23 mar. 2011

The Nuclear Risk - The New Yorker

The Nuclear Risk by Elizabeth Kolber - The New Yorker
I am confident that the atom will not be devoted exclusively to the destruction of man, but will be his mighty servant and tireless benefactor,” the President said.

(..)The Eisenhower Administration (..)in 1955, the President went so far as to propose that the United States build a reactor-powered ship that would cruise around the world and act as a floating P.R. campaign. (The ship was constructed but was mothballed after eight years, owing to high operating costs.).

(..)The station was designed to withstand a powerful earthquake and also to resist a tsunami. But it seems not to have been designed to cope with an earthquake combined with a tsunami,....

(..)The station has six reactors, three of which were operating at the time of the quake; the others were off-line.

(..)Japanese officials seemed particularly alarmed by conditions at No. 3, which uses a form of fuel, known as MOX, that contains plutonium.(..)
problems arose at Nos. 3, 4, 5, and 6, in the aboveground pools where spent fuel rods are stored.

Every time there’s an accident, proponents of nuclear power point out that risks are also associated with other forms of energy......
burning any kind of fossil fuel produces carbon-dioxide emissions, which, in addition to changing the world’s climate, alter the chemistry of the oceans.

An objective comparison might indeed suggest that a well-designed and vigorously regulated nuclear power plant poses less danger than, say, a coal-fired plant of comparable size. Such a comparison, however, ignores the fact that the regulation of nuclear power in the U.S. still relies on wand-waving.

As anyone who has driven through Westchester County knows, the idea that the area around the Indian Point plant, in Buchanan, New York, could be safely evacuated after an accident is, to say the least, implausible. (More than three hundred thousand people live within ten miles of the plant, and nearly twenty million live within fifty miles.

(..)the U.S. still does not have a plan for developing a long-term storage facility for radioactive waste,much of which will remain dangerous for millennia....
More than two dozen reactors in the U.S. have aboveground storage pools similar to those that have failed at Fukushima—the only difference is that the American pools contain far more waste than their Japanese counterparts.

We’ve more or less pretended that our nuclear plants are safe, and so far we have got away with it. The Japanese have not.

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