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Growing Nuclear Crisis In Japan

We look at the growing potential of a nuclear crisis in Japan.

Jane Clayson in for Tom Ashbrook

People carry heat blankets as they leave a radiation emergency scanning center in Koriyama, Japan. (AP)

People carry heat blankets as they leave a radiation emergency scanning center in Koriyama, Japan. (AP)

A nuclear crisis grows in Japan.

New reports of explosions, fire, fuel rods, malfunctioning equipment and dangerous levels of radiation — all terrifying.

It’s a nightmare scenario for a country that lived through the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And then there are the flashbacks to Three Mile Island. To Chernobyl.

We’ll talk to top experts on what’s happening now in the nuclear plants in Northeast Japan and look at what still might unfold. Later in the hour, we’ll look at the future of nuclear power in the US.

This hour On Point: Japan’s nuclear crisis up to the minute.

- Jane Clayson

Guests:

Jonathan Soble, Financial Times Tokyo correspondent

Ellen Vancko, Nuclear Energy & Climate Change Project Manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, started in 2007 by a bipartisan group of senators. Since 2001, Grumet has directed the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP), a group of 20 energy experts that make energy policy recommendations.

John Boice, radiation epidemiologist and professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University.

Charles Forsberg, research scientist in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and executive director at the MIT Nuclear Fuel Cycle Project.

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  • Grady Lee Howard

    Many of our nuclear plants are old and decrepit, having had operating licenses extended several times. Before this accident reports of tritium leaks and other malfunctions were coming out. Vermont Yankee was likely to close. Why aren’t we putting the money slated for nuclear into solar ambient (heated oil medium used for hydro turbines) which can overnight with stored energy? I have no money in this technology but I’m convinced it works. And why do we not give more incentives for homeowner energy production? Conservation and lifestyle changes would remain key, but we could bypass the waste disposal costs and all the radiation and fissile weapons dangers. Disposing of the radioactive crap on-hand will already be difficult to afford.

  • Cory

    I’m sure nuclear is dead in America. The media and opponents of nuclear power now have all they need to make sure it is a thing of the past. I don’t agree, and I think this ignorance equates to a tremendous lost opportunity. That’s just how it is though, so forget about nuclear.

    To compound matters, we are nowhere close to getting serious about energy management and the eventual transition away from petroleum. A country that was truly serious would require solar panels on new construction, encourage alternative transportation and mass transit, and would tax its citizens to invest in energy technology. Instead we are trying to cut taxes, cut spending, defund mass transit, and domestic auto companies are bringing back old muscle car designs.

    We are chronically stupid, and won’t change until we have no other option.

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      Cory,
      I hope you are wrong but I fear you are correct.

      The White House and some leaders in congress were standing by nuclear over the weekend. John Kerry stated that we need to put the brakes on nuclear. How do you put the brakes on an industry that has been dead for 40 years?

      We’ll see if they change their tune.

      Even before this disaster I’m skeptical if the white house is truly behind nuclear. They did push for loan guarantees but I heard that they were charging 11.6% interest for the Calvert Cliff MD expansion and that cost killed the project.

    • Rob (in NY)

      I agree with most of your comment (which is rare). I will also give some credit thus far to President Obama as he is behaving in a thoughtful, deliberative manner (as a President should), rather than trying to score political points by pandering to fear and other short term emotions. If one accepts the science of global warming and the economic/scarcity factors surrounding oil, nuclear power has to be part of any intermediate and long term energy policy solution (along with solar, wind, and other potential renewables).

      Once again, the entire nation of Japan is located on major fault lines where the risk of catostraphic earthquakes and tsunamis is far greater than anywhere in the United States. We should definitely learn things from this crisis, such as where nuclear power plants should not be built (in places most vulnerable to catostrophic natural disasters), requirements to build plants to sustain unlikely but catrostrophic events to extent possible, proper evacuation plans, etc….

      • Cory

        Thanks Rob. I know we seldom agree, but I respect your opinions as they are well thought out. I’m all for the renewables, but they are a supplement, not a replacement.

    • Rob (in NY)

      The final part of this comment reminds me of another great Churchill quote “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else.”

  • geffe

    Japan Faces Potential Nuclear Disaster as Radiation Levels Rise

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/world/asia/15nuclear.html?_r=1&hp

    It’s getting worse, fast.

    • Zeno

      The next step would seem to be entombment, like they did at Chernobyl.

  • Mmaaaxx

    this is a side note, but I think every commentator on this show missused the phrase “begs the question.” This is a pet peeve of many students of philosophy/debate. What they mean is “begs one to ask the question” or “raises the question” whereas “begs the question” means to assume your conclusion in your argument.

    sorry for the nitpicking, I love this show, but it’s annoying!

  • Zeno

    The largest risk right now is from the spent fuel storage area. The pool suffered a rupture in one of the blasts. NOTE: This should not be possible. It’s an obvious design flaw.

    “The International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday that Japanese officials told it that the reactor fire was in the storage pond – a pool where used nuclear fuel is kept cool – and that “radioactivity is being released directly into the atmosphere.”…”

    This points out the danger of spent fuel storage in open tanks (like we have in the US), and I recall reading that some percentage our fuel pellets so stored have been in storage for so long they have become disaggregated (a kind of sludge). http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Radioactive_Waste_Management/Spent_Nuclear_Fuel#Wet_Storage

    The spent fuel storage all over the country has been kicked down the road since the inception of the industry. The reason nothing has been done is that the creators of the waste (commercial nuclear power plants) do not want to bear the cost politically or financially to handle the waste responsibly. Even after the plants have been decommissioned the storage pools remain active at the sites.

    What was Yucca mountain was built for? Just to fund Nevada’s economy, and then be shut down? The agreements were in place…if you take the money… then you take the waste.

    There is much that could be done in reprocessing of waste into useful fuel until it becomes less radioactive. However do we trust any corporation in the US to do it? NIMBY? Guess what its in all of our back yards. There are storage pools at every active nuclear plant, and every inactive nuclear plant.

    America is still waiting for a comprehensive and rational solution to the spent fuel issue.

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      Zeno,
      This looks like its getting near a worst case scenario.

      I’m a bit confused about the reporting on the ruptured storage tank.
      I read the storage tank in reactor 4 was damaged. I thought the blasts were in reactor 1 and 3. Reactor 4 was shut down at the time of the earthquake.

      There stored fuel in these tanks is 15 feet in height at the bottom of a 45 foot tank. If the tank is not damaged you would have 1 to 2 weeks of boiling water before the rods become exposed.

      Lots of questions.

      Waste would not be a problem today if we didn’t kill the nuclear industry after TMI. We killed (or severely slowed down) the design of plants the burn the spent fuel. There are several of these on the drawing board and their advancement needs to be accelerated.
      Some of these designs do not require expensive reprocessing.

      • Zeno

        I read that the storage tank has a 8 sq meter hole in it. I’m guessing here, but it was likely ground shock. The reactors are below ground and because the storage tank is physically connected to each reactor vessel by underground pipes filled with water, any explosive force upon the water in the pipe (water is incompressible) would be transferred without loss of energy to the storage tank…approximately 8 sq meters.

        The storage tanks are not robust. They are only built strong enough to hold the water, but if this tank was fractured by a shock wave the thickness is not the real problem. What was needed was a series of air baffles that would disrupt the shock wave.

        On the reprocessing issue: As you stated, they don’t even have to enhance spent fuel, but simply reprocess the old fuel since about 90% of the fuel is unconsumed but contaminated with waste.

        I suspect that if actual accounting were done for the entire fuel cycle handling mining, disposal, reprocessing, construction…then nuclear power would be the most expensive form of energy generation. But we NEVER get the real numbers.

        • Ryan H

          Why don’t we strap the spent rods to a rocket and fire them into space? (Cross our fingers the rocket doesn’t explode while in the Earths atmoshpere!)

        • Worried for the country(MA)

          “I suspect that if actual accounting were done for the entire fuel cycle handling mining, disposal, reprocessing, construction…then nuclear power would be the most expensive form of energy generation. But we NEVER get the real numbers. ”

          I think you are assuming high reprocessing costs in your calculation. If the new designs are successful and deployed these waste costs will be trivial. For instance, with molten salt reactors the fuel is simply dissolved in the salt so you avoid the costly French process. New mining is not required since we already have the fuel in these storage ponds.

  • George Potts

    Shut down all of the nuclear power plants.

  • George Potts

    Oh wait, cover our entire Atlantic and Pacific coastline with windmills and start speaking 15th century Flemish.

    • Cory

      Wooden shoes?

  • George Potts

    Even better, build a nuclear power plant next to the Lincoln Memorial.

  • George Potts

    There was just an explosion in my compost bin. STOP COMPOSTING.

  • NH_Analyst

    Never underestimate the stupidity of decision makers driven by lust for power and wealth.
    By not preparing for the doomsday scenario, politicians, bureaucrats and engineers armed with hubris and technology can and have created them. Magical thinking should never be entertained when the stakes are so high, be it with nuclear technology or financial institutions.

  • George Potts

    What’s wrong with kicking the can down the street? That’s what made Madoff and the Social Security system so successful.

    [sic] tongue in cheek

    • Mbheitz

      How has the Social Security system kicked the can down the street/road? Other systems have kicked their respective cans down the road and dipped into–borrowed–from Social Security funds without repaying.

    • Jim in Omaha

      I don’t know much about nuclear energy, but I do know about Social Security. Creating a surplus of over $2 trillion with our hard-earned money, more than enough to fully pay all future benefits, is THE EXACT OPPOSITE of kicking the can down the road.

  • George Potts

    I’m investing in buggy whips and oats for horses. They are coming back.

  • Yar

    I am not anti nuclear, however I see it only as a transitional energy. I would like to see nuclear weapons turned into fuel for power plants. I believe the ultimate green energy is the sun. Learning to live on a solar budget is the correct path to sustainability.
    The US should move forward with a storage solution for spent fuel.
    My idea is to encase the spent fuel rods in glass and bury them in the tar sands. Carbon is an excellent radiation sink and the heat generated could provide for some domestic oil production. The tar sands are not water permeable and should be a good location for the waste.
    With good final disposal of waste I would like to see small (100-300 Megawatt) reactors located current coal plants. I want to use coal for peak demand only and nuclear for base load power. I would have the military responsible for all nuclear power production and government would sell the steam to the utilities for electricity generation. I would put these small reactors underground.
    Large containment buildings doesn’t look like such a good idea. I would move as much of the operation as possible out of the reactor area and put the reactor deep enough to contain a meltdown.

    Unfortunately, the US doesn’t make rational decisions, we allow default non-decisions to support the status-quo.
    We should take this disaster and move toward distributed systems, for food, transportation, energy, manufacturing. What would a similar event in the central valley of California do to our food supply?
    Non-decisions have many problems and we think we have redundancy when we really don’t. This was true in the financial market collapse and it may be true in other economic sectors as well.
    Spent fuel pools at a reactor site are non-decision at its worst.

    • George Potts

      Horse transportation is coming back. Cars are merely a transitional energy.

      • George Potts

        Transitional transportation.

  • WINSTON SMITH

    I am personally upset that we have never solved the spent material disposal issue. That is certainly an example of kicking the can down the road. If I lived in Nevada, I wouldn’t want the other states in the country shipping all of their waste to my state. What do other countries such as France and Japan do with their spent waste?

    • Zeno

      France has become the worlds biggest fuel re-processor, and waste handler: http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2009/05/18/18climatewire-is-the-solution-to-the-us-nuclear-waste-prob-12208.html

      We have experimented with reprocessing, but no entity wants to be responsible for the risk and cost.

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      The best solution is to burn the waste in new gen IV designs like Bill Gate’s TerraPower or the molten salt thorium reactor (LFTR).

    • Cory

      Good thing noone lives in Nevada!

    • TerryTreeTree

      Some reports that France dumped a lot of their toxic wastes off the coast of Somalia, killing the fishing that Somalis depended on. Know what industry they replaced fishing with?

  • Anonymous

    GE-designed reactors in Fukushima have 23 sisters in USA…

  • http://moreover.myopenid.com/ moreover

    Has Keith Sutherland been deployed to Sendai yet?

    But seriously, the perhaps unsurmountable issue with reactors gone bad is that no one can go near them. The heroic Chernobyl emergency workers all died, some within hours.
    Wouldn’t a future “solution” be to have an “entombment” infrastructure at the ready that could be remotely operated?

  • Nay.

    Nuclear power is sooo 20th century. Move to solar and wind and algae already!

    • Cory

      Nay, I like all these forms of energy, but they are insufficient to support even a fraction of what we need if we want to maintain any semblence of what we’ve come to expect.

      If we want these forms to be staples we must completely redefine and re-evaluate our group and individual usage of energy.

      • Nay.

        If, since the invention of the cell phone, from the shoebox sized monster that used to sit in my car during college in case of an emergency, to today’s iPhone, I have confidence that a brillant team of individuals can figure out how to make an energy source that will be good for the planet long term and meet our energy needs — Provided, of course, that corporations and governments decide that it would be a profitable thing to do. Profit motivates innovation in the USA and in other countries, rather than the greater good or thoughts of our long term interests. I sometimes think Freud had it right; humanity has a death wish.

        • Philonous

          If there were a profitable source of energy that was also clean, someone would sell it. The problem is that the clean sources right now either don’t generate enough energy or do so at a high cost.

          • ThresherK

            (Near-obligatory reply about clean energy reinforcing the fact that dirty energy is subsidized out the wazoo and the discussion of “profitable” and “low cost” should recognize same.)

          • Philonous

            Not “near-obligatory.” Energy is obligatory. The question at the moment is how do we get it now.

          • Philonous

            We then have to work out a policy for the future that all of us are willing to pay for.

          • ThresherK

            My reply was meant to be “near-obligatory” to the energy question. We can’t talk about subsidized energy without including what my tax dollars are doing to underwrite the oil, coal and nuclear systems, therefore making them cheap and feasible and good investments. Good investments for some derring-do brutally honest Galtian overlords.

            “How we get at it now” is a question which nobody has properly answered since, say, the BP oil spill. It was a question a month ago, and will be a question next year.

          • Jim in Omaha

            If we internalized the actual costs of the respective ways we meet our energy demands, terms such as “profitable”, “high cost”, “efficient”, would have some rational meaning. Until all costs are recognized and inserted into the market equation, such talk is no more than gibberish. Or propaganda.

          • nj

            As if nuclear power doesn’t come “at a high cost.”

          • Philonous

            Of course it does. What cheap source do you propose?

          • nj

            Wrong question to be asking. Nothing is “cheap.”

      • RobertME

        If every house in the in the United States had it’s own solar panels and or wind turbine, supplementing it’s power, and in many cases actually producing a surplus of energy, we would need far fewer power plants. The solution to growing energy demand is to make every house it’s own power plant, and decentralize power generation.

        This model is analogous to millions of small computers networked together to build one giant computer, as oppossed to massive super computer servers in a few locations.

        • Philonous

          Indeed, but who will pay for those panels and turbines? They’re expensive right now, and American voters at the moment don’t want government subsidies for anything.

          • ThresherK

            Then let’s stop subsidizing all energy forms, especially the most polluting.

          • Philonous

            And pull down our technological society in the process? We need an answer that won’t destroy the present as well as saving the future.

          • ThresherK

            No, not pull down society and destroy the present.

            Actually, when you say that, I think of mountaintop mining mishaps, underregulated oil spills, and incidents with nuclear plants like this.

            And the autopilot response of many in the media to cover “both sides of the story” and say “nobody could have predicted”.

          • Philonous

            The question that I have whenever someone argues that we need clean energy now (and I agree in principle) is how much are you asking us to sacrifice? What part of my modern life must I give up to get immediate clean energy?

            I support the idea of clean energy, and we must go that direction. What I’m saying is that a radical change right now will destroy what we have.

          • ThresherK

            Good question. I’m not asking you to give up anything, merely to be prepared to pay from your pocket much closer to what things cost.

            For one, all the misdirected ingenuity which has been poured into the internal combustion engine so “21 mpg” is “pretty good” for a 4500-lb “midsized SUV” which people need to get one person from the subdivision to the office park.

            For another, all those far-flung Bobo-exalted exurbs built during the boom, the unconnected, forty-miles-from-anywhere places which are now falling apart before being paid off, or even occupied.

            These were made for cheap energy in mind. Stop pretending it will be so cheap forever, and then we’ll take steps from there. Heck, it’s almost something the market could take into consideration.

            (Disclaimer: Examples are generic and not about you in particular; you haven’t mentioned any particulars.)

          • Philonous

            Some of what you say I agree with. Fuel efficiency standards need to be much higher. I don’t want to live in a high rise in a megacity, though. That’s an example of a sacrifice that I won’t make.

          • nj

            Another way to ask the question: How many people will get cancer from radiation poisoning; how many coal miners will develop pneumoconiosis; how much environmental damage from oil spills is acceptable for people to be able to live a “modern life.”

            A “modern life” which includes enormous inefficiency, self-indulgence, and other waste. Does your modern life include commuting 50 miles to work in a Hummer and watching a 60-inch teevee when you get home?

            The U.S. (and Canada) use nearly twice the energy per capita as most of the other developed countries.

          • Philonous

            Televisions today are more energy efficient than the models of yesteryear, and no, I don’t drive a Hummer. I do live some twenty miles from my job, but like many Americans, I can’t afford to move every time I change jobs.

          • Jim in Omaha

            So if I understand your position, it is that designing cities with adequate public transportation, not encouraging people to live as far away as possible from the places they have to get to on a regular basis while driving the most fuel-inefficient vehicles ever produced on a mass scale, refusing to subsidize the type of roads necessary to accommodate 3-ton behemoth vehicles used to transport 1 person . . . will destroy our modern society.

          • Philonous

            Not at all. But when I’m told that I have to ride a bus only and live in a multistorey rabbit warren, I rebel.

          • Jim in Omaha

            I don’t have any problem with you making those lifestyle choices. I simply propose that you pay the actual cost of your free choice and not be subsidized by the general public for decisions that don’t promote the general welfare.

          • Jim in Omaha

            So if I understand your position, it is that designing cities with adequate public transportation, not encouraging people to live as far away as possible from the places they have to get to on a regular basis while driving the most fuel-inefficient vehicles ever produced on a mass scale, refusing to subsidize the type of roads necessary to accommodate 3-ton behemoth vehicles used to transport 1 person . . . will destroy our modern society.

          • RobertME

            Yes, this is absolutely true. I was offering what I’ve heard discussed as a reasonable and rational and technically possible solution to the looming world energy crisis. I realize however that such a solution is practically speaking an energy utopia, that is, a virtual dream with respect to the current environment. Energy companies, OIL, COAL, NUCLEAR, etc being some of the most powerful and wealthy on the planet want to have nothing to do with the democratizing of energy. As demand grows, their profits increase proportionally.

            We ought to subsidize Alternative energy the way we do fossil fuels, and incentivize this technology.

          • Kurt

            And don’t forget the billions of tax-payers’ funds we gave to nuclear power companies. We subsidized them, and we should subsidize individual homes’ investments in solar, wind, and geothermal power sources (geothermal: using the earth to store and release heat and to help cool homes and buildings).

          • TerryTreeTree

            Philonous, and all, Would ALL of those turbines and solar panels cost as much as this disaster? Our Government subsidizes Coal, Oil, and Nuclear to a huge degree, in many open and hidden ways. Those subsidies alone would go a long way on turbines and solar panels.

          • Philonous

            The cost of the tsunami will be huge, but the cost of the nuclear plant damage looks to be small.

          • Grady Lee Howard

            You can either buy a consortium of billionaires a new nuclear plant complex from which they will sell you power and then let you pay for decommissioning and toxic disposal; or, you can spend the same money on home generation and sell your excess to a public utility. I wish it were your choice but the billionaires and their brainstems have all the vote$.

        • Cory

          I’m in total agreement. We are sympatico, amigo!

  • Kurt

    Back in the late 1970s I took an environmental science course at Harvard, where the professor, from the Public Health School and consulting to the Atomic Energy Commission, said that a relatively safe place to store spent readioactive nuclear fuel would be deep in the salt mines under the Great Lakes, particularly under Lake Erie, which was deemed geologically very stable. He personally didn’t like the idea but thought it better than the open-air cement pools constructed in Bainbridge, Washington, at the Hanford Site, to hold radioactive sludge. (The pools were to be capped, eventually, I think. There were also underground storage tanks.) The US govt eventually admitted that the Hanford site was responsible for emitting a great deal of radioactivity into the air and the Columbia River watershed. There remain more than 50 milion gals. of high-level radioactive waste stored there. The environmental and health costs are astronomical and clean up is still ongoing, with groundwater remediation efforts stalled. And several nuclear power plants also exist in the area.

    Since then, Northeastern Ohio and Lake Erie have been the site of numerous earthquakes.

    Where do scientists today believe it is safest to store spent fuel from the 104 US nuclear reactors? How do citizens know the government is telling the truth, when it took about 40 years for the scope of the Hanford site problems to reach the public eye?

    Do we really try to store radioactive crud under the Great Lakes, the largest collection of fresh water on the planet? If so, is that smart?

    http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/geosurvey/html/eq_archv/tabid/8304/Default.aspx

    • Kurt

      Sorry, not Bainbridge (wrong water area!)–Richland, WA.

  • WINSTON SMITH

    There have been several references (including one that I made) about kicking the can down the road. Perhaps instead we should kick the greedy crooked investment bankers down the road! They brought about their own meltdown, and were never brought to justice for it.

    • Cory

      I agree, but it is pie in the sky. Nothing short of violent upheaval is going to change the wealth structures in our society. The rich are the boss, applesauce!

  • Cory

    I’d also like to bring up hydro-electric power. We seem to be in the process of moving away from this super clean energy source. Yeah, yeah, I know when we dam rivers their is some sort of environmental impact. I personally am willing to see some species of beetle go extinct to utilize this awesome source of energy.

    • ThresherK

      Is it simply that we’ve dammed up every river that’s feasible to get hydro from, plus put dams on another great number of rivers that God knows never should have a dam on them?

      Needing more electricity now than when Hoover was built doesn’t make “river X” out in the mountains a better candidate for hydro. Perhaps it simply makes some number-cruncher say, “Hey, it’s worth the risk. I don’t live there.”

      • Cory

        I live near the milwaukee river in wisconsin, and I cannot easily count the number of dams along it’s length. At the same time, we are tearing them down with great speed. The best reason I’ve heard to do this is to re-introduce sturgeon to the river. This is noble I guess, but a little impractical in todays world.

        I’m not even suggesting dams on the scale of Hoover. How about many smaller generating plants utilizing beautiful gravity, the ultimate renewable. I’m suggesting that hydro-electric really ought to be part of a comprehensive solution.

  • aletheia33

    you can easily see pictures on the internet of horrible birth defects post-chernobyl. are these real, and if so, why does your interviewee not mention these?

    • kilingtonskier

      Chernobyl was a disaster ready to happen and cannot be used as an example for dismissing nuclear power. Try using France as an example. I would also like to remind everyone that our energy lust has risk associated with it. Our need to drive cars every where is a good example. 40,000 people die every year, while one million are maimed or injured. Add that up over the past 40 years and compare it with deaths and injuries caused by nuclear power as well as the impact on our environment.

      • Kurt

        Two wrongs don’t make it right. That’s why we also need more public transportation and better rail service between our larger cities, east, west, north, and south.

  • Larry

    I have family that live near and work in the nuclear plant in Gundremmingen, Germany, which is located on the Danube river. Most of the area is agricultural. In 1986 they lost an entire year’s production (crops, milk, beef, you name it) from contamination from Chernobyl. Among the immediate family there have been two deaths from colon and pancreatic cancer, and three other cases of kidney or pancreatic cancer. While this doesn’t constitute statistical proof… you have to wonder about the effects of even low exposure to radiation.

    I believe that nuclear power should be considered a relatively low-carbon, temporary, bridge to renewable energy, but that long-term, it is simply too dangerous. In the U.S. we really have to engage intensively in transitioning to renewables, and conserving our remaining fossil fuels. That simply isn’t happening under our current leadership.

  • Daniel

    People tend to respond more to events like this that make headlines, rather than accumulated scientific evidence. Isn’t it true that, compared to coal-fired power plants, nuclear power still does far less harm to humans and the environment per kilowatt hour generated? Before writing off nuclear power, we should remember what the alternative is.

    • Kurt

      Um . . we don’t know the long-term health risks. Who’s researching that? How much federal money goes to study it? How much from commercial nuke-power companies? Is there enough research to state nuclear power is actually safer See the Union of Concerned Scientists’ web site. Find out why they’re concerned!

    • nj

      You mean your straw man “alternative.”

      The alternate to nukes is coal?

  • Eric

    Today’s nuclear power reactors require a supply of electrical power to maintain a safe shutdown state. Do the new reactor designs of tomorrow still require a continuous supply of power to keep the reactor fuel cool? The effected Japanese reactors in the current disaster would certainly have benefited from this design modification.

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      The newest approved designs like the AP1000 has a passive cooling system so it should survive a power outage.

  • Jim

    I remember being told in grade school that nuclear power would be “too cheap to meter”. I remember being told that Three Mile Island “couldn’t happen.” I had to drive within a mile of TMI that day in order to get home. We then had to evacuate our home when we were told that a hydrogen bubble might be forming in the reactor. We were told there were no adverse health effects, however 2 of my friends who were in the same area as me developed cancer within 5 years. Coincidence? maybe, but you won’t convince me of that.
    I’m sure the residents of Japan were told that this disaster couldn’t happen.
    We are now being told that local nuclear power plants are safe – accidents there ‘couldn’t happen’
    Nuclear disasters can and DO happen – it is an inherently unsafe source of power. See comments below regarding our inability to dispose of nuclear waste.
    We need to stop all new nuclear power plants and renew no more licences. Invest in solar and hydro.

    • Philonous

      The only way to determine if a release of radiation caused the cancer is to look at the population in the region as a whole and compare the expected rates to the actual. One cancer occurance, by itself, does not prove the cause.

      • Kurt

        And . . . the comercial plants will do this research???! Or do we want the cash-strapped federal government to do it?? Oh, right–there’s no money for that, since we can’t raise taxes on millionaires, so they can produce us some jobs (still waiting!). So I guess if there are increases in cancer rates, we’ll never know.

    • Kilingtonskier

      Let me see–”Solar” power in Vermont, and “Windmills,” (that most people do not want spoiling our billboard free environment), or hydro power from Quebec (that decimated the Hudson Bay ecosystem when constructed), instead of a useful, non-air polluting, non fossil fuel dependent, nuclear power source that is safe if placed in a place that is relatively stable without the potential of a catastrophic event.

      We could dam up the various rivers, or dig a huge cavern in lake Champlain like they did in Quebec’s Hudson Bay, to create Jim’s hydro. Or thousands of solar panels surrounding Burlington’s Green Mtns. Or green painted windmills on top of every mtn.

