Meltdowns or Solar Power?

I was talking to an old veteran I met in the aisle of the supermarket yesterday, and out of the blue (we were talking about soy milk and public transportation), without any prior discussion on the subject, he told me he worked with “the atomic fellows” at the Manhattan Project during World War II, and that THEY were saying, even way back then, that all the energy anyone ever would need is available from the sun. The sun is the ultimate nuke, working FOR us, at a safe distance fromus (about 93 million miles).

Nuclear power here earth, however, not only CAN be eliminated, it MUST be. No community with a nuke should settle for less than total abolition of this dire and eminent threat to their health and well-being.

Most possible “improvements” people talk about will have only a relatively minor effect, if any, on the likelihood that the next nuke to melt down might do so explosively — blowing the top of the reactor pressure vessel more than a mile into the air, spreading 60 to 100 tons of radioactive poison into the atmosphere, poisoning the landscape for hundreds of miles downwind.

Such as explosion has been calculated by “opposition scientists” to be not only POSSIBLE, but likely if we keep on keeping on. In time, ALL so-called “accidents” WILL happen. “Accidents” become inevitable over time.

The next meltdown won’t necessarily be anything like Chernobyl OR Three Mile Island, which were both much slower than the “theoretical” limit (although both had terrible off-the-chart spikes in radiation output at various times during their demise).

In 2002, a meltdown at Davis-Besse was avoided in the nick of time by luck, by chance, not by skill or talent on the part of the operators or the regulators. A meltdown was avoided by — literally — the skin of our teeth. The stainless steel liner on the inside of the reactor pressure vessel (designed to protect the reactor from corrosion, NOT to hold back the intense heat and pressure within) was all that saved America from something that probably would have been worse than either Chernobyl OR Three Mile Island, but STILL probably would not have been as bad as it could be.

Solar, wind, wave power and other renewable systems don’t have these problems and they’ll NEVER run out of fuel. In the past few years, uranium prices have SOARED much faster than the price of oil has, and may reach $100 per pound this year (2007). Furthermore, the international uranium cartel doesn’t include the United States, which, according to estimates, only holds about 3% of the world’s minable uranium, so we’ll still be dependent on foreign price gouging by places like Kazakhstan (who hold about 18% of the world’s known recoverable uranium reserves, second only to Australia).

Operational nukes are extremely dangerous, no matter how “safe” they try to make it. You can still fly airplanes into them. Nothing’s going to be built to stop that threat — no anti-aircraft guns will be installed, and certainly wind turbines will not surround the nuke plants specifically to protect the nuck from low-flying missile attacks (the most likely type).

A shuttered and dismantled nuke is incapable of melting down, especially if its fuel has been properly stored (none has been, thus far, and we don’t even know how to store it).

Shutting the nukes down also gives solar and wind power a fair market to play in, not one based on payments made in leukemia by our children, and in waste management costs by those same future generations.

All we need to give our children is working wind turbines, wave-energy systems, and solar roof panels. Not cancer and debt. They don’t need nukes and they don’t need the waste from our nukes. But as long as we think we can’t eliminate them, then we can’t.

Russell D. Hoffman, a computer programmer in Carlsbad, California, has written extensively about nuclear power. His essays have been translated into several different languages and published in more than a dozen countries. He can be reached at: