The news from Japan remains very troubling:
- Tokyo Electric seems to have no clue what’s going on and how to deal with it—saying at one point that radiation levels in the plant were 10 million times normal, and then retracting it (the latest number I heard put the number at a still-very-disturbing100,000 times normal radiation levels).
- Radiation attributed to the meltdowns has been found as far away as my home state of Massachusetts (meaning it either went all the way across the Pacific Ocean and North America, or all the way west through Asia, Europe, and the Atlantic Ocean).
Now…let’s remember that nuclear power is a really stupid way to boil water for electricity generation:
- Over the entire fuel cycle, starting with mining uranium and ending with attempting to find a solution for safe storage of nuclear waste, the process requires enormous energy inputs, so the actual gain in usable power is very tiny, if it exists at all. One study I’ve seen, by John J. Berger, states that from 1960-76, the nuclear power “generation” industry actually consumed five times as much power as it generated. I cited this study in my first book, Nuclear Lessons, published waaaay back in 1980.
- If a plant has a major problem, and has to be removed from service permanently, it causes disruption in the energy systems of the communities that depend on it, because a lot of power generation is taken off the grid at once. In the case of Daichi, most of those reactors can never be used again.
- In the US, nuclear power is subsidized with the Price-Anderson Act, a low-premium accident insurance policy that sharply limits liability. Basically, if you don’t own the plant, you probably won’t collect damages in case of an accident.
- And don’t forget: there is no permanent solution to storage of radioactive waste, isolated from the environment for up to a quarter of a million years (I, for one, don’t believe this is actually possible).