Nuclear Never Safe
by Jim Riccio
June 16, 2011
This morning, Greenpeace delivered a message to Chairman Gregory Jaczko and the other nuclear bureaucrats of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and their Senate overseers on Capitol Hill. Despite the testimony from NRC that US plants meet government regulations, Greenpeace impressed upon the Commission and the Senate that nuclear is never safe.
As we’ve seen in Japan with the Fukushima nuclear disaster, nuclear plants have never been built to withstand the forces that can be inflicted upon a nuclear reactor. Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornadoes or terrorist attacks can destroy nuclear reactors and their infrastructure and leave the surrounding communities with no other option than to flee the release of radiation. These events can be so strong that no reactor can be expected to survive. In nuke speak, these accidents and events are termed “beyond design basis.”
Despite NRC testimony and the propaganda spewed by industry lobbyists, nuclear is never safe. No nuclear plant in the United States or on the planet can withstand a meltdown of the radioactive fuel rods. All of the containments will fail because they were never designed to withstand the forces unleashed by a core meltdown; they were designed to withstand a pipe break.
Rather than dither over regulations that are insufficient to protect the public health and safety, the United States should follow the lead of Germany, Switzerland and Italy and begin phasing out nuclear reactors and replacing them with clean renewable energy. Managing the end of the nuclear era is a daunting task but we need to begin the transition now. We need to shut down nuclear reactors before they meltdown and devastate the U.S. like they have Belarus, the Ukraine and now Japan.