      In the meantime, Vermont Yankee produces more electricity than all of these monumental efforts in a small spot in South East Vermont, supplying high wages, taxes, and ample electric supply to VT, NH and Mass. Operating safely and effectively for many years with minor leakage and a water tower mishap it’s only “disaster”.

  • Martin Murphy

    I am an American ex-pat listening from Hokkaido, Japan. I find the news from the AP and the US news sources sensationalized. Any idea that this is Chernobyl II is crazy. The reactors worked, they shut down. The once-in-a-millenium tsunamis was not factored properly. I would like to hear the experts comment on this.
    As for the idea that there is a panic and people are fleeing. Where are we going to go? Some of us are here because we live here. I think more people are committed to helping Japan recover.

  • Sinclair

    The 3 explosions (2 major buildings housing the reactors partially destroyed…) will most likely have a long-term radioactive effect on the area, communities, people.

    We would be willfully denying the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl otherwise!

    • Philonous

      At the moment, this event is not Chernobyl. Exaggerating the situation doesn’t help the argument.

      • Anonymous

        True. The Russians were idiots and the Japanese are the best at this. This is not Chernobyl, nor will it become like it primarily because of the difference between the Russians and the Japanese.

  • Anonymous

    Drill baby drill!
    Build baby build

    We need more power of all cheap kinds.

    All of the above is the answer.

    • Philonous

      Drilling for oil in our territory won’t solve the problem. We just don’t have that much oil left, and what we have is in increasingly remote locations–deep ocean, for example.

      • Anonymous

        We have enough domestic oil to sustain our domestic economy for 100 years! I am pretty sure that in 100 years we will have 100x the innovations we currently have and oil will not be in much use, so their is no use saving it for later.

        • Philonous

          We hit peak oil back in the 70s.

        • geffe

          Why is that you have no idea of how oil works. It does not matter how much oil we have or not. It will be sold on the open market regardless of how much we drill baby drill.

          • Zeno

            Yeah, most people don’t get this. They think the resources of the US belong to the US, but they belong entirely to the corporation that extracts the resource. They do sometimes pay a remittance as a percentage of the extraction.

          • Anonymous

            Too many people don’t get the fact that the world has decades of oil and coal that can and will be used to power our world until the new technology becomes efficient and cost effective.

          • Philonous

            And then comes the problem of carbon dioxide.

          • Anonymous

            Why is carbon dioxide a problem. Increases in CO2 promote plant growth and increased crop production. Our planet has had higher CO2 levels in the past and we are still well within the normal cyclical nature of our planet.

            Nature has a funny way of stabilizing imbalances in the environment. If there is too much CO2 plants grow faster to suck it up, if there is too little CO2 plants grow slower to allow CO2 to build up.

          • John

            humans have a funny way of pissing off nature as well

          • geffe

            Nature is not a cartoon character.

          • John

            you are right and nature has a funny way of reminding us that it is real when we do not properly research and develop methods for extracting resources

          • Anonymous

            Now I am interested. Give me some examples of this!

          • Philonous

            Oh, how about sea level rise, increase in desert areas, temperature changes, etc.?

          • Zeno

            Have you ever heard of the Permian extinction. Have you ever studied the acidification of the oceans, and the result. Have you ever studied the expulsion of sequestered methane.

            Do you think you can survive a Permian reset. Yes the planet has a way of dealing with excess CO and heat.

          • nj

            Posts like this are good evidence that there ought to be a “dislike” button added to the options here.

          • TerryTreeTree

            Because we are removing plants at an increasing rate, while increasing CO2 production, there is a gross overbalance. That’s why such silly ideas as Carbon Dioxide Sequestration in mines, and other unsuitable concepts are being considered.

          • Anonymous

            No, Carbon sequestration is being considered for profit and profit alone. No mater how many plants we remove, the remaining plants will grow faster based on the CO2 level thus balancing the system. What is it, something like 75% of the land west of the Mississippi river is government owned and basically free to grow?

          • Zeno

            Cost of production will prohibit extraction. It already is..see BP deep water Horizon. The only nation left on the planet that light sweet crude is Libya. Eben Saudi Arabia is now pumping sulfur contaminated crude.

            New technology? What would that be?

          • Anonymous

            When Obama shut down the gulf oil production, China and Russia announced that they would drill off our coast by using Cuban waters. Much of the other leftover equipment went to Brazil since they found huge off shore reserves in that country.

          • John

            go live in gulf and make a living as a shrimp boat captain, maybe your perspective of unlimited drilling would change

          • Zeno

            Proving that the cost of production is continuing to rise. Where will the US get the money to purchase competitively for the cost of production against creditor nations?

            If you don’t believe in peak oil then , why don’t they just drill for oil in Texas?

        • Zeno

          Domestic oil reserves and cost of production are inversely proportional.

        • RobertME

          Not too mention the fact that dumping another 100 years worth of oil into the atmoshpere will most certainly render the planet incapable of supporting life.

          Based on rinsing demand. We do not have enough oil to sustain our energy needs for 100 years, nor does any other developing country. People seem to forget that we make nearly everything from oil. Burning it as fuel is not smart considering our the process by which we manufacture everything depends on oil.

        • nj

          These are profoundly inaccurate and ignorant statements. At current energy growth rates, demand for energy provided by oil will exceed expected oil supplies in the next 100 years or so. Costs of fossil fuels will continue to rise as remaining supplies are less accessible and/or require more expensive extractive mechanisms.

          http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2000/of00-320/of00-320.pdf

          Plus, it’s just plain stupid to burn every remaining drop of oil and chunk of coal, since we already know that these materials have other valuable, and possibly unique, uses to which they can be put.

        • nj

          These are profoundly inaccurate and ignorant statements. At current energy growth rates, demand for energy provided by oil will exceed expected oil supplies in the next 100 years or so. Costs of fossil fuels will continue to rise as remaining supplies are less accessible and/or require more expensive extractive mechanisms.

          http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2000/of00-320/of00-320.pdf

          Plus, it’s just plain stupid to burn every remaining drop of oil and chunk of coal, since we already know that these materials have other valuable, and possibly unique, uses to which they can be put.

        • nj

          These are profoundly inaccurate and ignorant statements.

          All oil economically developable oil supplies will be in sharp decline over the next 100 years or so. We could exploit every drop of U.S. domestic oil (at ever increasing cost) and—at current rates of demand—we’ll still be importing about half the oil we use, and we’ll still drain domestic supplies in a few decades.

          http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2000/of00-320/of00-320.pdf

          Plus, it’s just really stupid to burn every drop of oil and burn every chunk of coal when it’s possible that there are more valuable—and, possibly, unique—other uses that can be made of these products.

      • Anonymous

        Your statement is false in several ways, but the one I would like you to look into is the statement about our domestic oil being found in increasingly remote locations. We are finding oil in increasingly remote locations because the government has shut down most of the easy locations for environmental reasons.

    • nj

      “We need more power of all cheap kinds.”

      Well, that rules out nukes.

    • LinP

      Drill baby drill!
      Build baby build

      We need more power of all cheap kinds.

      All of the above is the answer.

      HAHAHAHA!!!! Oh wait, you’re serious.

  • paul

    japan registered a 6.1 magnitude quake less than an hour ago, sw. to Tokyo somewhere in the area of Mt. Fuji. How does this connect? importance to the capitol? paul

  • Anonymous

    Sue, “Energy efficiency” doesn’t create any energy! LOL We are not going to be able to use “Energy efficiency” to give our country power for the next 100 years!

    • Saul

      Actually, nothing can create energy. It can only be transformed. One of the basics of physics. You can look it up:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_of_energy

      • Anonymous

        Thank you for making my point. I was dumbing it down for the others here.

        • John

          You elitist!, see how silly it sounds

  • brian

    nuclear power is not carbon neutral. you have to think about the holistic net energy use. it takes a lot of energy to mine, support and decommission these resources.

  • Anonymous

    Jane.

    Obama wants to usher in a nuclear renaissance. Does this mean more of the same conventional nuclear plants? Through the decades we’ve incrementally improved the safety standards of the same basic nuclear plants.

    However, radically new plants exist that are inherently more safe; they do not blow up; they are cheaper (they don’t require heavy containment vessels or concrete structures to contain pressurized steam) they are much more efficient (they don’t require expensive fuel rods that degrade quickly) and they produce much, much less radioactive waste. One such design are Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs – “Lifters”).

    These are not new plants but have existed for several decades. Will these new types of plants ever come on line? Can this be part of the new renaissance?

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t anyone on this show look into the details of the disaster? The earthquake didn’t cause the problem, the Tsunami did! This is why the Middle of the US should not have any worries and should not change any energy plans.

    • Cory

      The earthquake did cause the tsunami though, so it did kinda cause the problem. Chain of causality?

      • Saul

        And the tsunami caused the power failures that took out the cooling systems.

        It’s both prudent and necessary to look at any power plant and determine the adequacy of backup power systems.

    • John

      keep on thinking it is safe, would you live next door to a nuke facility?

      • krypton

        there is a leaking old fuel rod pond in my backyard and i dont like it.

        • John

          big fat coal ash spill that will take years to clean up and is now swimming in our water supply, ran by the same people whom control nuke facilities in the state, told us not to worry they have it taken care of.

          • krypton

            yes. yes. i am so sorry for that and for the blowing off the tops of mountains ruining the streams and our precious water. its a CRIME.

    • Zeno

      You mean like the New Madrid fault? Where is that now….

      • Annlachman

        there was 5.5 in Buffalo NY not too long ago!

  • Philonous

    As always with any disaster, we have calls for immediate change and claims that this death was caused by that event. Since many don’t have a grasp on the risks that we face on an average day, they aren’t able to assess the new risk.

    Greg Camp
    Springdale, AR
    http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/

    • Saul

      Human beings seem to be hard wired to do relative risk assessment poorly.

      But, as one of the guests said, nuclear power accidents are unforgiving. That drives the more emotional components of peoples’ responses and is quite appropriate.

      • Philonous

        Unforgiving, yes, but the disasters are rare, while coal plants produce harm constantly.

  • Rpdubrul

    This “nuclear crisis” is like a plane crash: When a plane crashes and 100 people die it is front page news; no one cares that 100 people a day die in car crashes in the US alone (about 40,000 per year). When there is a nuclear accident everyone gets upset, but no one cares that fossil fuels and hydroelectric have been absolutely catastrophic for the planet, humans, and other species. The little bit of damage nuclear has done is nothing compared to its benefits – clean energy that does not warm our planet. There are plenty of places to store the waste, and if people decide not to go live in those places, so much the better. Chernobyl, the worst civilian nuclear accident, has had a silver lining, leaving a de facto wildlife refuge where wolves, lynx, bison, and other animals are free to roam without human interference (for a wolf, a little bit of radiation is a lot better than bullets). Because I am an environmentalist and want a clean world for my children, I want more nuclear plants.

    • krypton

      with all due respect, you (and Philonous)need to get an imagination!
      we can shut them down as we get other cleaner & safer options online. Like they will now in Germany.
      If there was a will there would be a way.

