FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Paying Now for the Next Three Mile Island

by HARVEY WASSERMAN

As radiation poured from 3 Mile Island 31 years ago this week, utility executives rested easy.

They knew that no matter how many people their errant nuke killed, and no matter how much property it destroyed, they would not be held liable.

Today this same class of executives demands untold taxpayer billions to build still more TMIs. No matter how many meltdowns they cause, and how much havoc they visit down on the public, they still believe they’re above the law.

Fueled with more than $600 million public relations slush money, they demand a risk-free “renaissance” financed by you and yours.

AS IF!

In 1980 I reported from central Pennsylvania on the dead and dying one year after. Dozens of interviews documented a horrifying range of radiation-related diseases including cancer, leukemia, birth defects, still births, malformations, sterility, heart attacks, strokes, emphysema, skin lesions, hair loss, a metallic taste and much more. As reported by the Baltimore News-American among others, such ailments also ripped through the animal population.

To this day no one knows how much radiation was released at the 1979 TMI accident, where it went or whom it harmed. The official line that “no one was killed” is arguably the biggest lie ever told in US industrial history. It is to public health what the promise of power “too cheap to meter” was to public finance.

It parallels Soviet lies about the 1986 catastrophe at Chernobyl, whose health effects continue to skyrocket. A devastating summary report issued by the New York Academy of Sciences (Yablokov, Nesterenko & Nesterenko: Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People & the Environment) says at least 980,000 people are likely to die from the fallout.

That would be a small fraction of the casualties had 9/11 terrorists dived into the two reactors at New York’s Indian Point instead of hitting the World Trade Center.

In a time of deep financial stress, it also counts that the TMI accident turned a $900 million asset into a $2 billion liability in a matter of minutes. Chernobyl has cost Belarus and Ukraine at least $500 billion and counting. And the price tag on a major meltdown anywhere in the US is virtually beyond calculation.

Thus those who think a flood of new nukes will flow unimpeded into the American pocketbook haven’t been paying attention:

1) Four northeastern nukes—in Vermont, New Jersey and the two at Indian Point— are under intense public pressure to shut within the next two years. Numerous other elderly reactors are likely to go down long before any new nukes could come on line.

2) French President Sarkozy is demanding that world financial institutions buy a bevy of new French-built reactors. But huge delays and cost-overruns at French projects in Finland and France itself have made the investment community wary to say the least, thus prompting his foot-stomping.

3) Documents leaked from inside France’s national utility EDF indicate cost-cutting has made the new French reactor design exceedingly prone to explosion, further unsettling potential investors.

4) The future of new US reactor construction hinges on massive loan guarantees and handouts. The public number is $54 billion, but the Nuclear Information & Resource Service says the real bill could top a trillion.

5) In the polarized, cost-conscious wake of the health care bill, and the apparent demise of cap and trade as a centerpiece of climate legislation, the idea of such huge sums flowing to a deeply polarizing energy source has become increasingly problematic. Without a clear trade-off for fossil/nuclear giveaways, and with stiffening resistance from the rightist National Taxpayers Union, Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation, the nuke bonanza is anything but certain. The technology may now, in fact, be “too expensive to matter.”

6) An attempt by Entergy to shift six reactors into an asset-free corporate shell has been nixed by New York authorities, leaving liability for Vermont Yankee, Indian Point and other northeastern nukes in limbo.

7) As elderly nukes stumble toward oblivion, various funds allegedly set aside for decommissioning may be significantly under-funded, deeply exacerbating the financial battles that now encircle the industry.

8) As a lame duck, George W. Bush signed agreements apparently obligating the feds to assume responsibility for enough radioactive waste to fill two of the cancelled Yucca Mountain waste dumps. The complete lack of even one such facility means the potential taxpayer bill is beyond meaningful calculation.

9) Above all the exemption from liability for a major accident—first perpetrated by a pro-nuke Congress in 1957—remains the largest potential cost to us all. Renewed by Bush in 2005, some believe the statute is clearly unconstitutional.

To this day the families of those harmed by radiation at Three Mile Island have been denied the right to make their case in federal court.

But now the shoe is on the other foot.

Desperate for cash, the nuclear industry wants us all to pay hundreds of billions for the joy of living downwind from still more 3 Mile Islands for which they intend to assume NO liability.

They want our money AND our lives.

From central Pennsylvania after 31 years, the message is clear: Just Say NO!

WORDS THAT STICK

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail