FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Nuclear Renaissance? No Thank You, Mr. President

Luddism – that is, the smashing of inhuman technology – always seemed to me to be quite a good idea. If a new machine is killing you, wreck it, as the 19th-century West Riding and Nottinghamshire weavers selectively wielded their God-given hammers to dismantle a certain type of automated loom that was driving them into poverty. King Ludd’s followers, who ever since have enjoyed a bad tabloid press as technophobes, lost their class war against the textile factory owners, and many of them were hanged or transported after bloody pitched battles with the British army on the moors.

The legacy of the Luddite defeat is to be found in the society we have today. Look no further than the GE-designed boiling-water nuclear generating plants – like the reactors failed or failing at Japan’s Fukushima and Tokai complexes.

As of this time of writing, in the course of Japan’s unfolding disaster, we know that 200,000 people have fled, or been evacuated from, the contaminated nuclear sites, which report “partial” meltdowns. Systemic failure, where rods are overheating – Units 1, 3 and 4 at Fukushima already have exploded, sending up radioactive plumes – and malfunctioning coolants and backup diesel generators are reported all over the Japanese nuclear network. Perhaps scariest of all is that Japan’s nuclear safety agency, with its long record of mendacity, like the US’s own Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is saying its reactors are “under control”. I’ll bet.

The struggle to cool the reactors isn’t the only problem. There is danger of widespread radioactivity from an inability to cool Fukushima’s spent nuclear fuel pools housed in less safe buildings. These ponds hold far more radioactivity than the reactor core. There are reports of escaping caesium-137, a deadly isotope that gives off highly penetrating radiation and is absorbed in the food chain.

Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano insists that radiation released into the air at Fukushima would not be “harmful” to people. Pull the other one. Already a number of Japanese workers have been hurt by radiation, and shipboard US Navy sailors on their way to a rescue mission have been contaminated.

I live between two nuclear stations, San Onofre down near San Diego and Diablo Canyon up by central California’s San Luis Obispo. The plant operators insist “there is no immediate threat to the state” and all is swell. The operator of Diablo Canyon is Pacific Gas & Electric, the company successfully sued by the citizens of the small town of Hinkley after it had allowed poisonous hexavalent chromium to leach into their ground water and lied about it, as immortalized in the film Erin Brockovich. This Diablo reactor is built smack in the middle of four earthquake faults in a built-up suburbanized area. San Onofre, the plant closest to me, has tallied ten times the number of safety complaints by workers who are afraid to speak out fearing retaliation. For good measure, San Onofre is sited between both offshore and inland (San Andreas) active seismic faults. Its nearest large city San Diego has suffered 50 per cent more earthquake activity since 1984.

We Americans have a virile tradition of whistleblowers, nuclear and otherwise, although President Obama has declared a nasty punishing war on leakers who expose government scandals. The poor Japanese have no such historical legacy, which is one reason why they’re in such a pickle. Japanese managers – salarymen used to working for one company their entire lives – keep their mouths shut. They must have known what we know now, that Fukushima’s main operator, Tokyo Electric Power (TEP), never tested safety for a quake-and-tsunami anywhere near the 9.0-scale event that has devastated north-eastern Japan. Their nuclear watchdogs looked the other way. The result is “full-scale panic”, because now they don’t know what to do or how to do it.

So, there goes our American “nuclear renaissance” trumpeted by Obama in his last state of the union speech. To tamp down climate warming and solve our energy needs, he boasted, “It means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.” He aimed to give $36bn to the nuclear power industry and, for starters, a $4bn loan guarantee for two new nuclear reactors on the Texan Gulf Coast to be built by – guess who? – the same folks who brought you the Fukushima meltdown, TEP, assisted by the same American company that made false safety reports at New York’s Shoreham nuclear plant. As if the Katrina- and BP-abused Gulf Coast hasn’t suffered enough.

