On Friday March 11th, a major earthquake hit Japan’s east coast. The quake and the tsunami that followed together killed over 10,000 people. If this disaster weren’t devastating enough, it was followed by another man-made disaster which continues today. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was damaged in the quake and tsunami, and its reactors started to lose their coolant. The damaged nuclear power plant has already begun to leak radioactive material making the region unsafe for 20 miles around the plant. If more explosions occur and the plant goes into meltdown it would be as if a nuclear bomb were dropped on the east coast of Japan. Thousands more would die from radiation exposure for years afterward. And the fallout from the explosion would shower radioactive material across the world, as far as California. The natural disaster of the earthquake has given way to a man-made disaster.
All of this could easily be happening here in the United States. The United States has 103 nuclear reactors. Of those reactors, 23 are identical in design to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Many of these plants were built decades ago, and have faulty equipment. For example recent tests showed that the emergency power generator at the Fermi 2 reactor in Michigan was non-functional from 1986 to 2006. If the plant’s primary power failed, nothing would have stood in the way of a meltdown.
Four nuclear reactors are located in California, including the San Onofre plant in Southern California and the Diablo Valley plant in San Luis Obispo. Both of those plants are located on fault-lines, where earthquakes are expected. Government regulators and paid analysts have promised over and over that there is no risk and that these plants are safe. The Japanese government said the same thing about the Fukushima Daiichi plant! Geologists who study patterns of earthquakes predict that California is due for another big earthquake, like the one that destroyed much of San Francisco in 1906.
In California, the damage from an earthquake would be even worse than in Japan, where building standards and regulations are much better than in the U.S. And the stakes are much higher than that with nuclear meltdown and radioactive contamination a distinct possibility.
Today there are 440 nuclear power plants in the world. These nuclear plants are literally atomic bombs waiting to go off in our midst. But the big energy companies and the government continue to rely on nuclear power as a means to generate energy and profit. In February of this year the Obama administration set aside $36 billion to construct new nuclear plants. And it’s no wonder why. The nuclear power company Exelon was one of Obama’s biggest supporters, donating $340,000 to his campaign. The more plants, the better for Exelon.
So why use such a dangerous source of energy? Nuclear power is actually the cheapest form of energy for the energy companies to produce. It’s cheaper than coal, or hydroelectric, or wind, or solar. But it’s only cheap because they don’t have to pay the real costs. They don’t have to pay for the thousands of lives they destroy. They don’t have to pay for all the cases of cancer caused by radiation when their systems fail. They don’t have to pay for the polluted landscapes and poisoned environment. The real cost is payed by us, the people who live and work around nuclear power plants. And our children who will have to live with the consequences. They are playing Russian roulette with our lives.
Their system is built for profit, not to meet the needs of people in a safe and healthy way. There is no reason we couldn’t meet our energy needs by developing more efficient wind, solar, and other safe energy sources. The choice of nuclear power is a choice made by the wealthy elite and rich corporations who are putting the whole world at risk. Their system of production for profit is a disaster waiting to happen, and we should put a stop to it before any more disasters happen.