Part II: The Spectre of a World “Nuclear” Komodo – Elizabeth Border

Image: WashingtonIndependent.com

One of the surprising “aftershocks” of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear tragedy is Germany’s resolute stand to abandon nuclear energy.

Associated Press reporter Juergen Baetz reports that Germany [http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/03/23-7] is “betting billions on expanding the use of renewable energy in its decision to stop using nuclear energy because of its inherent risks.” Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the Japanese disaster a “catastrophe of apocalyptic dimensions.”

Berlin’s decision to take seven of its seventeen reactors offline for three months for new safety checks could become a model for the U.S. to follow. Apparently France, relying on nuclear energy for more than seventy percent of its power, will stay nuclear.

Baetz states:

Nuclear power has been very unpopular in Germany ever since radioactivity from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster drifted across the country. A center-left government a decade ago penned a plan to abandon the technology for good by 2021, but Ms. Merkel’s government last year amended it to extend the plants’ lifetime by an average of twelve years. That plan was put on hold after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami compromised nuclear plants in Japan.

Germany’s transition would cost an estimated $28 billion a year. According to Baetz, in 2010 German investment in renewable energy topped $37 billion and included 370,000 jobs.

Germany’s leaders seem determined to end nuclear power, perhaps with a 2020 deadline. Vice Chancellor Guido Westerwelle said, “We must learn from Japan,” including safety checks and putting workable alternatives into place.

Above-market prices are paid to German renewable energy producers – including a homeowner with solar roof panels and a windmill “farmer.” This is financed by a 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour tax paid by all electric customers. This results in a typical German family of four paying $1,420 annually for 4,500 kilowatt-hours, taxed $223.

But “Komodo” never sleeps. Baetz warns: “But even if Germany abandons nuclear energy, some of Europe’s 143 nuclear reactors will still sit right on its borders.”

Chancellor Merkel, pushing for common standards, a topic at the European Union Brussels Summit, says the 27-nation bloc has been able to standardize “the size of apples as the shape of bananas.” So, it urgently needs common standards for nuclear power plants. “Everybody in Europe would be equally affected by an accident at a nuclear power plant in Europe,” said the Chancellor.

What about the U.S.? Misbegotten potential radiation monsters thrive in areas prone to earthquakes and tsunamis. Are you comforted to know that both of California’s nuclear power plants are near faults? Diablo Canyon [http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_17768860?nclick_check=1] is near two faults, the Hasgri Fault and the Shoreline Fault. In addition, San Onofre [http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/31/local/la-me-0331-san-onofre-20110331] located next to I-5 in San Diego County, sits close to both the Oceanside and Newport-Inglewood/Rose Canyon Faults.

The NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) [http://www.nrc.gov/] requires that all nuclear facilities be built to withstand 7 to 7.5 magnitude earthquakes. But, voila, Japanese “Komodo Nuclear” emerged from a 9.0!

According to Richard Allen, associate director of the Seismological Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, California has a 99 % chance of being hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7 or greater within the next thirty years.

How safe are the other nuclear power plants? [http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf06.html] ABC News reports [http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/2011/03/are-us-nuclear-plants-safe-cant-reach-that-conclusion-leading-house-dem-says.html] “Records Show 56 Safety Violations at U.S. Power Plants in the Past 4 Years.” This ABC news review of four years of NRC safety records includes numerous violations: “missing or mishandled nuclear material, inadequate emergency plans, faulty backup power generators, corroded cooling pipes and even marijuana use inside a nuclear plant.”

In 2007, nuclear materials went missing from the Exelon Corporation [http://www.exeloncorp.com/Pages/home.aspx]’s Dresden Nuclear Plant, located within fifty miles of seven million Chicagoans. Two fuel pellets and equipment with nuclear materials could not be accounted for. Exelon merely paid a fine. At Indian Point Nuclear Plant, just outside New York City, the NRC discovered that an earthquake safety device has been leaking for 18 years.

Helen Caldicott, MD

Anti-nuclear activist and author of Nuclear Power is Not the Answer, Dr. Helen Caldicott [http://www.helencaldicott.com/], says in Newsweek [http://www.newsweek.com/2011/03/20/the-manhattan-meltdown-scenario.html] (March 28/April 4, 2011):

“Imagine the scene: more than 300,000 people are running and driving away from the stricken reactor along winding roads, trying to reach their children, their spouses, and their mates. Then they begin to taste a strange metallic flavor in their mouths. The radio blasts out dire warnings, yet nobody knows what they are doing and nobody is in control. The economic consequences of a meltdown would be stupendous. New York could be rendered uninhabitable.”

Dorchester County, Maryland is within twenty miles of where Lou and I live. Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant is only 7 ½ miles from Taylor’s Island in Dorchester County and within the 10 mile emergency warning zone. Plant manager Thomas Trepanier, reported by Capital News Service [http://www.journalism.umd.edu/cns/wire/2011-editions/03-March-editions/110323-Wednesday/CalvertShutdown_CNS-UMCP.html], warned about “tolerating degraded roof conditions” at the 35-year-old plant in 2010 after water damage shorted out backup power systems leading to a week long shutdown.

Is it acceptable to have a “Nuclear Komodo” in your neighborhood and mine? This goes beyond serious. Taken collectively, the potential is real to maim and destroy all the people, animals and plants on God’s green globe.

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