Nuclear Power Plants

By Miriam Clark

Posted on July, 6, 2011 by the Communications Committee

We have 104 nuclear plants in our country that produce about 20% of our energy. Nuclear power is the most lethally dangerous and expensive method of producing energy. No new nuclear plants have been constructed in this country for thirty years.

Every nuclear reactor in operation produces the artificial element plutonium-239 as a by-product. It is perhaps the most toxic substance known. It is also the most convenient material from which to make fission bombs. It provides the trigger at the core of all hydrogen bombs.

The disposal of nuclear wastes is an unsolved problem. The spent fuel rods require safe storage for thousands of years – no long-term solution has been found. Spent fuel rods are placed in cooling pools for six months on the plant site. Since there is no place to put them they actually stay in those cooling pools for years and must be carefully monitored. When additional rods are put in the pools there is a danger, if they are placed too closely together, that they may “go critical” starting a nuclear chain reaction. In March of 2011 nuclear experts told Congress that spent fuel pools at U.S. nuclear plants were too full and extremely dangerous. There is international consensus on the advisability of storing nuclear waste in deep underground repositories but no country in the world has opened such a site.

In his State of the Union message President Obama talked of “building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.” However, “safe” and “clean” technology” does not exist. Indeed, plans for plants near Augusta, Georgia and Columbia, South Carolina are on hold after federal regulators discovered major safety concerns in the design proposal for the reactors. The proposed plant at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, would use a design from French nuclear power company Areva. Nuclear regulators in France, Finland and the United Kingdom have said this design has “a significant and fundamental nuclear safety problem” with its instrument and control system.

On March 11, 2011 the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan caused a series of events in its Fukushima nuclear power plant that have developed into the largest nuclear accident since the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. Japanese officials ordered evacuation of 200,000 people in a 30- kilometer range and ordered the remaining 140,000 people to seal themselves in their homes because of radiation concerns. Forty- six days later the situation is still not contained but the story has retreated from our papers.

The Fukushima plant is built to the same General Electric plans as the San Onofre nuclear plant in San Diego County. Both plants are also built on the sea shore and near earthquake faults. The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, 15 miles from San Luis Obispo, is near four earthquake faults. This should be cause for great concern for everyone.

On April 15, 2011 Congress passed the 2011 budget. It included an appropriation of $36 billion in loan guarantees for construction of new nuclear power plants and reactors. $18.5 billion in loan guarantees has already been set aside by the Bush presidency. Thus, as of April 2011 the government has promised to provide a total of $54.5 billion in loan guarantees to the nuclear power industry for the construction of new nuclear power plants and reactors.

Coming on the heels of the Fukushima disaster and in the face of the economic destruction of so many working Americans, this is appalling if not a crime.

Miriam Clark is a member of the State Central Committee and the San Deigo County Central Committee.

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