An olde commercial from the 1970’s showed Mother Nature getting ticked off at some margarine that tasted to her like butter. “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature,” she warned, and at the stretch of her arms created a raging thunderstorm.
Today it’s not margarine, it’s nuclear power plants that seem to be the object of Mother Nature’s wrath. First Fukushima got hit by a 9.0 earthquake and 30 ft. tsunami, touching off Japan’s ongoing nuclear nightmare. This summer, wildfires threatened the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory in New Mexico and the Nevada Test Site — both repositories of nuclear waste and contamination in the wake of 60+ years of nuclear bomb tests. Simultaneously, the Missouri River floods threatened the Fort Calhoun and Cooper nuclear reactors in Nebraska, coming within a few feet of overwhelming theme and triggering a Fukushima-like loss of cooling.
As I write this, we’re three days past the 5.8 earthquake that hit the east coast of the U.S. with an epicenter 13 miles north of the North Anna nuclear power plant in Mineral, Virginia. Being on the east coast, “where earthquakes never happen,” these reactors were built to withstand a quake of 5.9 to 6.1 – pretty minor by Los Angeles standards. There is some question as to whether there’s been damage to North Anna, as coolant water stored in an artificial lake dropped 22 inches in less than a day. No one yet knows where it went. In addition, after that quake 12 other nuclear power plants in five other states issued an NRC “unusual event” declaration, including Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and two reactors as far away as Michigan.
And now, Hurricane Irene. This Category 3-4 storm is bearing down on the east coast, heading smack towards the Brunswick Nuclear Reactor on the coast at Southport, North Carolina. The rain and winds will also reach North Anna, where if it turns out there is a problem, the weather could make it much worse.
If Mother Nature wanted to alert us to the problems of nuclear energy, she’s doing one heck of a job. Quakes. Fires. Floods. Storms. All these have come very close to disaster, turning away from the worst case scenario at seemingly the last second. How long will our luck hold? How long will the pipes and back-up systems continue to hold on our aging, in-use-beyond-original-licensing-plans lives?
And here’s the bigger question: what will it take for the American public to WAKE UP to the lack of logic behind nuclear energy? When will the mainstream media shake off its inertia and start covering this as the enormous, potentially game-changing story that it is? When will politicians realize that money and posturing mean nothing if a nuke plant starts spewing radiation?
Right now, our safety and security are at the mercy of tectonic plates, weather patterns, wind and humidity. In other words, we can’t control the larger physical world in which these nuclear reactors operate. We can’t guarantee that there won’t be another quake near North Anna bigger than 6.2, or at San Onofre in California bigger than 7.0 (the upper limit of the design’s quake-resistance). All the NRC, the nuclear plant operators and the government can offer us are false assurances that “everything is all right, children, go back to your normal lives.”
What’s “normal” now for me is looking past every natural disaster to discover the location of the nearest nuclear reactor and find out its condition. Quake-to-hurricane isn’t that much different than quake-to-tsunami. This combination of “shake ‘n soak” threatens to create a homegrown nuclear disaster. At minimum, our federal government and the corporate plant owners need to stockpile boron and zeolite, along with a fueled and ready airborne armada to immediately dump these radiation-absorbing materials on any reactor that goes rogue.
But before that happens, let’s just get rid of the suckers. Turn ’em off, get ’em cold, and then figure out what to do with the over 75,000 TONS of nuclear waste already stockpiled in this country.
Let’s do it before Mother Nature decides she’s had it with we humans and unleashes a disaster from which we and the planet will never recover.