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Fukushima a stake through nuclear industry’s heart

By John Daly | Wed, 25 May 2011 14:27 | 8

Despite the managed media campaign by Tokyo Electric Company, the Japanese government and nuclear industry flacks worldwide, the 11 March 9.0 on the Richter scale earthquake, followed by a tsunami that off-lined TEPCO’s six reactor Daiichi Fukushima nuclear power complex represents a global mortal blow to the nuclear power industry, which had been optimistic of a renaissance following worldwide concerns about global warming. While TEPCO’s PR spin doctors along with Japanese government flacks will continue to parsimoniously dribble out information about the real situation at the stricken reactors while blandly assuring the Japanese population and the world that all is well even as nuclear lobbyists bleat “it can’t happen here,” all but the most obtuse are beginning to realize that catastrophes at nuclear power facilities, whether man-made (Chernobyl) or natural (Fukushima) have radioactive pollution consequences of potentially global significance.

It is the long-term consequences of the dispersal of radioactive reactor core fissionable material and, in the case of Fukushima, spent reactor fuel, that no amount of spin doctoring can diminish, and far from being environmental propaganda from eco-terrorists, has been a concern of specialists for decades, but those voices rarely reach the mainstream media, many of which are owned by massive corporations deeply invested in the revival of nuclear power.

It is time that some of those voices move mainstream. Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, known as the “father of the U.S. nuclear navy,” sheparded the U.S. Navy into the nuclear age, attracting the best and the brightest (including a future president, Jimmy Carter) around him to advance nuclear propulsion of such a quality engineering level that the Navy has a perfect safety record, a legacy of Rickover’s 63 year career. Nonetheless Rickover remained doubtful about nuclear power, delivering "On the hazards of nuclear power. Testimony to Congress" on 28 January 1982. His insights are worth quoting in detail.

"I'll be philosophical. Until about two billion years ago, it was impossible to have any life on earth; that is, there was so much radiation on earth you couldn't have any life — fish or anything. Gradually, about two billion years ago, the amount of radiation on this planet—and probably in the entire system—reduced and made it possible for some form of life to begin... Now when we go back to using nuclear power, we are creating something which nature tried to destroy to make life possible... Every time you produce radiation, you produce something that has a certain half-life, in some cases for billions of years. I think the human race is going to wreck itself, and it is important that we get control of this horrible force and try to eliminate it... I do not believe that nuclear power is worth it if it creates radiation. Then you might ask me why do I have nuclear powered ships. That is a necessary evil. I would sink them all. Have I given you an answer to your question?"

An even darker picture is outlined in Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, a translation of a 2007 Russian publication by Alexei V. Iablokov, Vassili B. Nesterenko, and Alexei V. Nesterenko, based on 5,000 scientific articles out of 30,000 published in Russia between 1986 and 1992 and published in 2009 by the New York Academy of Sciences in their Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences series. The 5,000 scientific articles were not used in 2005 estimate of about 4,000 Chernobyl deaths by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). In stark contrast, the Russian study concluded a 1986-2004 global death toll approaching a million, nearly 170,000 of them in North America.

What is important here is that the immediate deaths among the workers at both Chernobyl and Fukushima are but a fraction of the illnesses and mortality resulting from exposure to radioactive material dispersed by the accidents. The Achilles heel of the nuclear power industry was and remains how to deal with the radioactive waste left over after generating power, a reality that no amount of PR can spin.

Finally, for those with the courage to face the visual evidence of the consequences of future generations of nuclear reactor accidents, one need go no further than Paul Fusco’s photographs and 11 videos of the children subsequently born within Chernobyl’s radiation zone in Ukraine and Belarus. One can be seen here at YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAxTZD9sk40&playnext=1&list=PLEACAB31F38619908

Is this the future the world truly wants? What part of the evidence above does the nuclear power industry not understand? The answer is simple – money, the trillions already invested over the last five decades in the industry and the potential loss of trillions more if the global nuclear industry is shuttered. As Fukushima continues its slow radioactive bleed-out, one of the few certainties is that we’re likely to see many more images like Fusco’s in the years to come.

