The Plague of the Failed Atom

by HARVEY WASSERMAN

Small wonder the death knell of new US nukes may be upon us.

Two reactors proposed for Florida will now, say its would-be builders, cost $24 billion or more…up from their original maximum guess of $4 billion each…far beyond comparable renewables and efficiency.

Two Georgia nukes still wanting tax-funded loan guarantees have been caught pouring faulty concrete and using non-design rebar steel.

Currently licensed reactors from California to Vermont, from Texas to Ohio to Florida are leaking radiation, shut for faulty steam generator tubes, closed for failed repairs running over $1 billion and being fought tooth and nail by local downwinders who are tired of rate rape and want them shut forever.

But the fate of the Earth may ultimately rest on which China emerges after Fukushima:   the green one pushing solar, or the dictatorship pushing nukes that threaten us all.

What we Americans can do about it remains problematic.

But shutting down our own industry begins with killing proposed federal loan guarantees for two new nukes at Vogtle, Georgia, and stopping the rate rape being perpetrated to build two more at South Carolina’s V.C. Summer.

Throughout the US, wanna-be nuke builders are pushing regulators and legislatures to force ratepayers to foot the bill for new reactors while they’re being built.  In Iowa, Missouri and Florida, an angry public is pushing back—hard.

Progress Energy’s staggering new cost estimate for Levy County is a game changer.  The idea of paying $12 billion each for reactors that can’t even begin construction for at least three years is beyond scale.  Progress has blown at least $1 billion on its botched repair and expansion job at north Florida’s Crystal River, which may now never reopen.

Failed steam generator tubes at California’s San Onofre may also keep two reactors there forever shut. In Vermont, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and virtually every other home to geezer nukes, grassroots opposition has seriously escalated.  Sooner or later, they will win.  We must all pray that happens before yet another nukes blows.  It will be a close call.

In part because fracking (another environmental disaster) has made natural gas so cheap, and in part because the price of wind and solar continues to plummet, 2011 was the first year since deep in the W Administration that the Executive Branch did not ask for new reactor loan guarantees.   If the money can be nixed for Vogtle, and the rate rape for Summer defeated, the whole “nuclear renaissance” could could definitively disappear.

Small modular nukes must still be fought.  But the numbers on this imperfected technology do not work without massive taxpayer subsidies or public liability insurance.

Europe’s one-time “nuclear poster child” is about to lose its pro-nuke Sarkozy to the Socialist Francois Hollande, who may or may not begin shutting the nation’s reactors.  But French public has moved strongly toward renewables and probably won’t tolerate new ones.

Led by Germany, Europe’s nuclear future is past.  Proposed reactors in Great Britain and elsewhere are stalled.  Bulgaria has cancelled two.

Of Japan’s 54 licensed post-Fukushima units, just one now operates—and may soon shut.  Tokyo wants to open more, but grassroots resistance is fierce.  Ditto India, where massive demonstrations and hunger strikes have erupted against the Koodankulam project.

South Korea and Taiwan still want new reactors.  Korea may sell at least one to the United Arab Emirates.  The Saudis and Jordan may soon start construction.

But the global key now rests with China.  Despite its campaign to corner the world market in wind and solar hardware, China has been poised to bring on line close to 100 reactors. It may claim the largest number of new proposals—more than 30.

But Fukushima prompted a suspension of new approvals and a move toward a national energy plan.  A final rejection could blow the floor out of any global nuclear future.

With a rising tide of grassroots environmentalism in China, any No Nukes movement there must be embraced worldwide.  In its hands may lie the future of the Earth.

Reactor backers desperately hype potential orders from China and India, and from small nations like Turkey and Taiwan.  But who will protect us —or even tell us—when they explode?

This weekend the Sierra Club will host a packed national gathering of grassroots No Nukers  to plan the Us nuclear industry’s final demise.  There’s much to celebrate.  The campaign for a green-powered Earth has become one of her most successful non-violent social movements.

But the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima are far from over.  The radiation they still spew threatens our survival.

Without a truly global Solartopian uprising, the ultimate China Syndrome may yet come in China…and spread worldwide.

In economy and ecology, we have no future without finally cleansing from every corner on Earth the lingering plague of the failed atom.

Harvey Wasserman, a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy, is editing the nukefree.org web site. He is the author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, is at www.solartopia.org. He can be reached at: Windhw@aol.com

 

Will Falk moved to the West Coast from Milwaukee, WI where he was a public defender.

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