Dear Environmentalists For Nuclear Energy,
It seems to me that no one at ECOLO.ORG is likely to want to think about the dangers of nuclear power, or the real costs, or the real (lesser) costs of renewable alternatives, but nevertheless, I have enclosed a letter I wrote recently in the hopes that one of you has the ability to respond in a noncondescending, nonarrogant, informative manner. I won't hold my breath.
I was informed of the upcoming show MELTDOWN by its producers last week, and ads -- awesome, scary ads -- have appeared for it now, as well.
Meanwhile, we are being warned of new terrorist threats against us, against unspecified targets, due this summer.
Everyone trying to close this nuke or that nuke, Oyster Creek or Diablo Canyon, Davis-Besse or Indian Point, or any of the 100 other nuclear power plants in the USA or 430 around the world, should push for a unified, GLOBAL point of view right now. ALL the nukes need to be shut down because they are an expensive, inefficient, undemocratic, corroded, corrupted, dangerous, dirty way to push electrons into wires (i.e., to generate electricity).
Wind, wave, tide, solar, geothermal, hydro (large and small scale) are the cleanest forms of energy, and can produce more than enough for society's projected needs forever. Conservation alone could allow the shutdown of ALL nuclear power plants.
France generates a greater percentage of their electricity from nuclear power than any other country (conservation alone could not replace their nuclear power plants at this point). Due to a design error, they had to replace the heads on all their reactors a few years back. They cannot even build their country's main airport roof properly, so it will not collapse (Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris). Things built by humans fail. With nuclear power, we cannot afford failure.
The Davis-Besse nuclear power plant nearly melted down in 2002, and yet, to this day, hardly anyone knows about it. For example, nobody, to the best of my knowledge, has written a history of the event as a book (would it be titled, "We Almost Lost Ohio"?). Yet, the potential cost of a failure at Davis-Besse (or at any nuclear power plant) would be much bigger than the sum total of the Enron scandal, if lives and dollars are the measure (except insofar as the Enron scandal was, in part, about secret support for nukes).
San Onofre appears to be the model for the nuclear power facility that is taken over by terrorists in the TV movie MELTDOWN. In the ad I saw on TV a few nights ago, the power plant appears to be blown up! The name of the facility is the San Juan nuclear power plant. From the trailer for the show, you can see that the facility has two domes just like San Onofre, which is right next to San Clemente, which is right next to San Juan Capistrano.
25 million people need to be evacuated, according to the trailer for the show. That would be about right for the immediate area (say, 50 miles around the San Onofre plant, which would include most of San Diego and Orange counties, and parts of Los Angeles, San Bernadino, Imperial, and other nearby counties).
Unlike the U.S. Government's official position, a real evacuation may not be orderly or even possible. The producers have said that they have tried to be "accurate." They had ribbons of highways with stopped cars in the trailer. Will they have fights? Flare-ups, riots, chaos? Swaths of sickened and dying people, cut down because the winds cut across THAT stretch of highway? Radiation from a nuclear meltdown is carried by the wind, it does not simply radiate out evenly in all directions from the stricken power plant. In a meltdown it is often carried thousands or even tens of thousands of feet into the air before it begins to descend. The radioactive "plume" -- which will be invisible but deadly -- can stay fairly concentrated -- that is, in a relatively small volume of air -- for hundreds or even thousands of miles. If that invisible foul wind rains on your city, even half a world away, it could kill thousands of people. Yet in a city of a million people, it would be nearly impossible to prove what caused any rise in cancer deaths over a period of decades after the accident. Better health care in the area affected might mean cancer rates will go down, yet still, they would have gone down more, if there had not been an accident.
More likely than landing half a world a way, of course, is that the "fallout" as it's called, will come down within the first couple of hundred miles. Exposure to high doses of radiation via inhalation of nuclear particles causes gruesome deaths among those who happen to be in the path of the fallout -- downwinders, as they are called.
This new show on FX is bound to do a lot to open up dialog on this vital issue. And I don't mean anyone yapping about how good it would be IF we put anti-aircraft guns around our nuclear power plants! Yeah, sure, that and 10,000 other things! Better we just shut them all down since they don't actually do what they purport to do anyway, which is make cheap electricity. In fact they make very expensive electricity, and they do it very poorly, being subject to numerous planned and unplanned outages on a regular (and irregular) basis.
I haven't seen the show, so I have no idea how they manage to stop a catastrophe (or maybe they don't, but that would be awfully bleak (but utterly realistic)). Maybe in MELTDOWN the SWAT team moves in, shoots all the terrorists, flips a few knobs and switches, and saves the day like the guy in that extraordinary Holiday Inn Express commercial who is on a tour of a nuclear power plant and -- while eating a donut and spilling coffee -- prevents a meltdown.
We've been lucky so far. Davis-Besse not melting down was pure luck. San Onofre, Monticello, Indian Point -- they've all been LUCKY. It's time to be smart. On June 6th, 2004 -- the 60th anniversary of D-Day -- luck will run out in the virtual world of TV, for a hapless 25 million people.
Perhaps we cannot even wait that long to close the nuclear power plants.
Last time a movie this important to the nuclear debate, made-for-tv or otherwise came out, it was about tornadoes hitting a nuclear power plant and, as an Act of God, by golly, one nearly did right about the same time! When The China Syndrome was being made, they had no idea Three Mile Island was going to happen at about the same time, with so many similarities.
This time, real, live human beings can actively work to make the horrific tale come true to life. That changes the odds of it happening substantially, from random coincidences (or "acts of God" -- call them what you will), to pure certainty IF some terrorist wants to make it so.
It's time to stop talking about merely protecting our nuclear power plants. It's time to shut them down and start talking about what to do to protect the waste. An operating nuclear power plant is many times more likely to melt down than so-called spent fuel, which is actually "slightly used reactor cores, made very deadly by severe irradiation." Prior to their [~4 1/2 years] in the reactor, the fuel assemblies are barely more dangerous than so-called "Depleted Uranium" (the stuff used in weapons in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Kosovo, which is causing birth defects in those areas now). AFTER being used for so brief a time, they must be completely isolated from humanity for millions of years, the reactor cores will destroy any container built for them, and they are terrorists' targets (and also susceptible to "acts of God" such as asteroid strikes, fires, earthquakes, etc.).
Please tell your friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, classmates, and cohorts to watch MELTDOWN on FX, June 6th, 2004. (Check your local listings for the exact time.) Let's start talking about this stuff! Let's get those nuclear power plants closed NOW -- BEFORE a MELTDOWN really happens in America. It's an accident we can't afford not to prevent.
For more information about the upcoming made-for-TV movie MELTDOWN:
Some drawings of wind roses are available in my "Demon Hot Atom" guide:
Also please visit these web sites:
Internet Glossary of Nuclear Terminology / "The Demon Hot Atom":
SHUT SAN ONOFRE!:
NO NUKES IN SPACE: (FLASH animation):
STOP CASSINI web site:
List of every nuclear power plant in America, with history, activist orgs,
List of ~300 books and videos about nuclear issues in my collection
Learn about The Effects of Nuclear War here: