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:
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail