With the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami which irreparably damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant, we may be looking at 20 times the same risks here in the United States. MSN has revealed that General Electric not only designed the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant but there are 23 additional sister reactors which reflect similar design here in the US. Those 23 of 104 nuclear reactors in the US are boiling water reactors (BWR) and are shown on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s website.
President Obama’s administration has resorted to investing $8.3 billion to build two new nuclear reactors in Georgia [why not D.C.?] after a 30 year moratorium on new nuclear plants. Obama says it will play a part in our ‘low carbon future’ but is this kind of thinking like using heroin to ensure a non-alcoholic future? Some representatives have been trying to lift the ban in California but it remains firmly in place. California decided in 1976 that until there is a way to permanently dispose nuclear waste or recycle used fuel rods there would be no nuclear plants which was also difficult to challenge after the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. Portland General Electric opted to close their Trojan nuclear plant rather than repair a tiny tube that was leaking it and it was retired in 1993 instead of extending the license to 2011.
What about nuclear waste and “accidents”? The danger isn’t so much what we know, it is what we aren’t told. Environmental atrocities have taken place in our nuclear era. General Electric’s Hanford nuclear reservation occupies 570 square miles and sits near the Columbia River in a desolate part of Washington State. The Department of Energy admitted in 1990 that 540,000 curies of iodine 131 were “accidentally” released into the atmosphere at General Electric’s Hanford, WA nuclear facility between 1944 and approx 1955. The Three Mile Island incident released only 15 curies in comparison. Residents living downwind from the Hanford plant may have been exposed to doses ten times higher over the years than those living near Chernobyl after it melted down. Citizens of Hanford formed the Hanford Downwinders Coalition due to radiation exposure which may have caused a high rate of thyroid disease and cancer. A boiling water nuclear power plant still exists at Hanford though they claim it can withstand a flood from the Columbia River and after 9/11 it can withstand a hit from a jetliner. Most of the information about what happened at Hanford in the 40′s and 50′s was not declassified until 1986.
Hanford has an even worse issue to deal with. The DOE estimated in April 1990 that at least 444 billion gallons of low radioactive waste was dumped right into the ground because they said, “there was nowhere else to put them.” Since the 40′s highly radioactive waste stored in tanks has leaked over the years and when there was limited space some of the lower radioactive tanks were dumped into the ponds. Handford officials confess that some of the radioactive waste will last for millions of years and is leaking into the ground and the Columbia River. To get an idea how much nuclear waste was produced by Hanford, it would fill 900 Seattle Kingdome stadiums.
Today in Ventura County, California a contaminated nuclear reactor owned by Rocketdyne in Santa Susana is now heading to a landfill in Calabasas, CA. The SNAP (Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power) will be taken to a landfill near Topanga Canyon. Another reactor at the Rocketdyne site known as the SRE may be considered one of the worst nuclear disasters in the United States. The LA Times said that the SRE released over 250 times more radiation than at Three Mile Island in 1979. As a side note NASA reported that Rocketdyne had leaked about a half a million gallons of toxic solvent trichloroethylene in the soil and groundwater near Simi Valley and Chatsworth.
The General Electric Fukushima Dai-ichi plant uses “MOX” nuclear fuel rods. MOX means it is a mixed oxide fuel and a mixture of plutonium and uranium. MOX is being used in France, England, Russia, and Japan but there is a consortium being formed to get the fuel into North and South Carolina as well as Virginia here in the U.S. The idea of MOX is to recycle decomissioned nuclear weapons and use them for nuclear power. In the process the nukes would need to be transported to a processing plant then transported again to reactors. According to the Nuclear Information and Resource Service using MOX is not helping to “recycle” nuclear materials and instead creates more nuclear waste to process it. The transportation of those materials only invites a potential terrorist to hijack and steal it.
Most reactors in the U.S. were not built to handle MOX fuel and according to NIRS the fuel will exploit weaknesses in aging reactors. NIRS believes that due to high “neutron flux” levels and higher levels of radiation a nuclear incident may cause a disaster worse than Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. DOE may subsidize MOX fuel according to NIRS which means our tax dollars will be paying the difference.
We need better energy solutions than just coal, petroleum and nuclear fuel. It is time for alternative energy to become the standard.