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“New killer” energy

We had nuclear reactors all along in central Virginia, in the North Anna station? Now you tell me? And, writes the Wall Street Journal, “the plant tripped out of service,” whatever that means? The August 23 earthquake I found almost funny–though the cat obviously didn’t. But now I’m really, really not amused. Especially when I read that had our measly 5.8 tremor been even slightly higher, there could have been cause for concern. There are 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S. –to me, all accidents waiting to happen. The precedents are there, aren’t they? A quick reminder, if needed, of the more spectacular examples.

1979: The core reactor at Three Mile Island undergoes meltdown. The industry and regulatory commissions swear themselves blue in saying that no loss of life followed. Mmmm… Reports tell us otherwise in spikes of death and illness by cancer. As for causes, Nuclear Regulatory Commission(NRC) experts have blamed the accident on lack of communication, lack of training, equipment failure, operator error, etc. Not reassuring when you think that the plant has not been closed to this day.

1986: Chernobyl. Let’s say the disaster was due to Soviet-era incompetence, obsolete material, lack of supervision. Adding insult to heavy injury, the cover-up that followed and probably played a part in the collapse of the empire. As for the toll, depending on which report you read, between 30,000 and 200,000 deaths, mainly by thyroid cancer, will be the total consequence of the released contamination that is still present today.

2011: Fukushima. Another major meltdown following the huge earthquake in Japan. Post-disaster measurements of radioactivity compare with Chernobyl. Analysis, blame assignment, and all-around death and suffering are far from over.

Enough said. Baby Bush, aka W–famously stumped by words of more than one syllable, including nuclear–unwittingly coined new killer, the perfect word for this too-often unleashed monster.

What will it take for the world to come to its senses? The quantity of remaining oil is finite, which is a good thing considering the calamity it has been in oil-producing countries and the toll on the environment. But put all the other resources together—wind, sun, geothermal, garbage recycling and what not—and surely we can manage. Hospitals? Schools? Cities? Transportation? Our extraordinary forty-century old civilization can’t come up with solutions? Then, forget energy. We can walk. Do us good, too.

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