Why “alternative” energy?


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Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that he expects to finalize an $8.3 billion taxpayer-backed loan for two new nuclear reactors in Georgia, setting up another battle in Washington over the government’s investments in energy-related projects, The Hill reported.

So, does that mean we are going to continue building nuclear energy plants?  Is that really the best thing available for our country?

Facts show that the world’s nuclear fleet creates about 10,000 metric tons of high-level spent nuclear fuel each year. Concerns in the management and disposal of the high-level radioactive waste created during production of nuclear power is nothing but horrifying. The technical issues are in the extremely long periods radioactive wastes remain deadly to living organisms. Of particular concern are two long-lived fission productsTechnetium-99 (half-life 220,000 years) and Iodine-129 (half-life 15.7 million years), which dominate spent nuclear fuel radioactivity after a few thousand years. The most troublesome transuranic elements in spent fuel are Neptunium-237 (half-life two million years) and Plutonium-239 (half-life 24,000 years). Presently, waste is mainly stored at individual reactor sites and there are over 430 locations around the world where radioactive material continues to accumulate.

Advocates of nuclear energy point out that high-level radioactive waste is not a fundamental issue for nuclear energy in general, but only for the conventional “once-through” light water reactors, which use only 0.6% of the energy contained in the uranium fuel, and discard the rest as high-level waste. Reactors such as Integral fast reactor or the Liquid fluoride thorium reactor which “burn” almost all the actinides in the fuel have been successfully operated. These reactors can extract almost all energy content of the fuel, and even consume nuclear waste from conventional reactors as fuel, turning a liability into an asset. The resulting low-actinide waste reaches safe background radiation levels in just 300 years, compared to tens of thousands of years in the case of high level waste from the once-through LWR reactors.

Then there is the debate over whether there is a link between childhood leukemia and radiation from nuclear power plants.  A recent French study has found a doubling in the incidence of the disease among children under 5 living within 5-kilometre radius of a nuclear plant.

The study, conducted by the Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire (INSERM) and reported in the International Journal on Cancer in January 2012, looked at child leukemia cases nationwide diagnosed between 2002 and 2007, with addresses coded around 19 nuclear power plants. It demonstrated a statistically significant doubling of the incidence of childhood leukemia near nuclear power plants.

The French study confirms an earlier German study, known as the KiKK, which found a doubling of the incidence of child leukemia near nuclear power plants, and an increased risk of 60 per cent for all childhood cancers. The KiKK findings were confirmed by the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection.

Nuclear plant workers developed cancer despite lower radiation exposure than legal limit, Mainichi Daily News, July 27, 2011:

Of 10 nuclear power plant workers who have developed cancer and received workers’ compensation in the past, nine had been exposed to less than 100 millisieverts of radiation, it has been learned. [...]

According to Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry statistics, of the 10 nuclear power plant workers, six had leukemia, two multiple melanoma and another two lymphatic malignancy. Only one had been exposed to 129.8 millisieverts but the remaining nine were less than 100 millisieverts, including one who had been exposed to about 5 millisieverts.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has determined that “a ‘credible’ large scale nuclear accident might kill 3400 people immediately, severely injuring 43,000 others, and cause S7 billion of damage”.  This estimate was in 1964, when much smaller plants were in operation than are today, and population in and around the plants were a lot lower.

Isn’t it interesting that no insurance company will provide insurance for nuclear power plants?  None.  Zilch.  So, our wise government provides private industries with up to $560,000,000 of insurance.  Did you know our government was in the insurance business too?  They sure have become very talented urrr diversified in their “abilities”.  That’s our money we will be spending.

And what about earthquakes and the damage they can cause.  What happened in Japan should be a good eye opener.  The United States Geological Society says it can, and will at some point happen here.  What have we or are we doing about preventive measures for a crisis at our plants?  Well, just for instance, the two nuclear plants in California are rated to withstand 7.0 and 7.5 quakes, but since Japan was a 9.0, I think they are in trouble, which means America is in trouble with those too.  Now, what about the recent quake in Mineral, Virginia last year?  Located near the epicenter is the North Anna Nuclear Power Station – rated the seventh most likely nuclear power plant in America to receive core damage in the event of an earthquake.  Due to budget cuts – the quake sensors at the plant were removed back in the 1990’s.  Luckily – back-up diesel generators kicked in to prevent a meltdown after the plant lost power during the earthquake.  This plant was built to withstand a 6.1 earthquake – that quake was a 5.8 – meaning we were that close to suffering a Fukushima-like nuclear disaster here in the US.  And what has been done about that? Edwin Lyman, a nuclear physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists nuclear safety project, is pleased that the NRC is conducting a further investigation of the nuclear plants in the central and eastern United States that may be vulnerable to more severe earthquakes than was previously thought but feels the NRC and the industry are not moving fast enough to deal with knowledge gleaned from the Japan and Virginia incidents.

Did our government even look at these issues before taking our money to build more?  It doesn’t appear so, but fortunately environmental and watchdog groups are suing to block construction of the two nuclear reactors in eastern Georgia.  The groups say the plants construction should be blocked until federal regulators approve safety changes prompted by last year’s nuclear disaster in Japan. I personally think they shouldn’t be built at all.  No one ever says anything about the devastating environmental waste it produces.  Where is it all now and what would happen if it got “upset” in an earthquake?

WE THE PEOPLE have so much more wisdom than our own government.  We just need to take over control of our country again, since we obviously believe life and environment is much more precious that our government can fathom.

Don’t we have better alternatives to nuclear energy, and if not, what are we doing here?  It appears obvious that the bad outweighs the good on this alternative.

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