Nuclear Waste is the Achille's Heel...
You need to know this. As the death toll soars from last Friday’s 9.0 earthquake and tsunami – 50 Japanese nuclear plant workers are putting their lives on the line to prevent another catastrophe in Japan – nuclear meltdown. All 6 GE Mark I reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant are dangerously close to melting down – but that’s not even the worst of it. Sitting on top of each reactors are pools of nuclear waste that contain larger amounts of harmful radiation than the reactors themselves.
And there are reports that those pools of waste are overheating – catching fire – and spewing that highly toxic radioactive waste into the atmosphere. It’s like a massive dirty bomb being constantly detonated over the plant. Late last night – the remaining workers at the plant were evacuated due to extreme levels of radiation detected when pressure was relieved from one of the reactors. Those workers returned shorty after the radiation subsided.
While their heroics should be recognized – it’s starting to look like they’re playing a losing game of whack-a-mole. As they desperately try to cool one reactor with seawater – the other reactors start to overheat – and so on. We should be taking note here in the United States. We have 104 operational nuclear power plants dotting the country – and many of them use the very same Mark 1 reactor design that is now under criticism in Japan.
A reactor that was designed by General Electric - that prompted 3 GE workers to resign 35 years ago in protest because they argued the design was flawed and the reactor would be unable to contain nuclear material should a cooling system malfunction occur. And it turns out today - these guys were right. Japan is not some third world nation – their power grid is just as advanced as ours – if not more so – so to believe that what’s happening there couldn’t happen here is naïve.
But...wait! There's more....
While the rest of the world reconsiders nuclear power – Americans could get screwed by elected representatives who are snugly in the pocket of the nuclear energy lobby. Switzerland, Germany, and even Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela have all put a hold on nuclear power pending a full review. But in America – where money and politics are fused together – it’s unlikely the same sort of precautions will be taken here.
Politico notes that last year – the nuclear power lobby spent tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying efforts to ensure a future spot in America’s energy portfolio. And like the big oil lobby – these guys don’t even blink at the future risks posed by their industry.
Let’s hope it doesn’t take a catastrophe like what’s happening in Japan – to happen here – before our elected representatives wake up to the dangers of nuclear power.