOWS about nuclear power. We know it is dangerous, just as we know that grenades at weddings are a bad mix. Perhaps the governor is fooled by the nuclear power industry (again), which claims that citizens just don't understand nuclear power. A national debate, or even a statewide debate is avoided, lest the reality of the situation come out, which is this: Nuclear power is a failed technology. It's been known for decades. Citizen-scientists who studied the issues in the 1950s warned of radiation dangers. Citizen-sleuths in the 1970s warned of airplane strikes in the style of 9-11. Citizen-economists all along kept pointing out the MASSIVE insurance fraud that accompanies nuclear power both in the form of Price-Anderson, which will underpay the afflicted to the tune of fractions of a penny to the dollar, AND in the form of exclusions in homeowner's insurance policies, which won't pay ANYTHING AT ALL after ANY nuclear accident -- power plant meltdown, submarine collision and meltdown, nuclear space probe landing on your head, Livermore Labs exploding Depleted Uranium in your face -- NONE OF IT IS EVER COVERED.
Governor Schwarzenegger is in denial of all of this, and so are a lot of people, and it's killing us.
The author, 51, has studied nuclear issues for more than 35 years, and experienced bladder cancer in 2007. His award-winning educational computer animation programs are widely used in numerous industries, including the chemical industry, the fluid power industry, the medical profession, and a wide variety of scientific fields. He has interviewed over 1000 scientists regarding nuclear issues.
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