Of the 104 old, fault-ridden, leaky, rickety nuclear power stations in the United States, 23 are of a similar GE-Toshiba design that has failed catastrophically in Japan. If a commercial nuclear reactor goes “China Syndrome” – melts all the way down, as occurred at Chernobyl which made a huge area uninhabitable and caused unknown thousands of deaths – its radioactivity will contain 1,000 times as much as the Hiroshima bomb.

My atomic future and yours is in the hands of a president who hates whistleblowers and a Nuclear Regulatory Commission in hock to the industry it’s supposed to control.

CLANCY SIGAL is a novelist and screenwriter (Frida)in Los Angeles. He can be reached at clancy@jsasoc.com

 

More articles by:

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Black Sunset

March 20, 2019
T.J. Coles
Countdown to “Full Spectrum Dominance”
W. T. Whitney
Re-Targeting Cuba: Why Title III of U.S. Helms-Burton Act will be a Horror Show
Kenneth Surin
Ukania’s Great Privatization Heist
Howard Lisnoff
“Say It Ain’t So, Joe:” the Latest Neoliberal from the War and Wall Street Party
Walter Clemens
Jailed Birds of a Feather May Sing Together
George Ochenski
Failing Students on Climate Change
Cesar Chelala
The Sweet Smell of Madeleine
Binoy Kampmark
Global Kids Strike
Nicky Reid
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: Requiem for a Fictional Party
Elliot Sperber
Empedocles and You and Me 
March 19, 2019
Paul Street
Socialism Curiously Trumps Fascism in U.S. Political Threat Reporting
Jonah Raskin
Guy Standing on Anxiety, Anger and Alienation: an Interview About “The Precariat”
Patrick Cockburn
The Brutal Legacy of Bloody Sunday is a Powerful Warning to Those Hoping to Save Brexit
Robert Fisk
Turning Algeria Into a Necrocracy
John Steppling
Day of Wrath
Robin Philpot
Truth, Freedom and Peace Will Prevail in Rwanda
Victor Grossman
Women Marchers and Absentees
Binoy Kampmark
The Dangers of Values: Brenton Tarrant, Fraser Anning and the Christchurch Shootings
Jeff Sher
Let Big Pharma Build the Wall
Jimmy Centeno
Venezuela Beneath the Skin of Imperialism
Jeffrey Sommers – Christopher Fons
Scott Walker’s Failure, Progressive Wisconsin’s Win: Milwaukee’s 2020 Democratic Party Convention
Steve Early
Time for Change at NewsGuild?
March 18, 2019
Scott Poynting
Terrorism Has No Religion
Ipek S. Burnett
Black Lives on Trial
John Feffer
The World’s Most Dangerous Divide
Paul Cochrane
On the Ground in Venezuela vs. the Media Spectacle
Dean Baker
The Fed and the 3.8 Percent Unemployment Rate
Thomas Knapp
Social Media Companies “Struggle” to Help Censors Keep us in the Dark
Binoy Kampmark
Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings
Mark Weisbrot
The Reality Behind Trump’s Venezuela Regime Change Coalition
Weekend Edition
March 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Is Ilhan Omar Wrong…About Anything?
Kenn Orphan
Grieving in the Anthropocene
Jeffrey Kaye
On the Death of Guantanamo Detainee 10028
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
In Salinas, Puerto Rico, Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria
Ben Debney
Christchurch, the White Victim Complex and Savage Capitalism
Eric Draitser
Did Dallas Police and Local Media Collude to Cover Up Terrorist Threats against Journalist Barrett Brown?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Straighten Up and Fly Right
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s $34 Trillion Deficit and Debt Bomb
David Rosen
America’s Puppet: Meet Juan Guaidó
Jason Hirthler
Annexing the Stars: Walcott, Rhodes, and Venezuela
Samantha M. - Angelica Perkins
Our Green New Deal
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s Nightmare Budget
Steven Colatrella
The 18th Brumaire of Just About Everybody: the Rise of Authoritarian Strongmen and How to Prevent and Reverse It
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Riding the Wild Bull of Nuclear Power
Michael K. Smith
Thirty Years Gone: Remembering “Cactus Ed”
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail