Thursday, March 31, 2011
Japan Radiation Is Making The World Re-Think Nuclear Power
Yesterday, President Barack Obama, speaking at Georgetown University expressed support for nuclear power in the United States.
France is standing firmly behind their nuclear power plants, while neighboring countries are lobbying against them.
Germany's government is putting a freeze on all future nuclear power expansion until they study its risks in more detail.
Currently, the United States has 103 nuclear power plants. Americans have been lucky that the only nuclear plant incident we had at Three Mile Island in 1979 was quickly contained and posed no regional threat.
The greatest nuclear disaster occurred in Chernobyl in 1986. Thousands of lives were lost immediately, while tens of thousands more perished from radiation exposure.
Yesterday, radiation 3,500 times the safe level was detected up to 300 yards offshore from the Fukushima facility. High levels of radiation have been reported 25 miles south of the leaking plant.
Japan's main concern is the potential deadly impact the radiation would have on its water supply, farming and vibrant fishing industry. Fish mongers in Tokyo report that business is dramatically down and that all of the tourists have evaporated from their stalls.
As we watch the tragedy in Japan unfold, Chernobyl should remain our benchmark for what would happen with a major meltdown.
Radiation from Chernobyl has made the entire area uninhabitable - and it will remain that way for thousands of years. Entire forests of pine trees, now called the "Red Forest" have been killed. There are no insects, no woodland creatures, no birds - nothing.
Nuclear power gained popularity because it is an efficient means of producing electricity. Its output is much greater than hydro-electric power, coal plants and natural gas plants. Green alternatives don't even come close.
Nuclear power has one big - and it is big - negative beyond the threat of a meltdown: Nuclear Waste.
Years ago, the government arbitrarily decided that all of our nuclear waste could be dumped in Nevada at Yucca Mountain. After billions of dollars of construction, research and geological testing, Yucca Mountain is not capable of handling the ever-mounting radioactive waste.
Right now, nuclear waste is stored near the power plants.
Having a central repository for the waste presents two major problems: Accidents in transport and vulnerability to terrorism.
The biggest problem with nuclear waste is that it remains dangerous, basically, forever.
Some of the radioactive material has a half-life of 25,000 years. What that means is that in 25,000 years, it will be half as deadly. In another 25,000 years, what remains will be half as deadly. A 100,000 years down the road will only mean that the radioactivity will be cut in half once again. So, in essence, it never goes away.
To help explain this phenomenon more clearly, I'd like to call on our two southern nuclear correspondents - Bubba and Lester.
"What up, Lester?"
"How's yer ole fat ass been?"
"Still bustin' outta my jeans. Ha ha."
"Yeah, you got more crack showin' than on the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard."
"Shut yo mouth Lester. Keep it up and I'll talk shit about yer Mama."
"Oh, don't even go there Bubba. Besides, we's 'posed to be talking about new-culer waste."
"Right on, Lester."
"Bubba, do you know dick about new-culer waste?"
"Not really, buddy."
"Well, it goes like this... Let's say I give you a dog. It's a good dog. Not one of those three-legged dogs."
"Now, Bubba, this dog will be good to your family and make everybody happy. He'll light up your life."
"Damn, Lester, you sure you wanna give up a dog like dat?"
"Jes shut up and listen to the story."
"So yooz got this dog that you and your whole family love. Been lightin' you up for a long time. Then one day, this dog is gonna take a big ole shit in your yard."
"That's what dogs do, so what?"
"Well, Bubba, this pile of shit is gonna kill all yer grass."
"No more freakin' mowin'. I like this damn dog."
"But then the pile of dog shit kills yer chickens and your hogs."
"And after that... that there single pile of dog shit will kill your whole family."
"Lester, what the fuck you feedin' that dog?"
"Do you buy that at Piggly Wiggly?"
"No, only the government can get it."
"So my dog's gonna be on welfare?"
"No, dumbass. Your dog is gonna have a glow-in-the dark asshole."
"So he's a good night time huntin' dog?"
"No, his shit is dangerous."
"Sounds like it. I can do without the wife and kids, but I don't know what I'd do without my hogs. Maybe I should get my pooper scooper from Wal-Mart and shovel that shit up."
"Nice try, Bubba, but that dog shit seeps into the ground and you can't get rid of it."
"Not even with lime? I get rid of all kinds of dead shit with lime."
"Nope. Lime won't work. That shit is gonna be there forever and ever."
"Then, I guess I better move."
"Too late. When you go to shovel it up, it will kill you too. In fact, it will kill everybody in town, includin' all our buddies at One-eyed Jakes."
"Damn, that's some nasty shit. You sure that dog ain't got worms?"
"No, dumbass. He ain't get worms. Yoo gots to understand that this here Rad-eee-o-ak-tiv-ity is some nasty shit."
"You got that shit right."
"To be honest with ya Lester. You can keep your ass-glowin' dog and give me a cat."
"If we can get the world thinkin' like that, we won't have no deadly shit in our yards."
"And I can keep my hogs?"
"Yep. And I'll take yer wife off your hands."
"Damn, you is a good friend. Thanks."
Now, I think you have a better idea of what is at stake if we continue to rely on nuclear power.
I don't know what the alternatives are, but we need to throw all of our efforts into renewable energy. Because a serious nuclear disaster could be more devastating than dropping a hundred nuclear bombs somewhere on the planet. We could permanently contaminate our land, air and sea. And that won't leave much left for the human race.
Related stories ...
Crisis in Japan: CNN - Testing Positive For Radiation OK
Americans Can Learn A Few Things From Japanese Culture
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