By Harvey Wasserman
Forty years ago this week, the Three Mile Island nuke began pouring lethal radiation into our air and water, lungs and livers.
Throughout central Pennsylvania and beyond, people, animals, plants, and the planet began to die en masse.
In 1980, a mile from the plant, I interviewed many of the immediate victims. It was the worst week of my life.
Today 98 US reactors could repeat the slaughter. Worldwide there are about 450. Many are falling apart. Each could deliver a lethal dose of apocalyptic proportions. All heat the planet, emit carbon, kill nearby newborns, suck up public money, hinder renewables, and threaten fresh catastrophes.
None are “zero emission” or “carbon free.” None can compete with the solar, wind, battery storage, and LED/efficiency technologies that can save us from a fried planet.
If we’re to live on this Earth, King CONG (Coal, Oil Nukes & Gas) must die.
Since TMI, Solartopian costs have become far cheaper than fully amortized reactors.
And nuke costs have soared. Last week Trump slipped in another $3.7 billion in federal loans for two reactors under construction at Vogtle, Georgia. They may ultimately cost $25 billion or more and still never open.
They’re bankrupting the state, having already helped gut Westinghouse and Toshiba. They’ll never come close to competing with wind, solar, batteries or LED/efficiency, which will create far more jobs.
A quarter-million Americans now work in solar energy alone, with another hundred thousand in wind. More Californians work in solar than dig coal nationwide.
Two nukes in South Carolina were recently canceled at a cost of billions. Two more being built in France and Finland are years behind schedule and billions over budget.
The current crop of nuke fanatics wants more. They’ll waste billions of public dollars. But proposed new reactors are so much more expensive than renewables that except for a few big boondoggles, they’ll never be built.
The real threat is the reactors that still operate … the Three Mile Islands in progress.
All heat the planet with massive steam and hot water emissions. Their cooling towers kill thousands of bats and birds. The heat, radiation, and chemicals spewed by their out-take pipes destroy entire marine ecosystems, including millions of fish. The radiation from Fukushima still pours into the Pacific.
Most reactors are losing huge amounts of money. In New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio (for starters) owners are demanding billions in bailouts.
Nuke operators in Ohio and California are bankrupt. Pacific Gas & Electric is under criminal parole for killing eight people in a 2010 San Bruno fire. It’s being sued for more than $10 billion by residents of northern California, where PG&E started fires that killed 80 people, incinerated 12,000 structures and destroyed one of Earth’s most precious ecosystems.
The predecessor to Ohio’s bankrupt FirstEnergy blacked out the entire northeast in 2003. But First Energy now runs the crumbling Davis-Besse and Perry reactors.
All nukes worldwide are embrittled to some degree. If cold water is poured in to stop an out-of-control chain reaction, their pressure vessels will shatter like glass, causing an apocalypse.
But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not want to inspect these reactors. With one exception, all US reactors are more than 20 years old. Some are more than forty.
Citizen activists have asked California Governor Gavin Newsom to inspect the two reactors at Diablo Canyon, which could send a radioactive cloud pouring over the ten million people in downwind Los Angeles. Nationwide, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is rubber-stamping new reactor licenses without inspecting to see if they’re embrittled, cracked, properly maintained, earthquake-vulnerable, handling their nuke wastes properly … or if the companies that own them are capable of actually running these giant, aging, insanely complex reactors.
Diablo Canyon is surrounded by active earthquake faults. So is New York’s Indian Point, north of NYC. Ohio’s Perry and Virginia’s North Anna have already experienced seismic damage.
Forty years after TMI, the question is: How many more operating nukes will blow up like Fukushima and Chernobyl, or partially melt like Three Mile Island, pouring heat and radiation into the ecosphere?
As the existing reactors fry the planet, we have no excuses. We saw what happened at TMI forty years ago.
We can’t let it happen again, especially when the Solartopian alternatives are so cheap and ready to go.
And especially knowing the nightmares that will ensue after the next one explodes.
Harvey Wasserman’s Green Power & Wellness Show is podcast at prn.fm; California Solartopia is broadcast at KPFK-Pacifica, 90.7 fm, Los Angeles. His Life & Death Spiral of US History: From Deganawidah to The Green New TDeal to Solartopia will soon be at www.solartopia.org.
This article was published on April 2 at Reader Supported News.