By. John C.K. Daly of OilPrice.com

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  • Anonymous on May 25 2011 said:
    If the buildup of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is such a threat as to justify the campaign of regulatory aggression against the automobile industry we are currently seeing, it is also a good reason not to give up on nuclear power.
  • Anonymous on May 26 2011 said:
    This paper is complete nonsense, and a patchwork of untruths. IT SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED FOR THIS SITE, because its repudiation requires more than a few lines. It requires a debate, in which yours truly would give Dr Daly a well deserved lesson. Unfortunately however that debate requires a classroom with a blackboard or whiteboard.And listen, I am a very tolerant guy, but I take no prisoners when it comes to oil, electric deregulation and nuclear.Please remember that if you ever walk into a seminar or conference where I am going my song and dance.
  • Anonymous on May 26 2011 said:
    Fred: Did you see my comment on another article on the OilPrice site, re Democrats disconnect on fossil fuels? Here's a zinger for you: Suppose we could safely produce enough energy from advanced nuclear power, i.e. thorium reactors or hopefully someday, nuclear fusion. And suppose we have enough abundance of energy, that we can trade in our 30+ miles-per-gallon small cars in favor of bigger, heavier cars that offer more crash protection. You could save perhaps 2000 lives per year in the USA alone. That would easily atone for whatever lives may have been lost due to the Fukushima disaster.
  • Anonymous on May 26 2011 said:
    Alex, the Japanese didn't reckon with a tsunami. Without that the Fukushima reactors might still be producing electricity. Conclusion: in the future nuclear facilities must be constructed to withstand Richter 10 earthquakes, which is possible, and under no circumstances must they be located where they can be in the path of tsunami.On paper, or in theory, this is not a problem, but in today's world whenever nuclear is involved, our political masters seem to stop all long-term thinking.Of course, maybe they are forced to stop it. Here in Sweden nuclear research was against the law for years, even though Sweden may have had safe reactors on the drawing boards. Have you ever heard of anything as crazy as that?
  • Anonymous on May 26 2011 said:
    Fred,Fine, you can do those 2 things. What about wars? Terrorist atttacks? Asteroid strikes? The key understanding is that once radiation is unleashed IT CAN NOT BE CONTAINED OR CLEANED UP. Radiation pollution is forever and lethal, even in small doses.Natural disasters or attacks can happen to any power facility - dams, solar power stations, oil refineries, etc. and can threaten human lives. However nuclear pollution is not only immediately life-threatening, it continues to kill for many, many years.Spent nuclear fuel generates about 5-10% of the energy of a fuel rod. It is hard to contain and keeps burning through whatever is built to contain it, as we are seeing in Fukushima. TEPCO has admitted that the earthquake had already damaged the reactors. So this was going to happen even without the tsunami.
  • Anonymous on May 26 2011 said:
    ArvindWhat you say might sound good to some readers, but not to me.Among 'large' nations, the Japanese life expectancy is the longest. Longer than Denmark and Norway which have no nuclear, even though Japan suffered two nuclear attacks. As for the energy in 'spent' nuclear fuel, that should be recycled instead of brushed aside.Of course, this is a non-issueto me. In the long run the voters are going to insist on nuclear, because regardless of how they feel now, or how they say that they feel, they prefer nuclear to a decline in their standard of living. I don't understand how anybody could believe otherwise.
  • Anonymous on May 28 2011 said:
    Surely, the point is that nuclear cannot fuel transport, nor can it create plastic. Without these two 'fundamentals ' of our civilisation, we will revert back about 100 years? Now, with a global population of about 6,000,000,000, how could we possibly manage that, without some fairly catastrophic upheavals, without fossil fuels? In this context, the debate between nuclear and fossil fuels seems fairly irrelevant. We cannot feed our populations without cheap fuel to transport, we cannot produce probably about 99% of manufactured products without plastic. This is our reality, anything else is wishful thinking, pie in the sky.
  • Anonymous on May 30 2011 said:
    "In this context, the debate between nuclear and fossil fuels seems fairly irrelevant. We cannot feed our populations without cheap fuel to transport, we cannot produce probably about 99% of manufactured products without plastic." - Philip AndrewsIncluding, of course, the complex infrastructure that allows the construction, operation, decommissioning, and the long-term management of the wastes of nuclear power plants.

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