Monday, March 14, 2011

Problem: sadly prophetic essay

THE ZONE OF UNEASE, March 14 - Day three of a major natural / nuclear disaster seems like a good time to mention my article "The Hidden Threat To The Nuclear Renaissance". The piece ran in the American Prospect in February 2010, the same week Obama authorized the first funding for American nuke reactors in 30 years. My article imagined a meltdown in Indonesia or Bulgaria; conjuring multiple meltdowns in the world's third richest country seemed far too ridiculous.

From the article;

The American nuclear industry, repackaged as a model of energy independence, is itself dependent on the fate of every nuclear plant worldwide. As the industry likes to point out, Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island accident produced no casualties. And yet even that level of nuclear crisis was enough to scare millions of Americans and inflame the regulatory surge of the 1980s. Another meltdown like Chernobyl, with all its human misery visible on laptops and iPhones worldwide, could irrevocably taint public opinion against nuclear power.

It seems odd that this idea hasn't yet directly penetrated public discourse. Only this morning, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell tip-toed around this very issue; "My thought about it is, we ought not to make American and domestic policy based upon an event that happened in Japan."

And yet this is exactly what's going to happen. The "we" in McConnell's sentence includes anyone with access to TV, radio, or the Internet. The United States has 23 Fukushima-style GE reactors. The two jolly concrete bosoms of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station - an hour from where I live - sit on an active fault line. The conclusion is inescapable. It's like finding out (or, more accurately, remembering) that your home is built on the edge of a cliff.

This is an important point. Nuclear power in America isn't merely a disaster waiting to happen. It's also a financial disaster currently happening. The massive infrastructure of U.S. nuke plants is susceptible to the fates of every other nuke plant worldwide. Obama's current budget gives $36 billion to an industry with no possible political future.

The full text of the article is here.