A Dozen Years after Fukushima, Nuclear Power is Still a Death Wish

A dozen years after four atomic reactors exploded at Fukushima, the plant STILL daily irradiates 150 tons of water which must be treated and stored forever.

Thousands of tons more of such lethal liquid are still held in rotting tanks. The Japanese government wants to dump them in the Pacific, but local resistance is fierce. The build-up will continue for countless years to come, with gargantuan quantities of deadly liquid ever-readier to destroy our oceans….and perhaps, eventually, human life, whose irrational addiction to atomic power has yet to abate.

As of March 10, 2011, the official industry line was that no US-designed commercial reactor could explode. Chornobyl blew up on April 26, 1986, sending deadly radioactive clouds throughout the Earth.

But the commercial reactor producers hid behind Chornobyl’s Soviet design, saying no such thing could happen to reactors designed by GE or Westinghouse.

The next day a massive offshore quake shook the six GE-designed reactors at Fukushima, severely damaging four of them. Some experts believe Unit One was on its way to melting before the giant tsunami wreaked havoc…followed by four massive explosions.

Cores at Units 1-2-3 melted, creating massive quantities of hydrogen, which ignited. A mushroom-shaped cloud suggested possible fission from the high-intensity fuel in Unit 3.

Hydrogen from Unit 3 seeped into the then-shut Unit 4 and exploded, leading to an extremely dangerous loss of coolant in the spent fuel pool.

In concert, the four blown nukes spewed at least 100 times more radioactive cesium than was released by the Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan’s prime minister contemplated evacuating Tokyo’s 15 million people. Prevailing winds blew most of the radiation into the ocean—-towards California.

But radioactive hot spots still proliferate throughout the archipelago, with thyroid and other problems soaring through the countryside, especially among children.

Any sane species would have abandoned atomic power on the spot. The four blown and two shut Fukushima reactors may have been valued at around $60 billion. Japan’s fifty other nukes were mostly shut for years, at enormous cost. Final clean-up costs are inestimable, as is the forever damage to human health.

Chornobyl has cost more than a trillion, with the human death toll estimated by three Russian scientists at more than a million. A $2 billion shroud covers the still-hot core which now sits in the Russo-Ukrainian war zone with 15 other nukes, any one of which could be turned by a single shell into a global apocalypse.

Three Mile Island, which in 1979 ravaged human and animal health throughout central Pennsylvania, instantly turned a $900 million asset into a $2 billion liability.

Economically the reactors make no sense. Nowhere on Earth is it cheaper to construct new nukes than to go with wind, solar, storage and efficiency. Nearly all green sources are cheaper, cleaner, safer, faster to build, more reliable and more readily available than atomic energy.

In the US, the last big nukes are staggering to completion at Vogtle, Georgia. They’re years behind schedule and will cost some $35 billion after originally being priced at $14 billion. They will never come close to competing with Solartopian sources, which could instead have made the state largely energy independent.

The other 92 operating US nukes average 40 years of age. They have no private insurance beyond a small ($13 billion) federal fund. Their licenses are in various stages of fabrication. They’re overseen by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission which does no reliable public inspections.

In fact, the NRC’s own site inspector at Diablo Canyon—-Dr. Michael Peck—-warned the plant could not withstand a credible earthquake from the dozen nearby fault lines. A credible agency would have long since shut Diablo’s two faltering reactors. Instead, the NRC shipped Peck to North Carolina (he’s now gone from the Commission) and wants Diablo to operate after its licenses expire.

After Vogtle, no big new nukes will ever be built in the US. Industry shills tout Small Modular Reactors, but there are no working prototypes. They’re scheduled for 2029, but won’t likely be ready until the mid-2030s, if then. They will never compete with renewables. They will always be vulnerable to accidents, sabotage, fuel shortages and unmanageable radwaste production.

Worldwide big reactors are being built in countries that want atomic weapons, mostly being promoted by Russia’s Rosatom. The bulk of the global action may be in China, where more than twenty reactors are being contemplated while the country also weighs its options on renewables, which it has unsuccessfully attempted to monopolize on a global scale.

More decisive has been Germany. After Fukushima then-Prime Minister Angela Merkel—-a trained chemist—-agreed with Green Party activists to shut all of Germany’s 19 reactors. All but three are now down. Those had been scheduled to close at the end of 2022, but the energy shortages resulting from the Ukraine war persuaded even Green Party members to keep the last three open. Those may or may not shut next month.

But the greatest irony has been reserved for France. With 56 standard-designed Westinghouse nukes (some at 900 megawatts, some at 1300 megawatts), France has long been the poster child for atomic energy. At some point the French-derived some 80% of their electricity from their nukes.

But standardization now haunts the French industry, as generic cracks and other devastating flaws have surfaced throughout their fleet. Global-warmed rivers are no longer cool enough to many of the inland reactors.

With well over half France’s nuke industry thus closed, the nation with 56 reactors must now import huge quantities of electricity from neighboring Germany, which has just three.

Much of that is being generated with coal and gas. But Germany has also embarked on a hugely successful energiewiende, an extremely aggressive domestic campaign to convert to wind, solar, storage and efficiency.

Since Fukushima, enormous wind farms and thousands of community-owned rooftop solar arrays have pushed Germany to the forefront of an emerging global Solartopian reality. With the world’s fourth-largest economy (Europe’s biggest) Germany is poised to outstrip all industrial economies in freeing itself from King CONG (Coal, Oil, Nukes & Gas), meeting (or exceeding) its carbon-free goals while uniquely prospering with stable, reliable energy supply and pricing.

But the United States—-which pioneered many renewable technologies—-is in no such shape. Virtually all its decrepit reactors were designed in the pre-digital 1950s, ‘60s, and 70s. Many are on or near active earthquake faults (Ohio’s Perry and North Anna, Virginia, have already been damaged). Cracks, embrittlement, deferred maintenance, flooding, an aging workforce, and much more plague the industry.

Despite being uninsured, un-inspected, and essentially unregulated, the industry is being outstripped by wind, solar, batteries, and efficiency. In a true free market economy, virtually all American reactors would shut immediately.

But the industry seems determined to run these plants at least until the next one explodes, at which point it will deny any radiation was released, or that it could harm anyone, and they will blame the disaster on the anti-nuke movement.

Nowhere is the syndrome more evident than in California.

In 2016 a shut-down agreement for the two reactors at Diablo Canyon was signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown, then-Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newson, the NRC, state legislature, Public Utilities Commission, local governments and regulatory agencies, unions, environmental groups, and more.

The reactors were to close forever in 2024 and 2025, to be supplanted by new renewables. Among other things, the switching stations at the plant site would eventually be fed by massive off-shore wind farms.

By 2022 more than 1.4 million rooftop solar arrays were generating far more electricity than Diablo, and the transition to Solartopia was well underway. At least twice, the backup batteries on the state’s decentralized renewable units averted major blackouts.

But now-Governor Newsom has suddenly decided to strong-arm the legislature into keeping Diablo open, with billion-plus handouts from both the state and the feds. All California ratepayers will subsidize the scam, whether they use Diablo’s juice or not.

Though Pacific Gas & Electric has slashed maintenance at least since 2016, the NRC will not require a special inspection. Newsom has ignored a 2019 mass petition asking for a public look at the plant’s inner workings. NRC site inspector Dr. Michael Peck’s warning that the nukes can’t withstand likely seismic shocks from the fault lines that surround Diablo has been shelved. Peck himself is now gone from the NRC.

Meanwhile, Newsom forced through the PUC an open assault on rooftop solar, vastly reducing the payments collected by owners who feed their excess power into the grid.

The astonishing pro-nuke/anti-solar attack by a so-called “progressive” governor has left much of the state in shock. PG&E is a twice-confessed federal felon whose malign neglect killed eight people in an avoidable 2010 San Bruno gas explosion and more than eighty in horrific northern California fires ignited by the company’s under-maintained power lines.

Nationwide the Biden Administration is now offering billions to revive ancient nukes like Michigan’s Palisades, whose owners closed it early because of major internal defects. Biden’s terrifying affections for nukes likely to explode have deeply angered experts familiar with the decay in these old reactors…and among those familiar with the massive cost and efficiency breakthroughs that have defined Solartopian technology.

It’s widely understood that the US and other militaries have a deep interest in prolonging the falsely-labeled “Peaceful Atom’s” ability to produce fissionable material for Bombs, and to maintain a skilled nuclear workforce.

It’s also clear the fossil/nuke industry will do all it can to sabotage the astonishing progress of wind, solar, storage, and efficiency, working, by and large, works best in decentralized modes, which the biggest corporations can’t control.

But on the 12th commemoration of Fukushima, with thousands of tons of irradiated liquids poised to forever contaminate the Pacific, one must wonder about the human species. Continuing to operate these dangerously deteriorated machines of mass murder while suppressing renewables is the 21st Century definition of suicidal insanity.

If humankind has a global death wish, commercial atomic power—-at least as much as atomic weaponry—-is clearly it.

If we wish to survive, we need to bury it…immediately and forever.

Harvey Wasserman wrote THE PEOPLE’S SPIRAL OF US HISTORY: FROM JIGONSASEH TO SOLARTOPIA.  Most Mondays @ 2-4pm PT, he co-convenes the Green Grassroots Election Protection Zoom (www.electionprotection2024).  The Mothers for Peace (www.mothersforpeace.org) could use your help in the struggle to shut the Diablo Canyon nukes.