July is Jellyfish
[Update April 26, 2012 (Chernobyl 26th): Jellyfish help cut nuclear capacity at Diablo Canyon in California.]
In the last few months we have witnessed an earthquake and tsunami meltdown destroy 3 reactors in Japan, floods on the Missouri river force the evacuations around two reactors in Nebraska, wildfires in New Mexico force the evacuation of the nuclear laboratory at Los Alamos and endanger lower level plutonium waste which is stored outside in barrels there and most recently UK reactors being forced to shut down due to jellyfish. [Update July 8, since writing this post reactors in the UK, Israel and Japan have reported being shut down by jellyfish.]
It is as if the natural world is forcefully reminding us that we do not control the environmental variables well enough to insure the safe operations of these explosive and toxic facilities. But this is not really the problem.
The problem is that we have created institutions and corporations which are so powerful and so entrenched that none of this new information will change their behavior. And we, especially in the US, will build more reactors and extend the licenses of reactors which were designed to be retired after 40 years for at least another 20. Unless of course, we (the anti-nuclear movement) stop them.
My friend Karl Grossman reports on the recent special “New Nuclear Summit” in Washington with members of the Obama administration, pro-nuclear congress-creatures and nuclear industry representatives. Sadly, but predictably, the conclusion of this event is that Fukushima (and all these other nuclear problems) are merely “speed bumps” on the way to building more reactors. And that despite repeated proof that we cannot control all the variables needed to operate these facilities safely, we should build more of them.
This bad news is not alone on the nuclear front these days, however. New York governor Cuomo, fresh from his win on legalizing gay marriage in the state is gunning for the Indian Point reactor located 35 miles from New York City. Cuomo’s top advisers met with Entergy which owns and runs Indian Point and explained that the governor is planning on playing hardball. Several things make this more likely than past failed efforts by politicians to close the plant.
The biggest problem with closing Indian Point is delivering replacement power to the NYC metro area. Even if capacity were in place today, the grid is not able to handle flows from multiple directions, it has been built up to supply from this single huge point source. This is of course tractable, it just takes time and money. Cuomo has pushed forward successful legislation to permit new power sources to be built in the state.
The US Nuclear Regulator Commission (NRC) tries to have a monopoly on nuclear licensing and permission in this country. This highly pro-nuclear organization does not want local politics interfering with its desires to build new and operate existing reactors. Generally, state and local politicians have hid behind this to claim there is nothing they can do about reactors. Cuomo is braver and smarter. The state needs to issue numerous permits for the legal operation of a reactor, especially water permits. NY state has refused (since previous governor Patterson) to issue water permits to Indian Point, Cuomo plans to continue this tactic. Cuomo’s father, when he was governor, used a similar tactic, of not signing the evacuation plan to prevent the commercial operation of the Shoreham reactor on Long Island.
In other good news yesterday Germany’s coalition government has agreed to phase out of nuclear by 2022. The parliamentary vote was 513 to 79, with only a single small party (the so called “Left”) voting against the phase-out. Even the German Greens, who would have liked a faster exit voted for the measure. This means the decision will almost certainly not flop back if a new government comes to power.
And Iowa setback efforts to bill rate payers in advance for nuclear reactors. This will likely kill plans for any new reactor in that state.
I want to be writing more about the commune and other aspects of my life, so i would appreciate it if we could hold off on the natural disasters for a week or two.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]