Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Dr. Hansen, We Need You at Fukushima and Diablo Canyon

by HARVEY WASSERMAN

The horrifying news from Fukushima worsens daily. It is an unparalleled global catastrophe that cries out for anyone and everyone with nuclear expertise to pitch in.

Topping this list should be Dr. James Hansen. Hansen is a climate scientist and a hero of the global warming movement. He has courageously engaged in civil disobedience against mountaintop removal and the Keystone Pipeline.

Hansen also claims some nuclear expertise, a credential he’s used to justify his support for a new generation of Small Modular Reactors.

Many of us in the No Nukes campaign find this advocacy profoundly mystifying. Even under the best of circumstances, there will be no SMR prototype for as long as a decade or more.

The SMR’s primary customer, the Tennessee Valley Authority, has now pushed back to 2015 the target date for submitting its construction permit application. Even if wildly successful, the SMR could not meaningfully affect climate change for another 20 years—this in the midst of a crisis Hansen and so many others see as critical and immediate.

The SMR blueprint hinges on technologies that have already failed. The leading candidate for SMR production at this point seems to be Babcock & Wilcox, which brought us Three Mile Island and Ohio’s infamous Davis-Besse. It was there that boric acid ate through a pressure vessel to within a fraction of an inch of major disaster.

Big questions remain unanswered about the SMR’s health and environmental impacts such as on water, vulnerability to terrorism, its effects on waste disposal and much more.

But the most obvious deal killer is economic. Even by current calculations, any new reactor design would have difficulty competing with renewable energy sources, especially solar panels that can be installed on rooftops, thus avoiding transmission costs.

With the nuclear industry’s half-century history of massive delay and cost overruns, we can expect the SMR to come in very late and billions over budget. As climate activist Bill McKibben told The Rumpus in December: “Nuclear power, I mean—it’s just too expensive. It really isn’t going to happen.”

By contrast, the cost of renewables routinely drops, while rising in efficiency and speed of deployment. Germany has addressed the intermittency problem by balancing wind, solar and other sources into an effective baseload supply system. Every dollar diverted from that green-powered mix only worsens our vulnerability to climate disaster.

Given all that, the sales pitch for new nuclear technologies is a dangerous diversion, like building an experimental garage while a raging radioactive fire forever contaminates our only home.

A multimillion-dollar dis-infomercial called “Pandora’s Promise” apparently (the producers have refused to send a review copy) promotes the SMR much like Disney pushed “Our Friend the Atom”—as a “too cheap to meter” miracle with can’t-miss guarantees. Soon to air on CNN (supposedly without a balancing green point of view), the film was partly financed by billionaire Paul Allen, whose Microsoft cohort Bill Gates has invested heavily in new nukes.

But even Pandora’s mainstays waiver on today’s reactors. In a riveting YouTubed debate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. calls Pandora an “elaborate hoax.” Director Robert Stone, in turn, terms the current generation of reactors “1960s technology.” Hansen refers to it as “that old technology” and criticizes Japan for building Fukushima in a spot vulnerable to tsunamis.

But California has two “old technology” reactors—at Diablo Canyon in an earthquake/tsunami zone in San Luis Obispo County. (It recently had four, but citizen action thankfully shut two at San Onofre in the southern part of the state.)

Thousands of protesters practicing civil disobedience have been arrested trying to shut down Diablo. It’s time Hansen joined us.

We also need Hansen on the emergency team at Fukushima. Some 1,300 fuel rods are still stranded 100 feet in the air, threatening to spew thousands of times more radiation than was released at Hiroshima/Nagasaki. Fukushima’s three melted cores have yet to be found. Steam bursts indicate fission may still be going on at the site. Heavily contaminated water is pouring out from storage tanks and through the ground, undermining damaged structures and bleeding lethal radiation into the Pacific.

Former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Dale Klein told Fukushima’s owners “you don’t know what you are doing.” Japan’s government acknowledges there’s an “emergency” but has no credible solution. Evidence of serious damage to sea life and human infants is mounting. The situation is dire and worsening, with no end in sight.

Thus the need for the world’s nuclear scientists and engineers to converge on Fukushima is increasingly desperate.

 

We hope Hansen will switch from pushing the theoretical new SMR to helping humankind bring this all-too-real “old technology” disaster under control.

Perhaps he, McKibben, George Monbiot and other key climate activists can join us at Diablo Canyon to prevent the next Fukushima from happening there. Or at one of America’s three dozen “old technology” reactors threatened by global-warmed dam breaks and flooding, which has already inundated two reactors in Nebraska. Or at one of three U.S. reactors already damaged by seismic shocks, which in many places are being made even more dangerous by fracking.

Hansen certainly has the right to advocate a new generation of reactors. We can respectfully disagree.

But ask yourself: When you draw a line from Three Mile Island through Chernobyl and Fukushima, what comes next?

At the very least—before anyone spends time and money on still more atomic pipe dreams—we need a unified global scientific community to put an end to the escalating radioactive horror that’s with us now.

Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org and is author of SOLARTOPIA!  Our Green-Powered Earth.  His SOLARTOPIA GREEN POWER & WELLNESS SHOW is at www.prn.fm.  This article was first published at Truthdig.com.

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

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]