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Activists plant cherry trees in Fukushima anniversary memorial at nuclear plant

by Jim Riccio

March 7, 2013

Greenpeace activists plant cherry trees in front the Duke Energy Harris Nuclear Plant near New Hill, N.C., March 7, 2013, in memory of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown two years ago.

© Jason Miczek/Greenpeace

Greenpeace activists plant cherry trees in front the Duke Energy Harris Nuclear Plant near New Hill, N.C.

Monday will mark the two-year anniversary of the day that the disastrous Japanese earthquake and tsunami were exacerbated by the manmade disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Two years after the meltdowns and explosions at the nuclear plant, tens of thousands of people in Japan still cannot safely return to their homes as a result of the disaster.

After Fukushima, many companies and governments finally accepted what they should have known all along: nuclear power is a bad bet. Aside from being far more expensive than safe, clean forms of energy like wind and solar power, nuclear plants simply present too great a safety risk to allow their continued construction.

But one company, Duke Energy the largest electric utility in theUS has yet to learn its lesson, and is still trying to build new nuclear plants despite the obvious risks.

So today, Greenpeace activists implored Duke to remember the lessons ofFukushima. The activists planted cherry trees outside of Duke Energys nuclear power plant in North Carolina. Other activists created cherry tree memorials at the sites of planned nuclear reactors Duke intends to build in South Carolina and Florida.

In addition to the awful safety risk demonstrated by the tragedy at Fukushima, costs for the three new reactors that Duke wants to build are soaring over their budgets. Worse yet, laws in all three states allow Duke to stick its customers with the construction bill before the reactors are ever completed.

Dukes existing fleet of nuclear power plants reveals even more reasons why we shouldnt trust it to build any more reactors: Duke recently retired the CrystalRivernuclear plant near Tampa, FLdue to a cracked containment dome. The two reactors at Dukes Brunswick plant near Wilmington, NC have the same General Electric design that melted down in Japan. And Dukes Oconee nuclear plant in South Carolina is vulnerable to a meltdown if a dam looming over the plant fails. According to calculations from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the risk to Dukes Oconee reactors from a dam failure is far higher than the odds were of an earthquake-induced tsunami causing a meltdown at theFukushima plant.

The good news is that consumers from throughout Dukes service territory are revolting against having to pay in advance for over-budget, risky nuclear plants. A bipartisan group of Floridastate senators including former nuclear supporters is now decrying the law there and calling for its repeal.

Duke should hear those concerns, learn the lessons of Fukushima, and join the rest of the world in recognizing that nuclear energy is simply too dangerous for us to bet our safety on.

Jim Riccio

By Jim Riccio

Jim Riccio served as Greenpeace’s Nuclear Policy Analyst from 2001 to 2017 and has over two decades of nuclear activist experience. He has been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe, and has appeared on ABC News, NBC News, Al Jazeera, CNN, the Discovery Channel and the History Channel.

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