      • Philonous

        What’s my failure of imagination? I’m talking about realities at the moment.

        • krypton

          me too. in fact, realities of the moment 35 years ago!

          • Philonous

            To be sure, we’ve been debating this for a long time. What do you want us to do?

          • krypton

            build on wind and solar and who knows what else? open up, think, be creative and have a government with a willingness and ability to change.
            or take to the streets?

          • Philonous

            I agree, but the costs at the moment are high for anything. We have to get the people to support that kind of shift.

          • krypton

            exactly! NOW would be a great time to “get the people to support” a shift to cleaner safer power.

  • Rex Henry, Washington, DC

    Your Nuclear “expert” sounds a lot like George W. Bush. Not nuCUlar, but N-U-C-L-E-A-R

    • Philonous

      Thank you. That was driving me nuts, too.

    • Melanie

      Yeah, I had the exact same reaction. Experts should at least be able to pronounce the name of their area of expertise.

    • Cory

      You sound like one of them college educated elites, Rex!

  • Clementissima

    You don’t need an earthquake and tsunami to have an environmental disaster. Look at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility outside Denver. It was so negligently mismanaged that the FBI and the EPA had to raid the facility in 1989. It was shut down immediately and subject to a rush-rush clean-up. Now, for PR purposes, the site has been renamed Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, but has not opened because they still suspect hot spots.

  • Anonymous

    The false theory of Man Made Climate Change should not burden our economy during a depression. Please wait until we get back to the good times before you try using you hysteria to steal money from Americans to redistribute it to the poor

    • Gary Trees

      I nominate this for OnPoint post of the year. That one is all over the place. (So beautiful…should have sent a poet.)

      • David

        The inner workings of the denier’s mind. Scary indeed.

        He got one thing right, we are in a depression.

    • Philonous

      False theory? The science is clear. Denying climate change due to human causes is akin to believing in creationism and a flat earth.

      • Tom2

        So you have looked at arguments on both sides of the story and come to your own conclusions? Or are you blindly following your leader, the Genius Al Gore who studied this for how many years before he had his little slide show loaded with incorrect info that has been discredited?

        • Philonous

          Actually, Al Gore is not my leader, and I haven’t referred to him. I’m talking about the science.

        • Cory

          Al Gore has a degree from a top university, a nobel prize, an oscar, and a long career in public service including 8 years as vice president. I can’t verify whether or not he is a genius, but I’ll bet you a sawbuck that he is smarter than you, I, and 90% of Americans. We can acknowledge the above, or we can make funny jokes about how he says “lockbox” or how he invented the internet.

          • krypton

            I think he’s HOT! i love that wooden look!

          • Grady Lee Howard

            I know Al Gore personally, and he is a man of slightly above average intelligence, a spoiled man of exceptional entitlement , but a man with sympathy and empathy for others and for humanity. He has presented scientific information to the highest level of his understanding to the best of his ability while consulting with the best minds available in the concerned fields. Gore has been honest about what is known.

            Ask yourself what you might do if you served with a president who discarded the poor and lied about shameful acts, won the popular vote while being denied the presidency, stood helpless for eight years while a proto-fascist cabal hollowed out your country, and then lost the relationship with a spouse of 30 years. Al Gore does pretty well for a man in continual crisis. His attempt at Internet journalism has been a success, maybe just dumb luck and connections. The truth is I’d trust Al Gore to succeed corporate apologist Obama and guide us through our crisis of climate and energy above anyone else I can think of. Let’s draft him for 2012.
            Under the current system he’d be the best we could get.

          • Gregg

            On October 2, 2007 a British court found Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, to be politically biased, and it ruled teachers must warn students of that bias before showing the film.

            In the statement below, James M. Taylor, senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute, elaborates on factual errors in the film identified by the court and comments on the ruling.

            “Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, represents ‘partisan political views’ and must be treated as such by teachers in British schools, a British High Court judge has indicated.

            “The British court was swayed by numerous factual inaccuracies portrayed in the movie. Among them:

            – The film claims global warming is responsible for the gradual retreat of the alpine glacier atop Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro. Scientists have conclusively demonstrated no such link exists.

            – The film presents graphs indicating that fluctuating carbon dioxide levels have always preceded and caused global temperature fluctuations. In fact, temperature changes have always preceded carbon dioxide changes.

            – The film suggests global warming caused Hurricane Katrina. Few hurricane experts believe this, and substantial scientific evidence indicates global warming is having no impact on hurricane frequency or intensity.

            – The film asserts global warming is causing Central Africa’s Lake Chad to dry up. In fact, land use practices are causing the drying up of Lake Chad, and Central Africa is in an unusual and prolonged wet period.

            – The film asserts global warming is leading to polar bear deaths by drowning. Yet the only documented drowning deaths occurred due to a freak storm, and polar bear numbers are growing substantially.

            – The film claims global warming threatens to halt the Gulf Stream and initiate a new ice age. The vast majority of scientists who have studied the issue have determined such a scenario is implausible.

            – The film asserts global warming is causing the destruction of coral reefs through bleaching. Scientists have identified other causes for coral bleaching and have additionally noted bleaching is a natural process by which coral continually selects ideal symbiotic algae.

            – The film asserts Greenland is in danger of rapid ice melt that will raise sea levels by 20 feet or more. The scientific consensus is that any foreseeable Greenland ice melt will be gradual and will take centuries to substantially raise sea levels.

            – The film asserts the Antarctic ice shelf is melting. In fact, only a small portion of Antarctica is getting warmer and losing ice mass, while the vast majority of Antarctica is in a prolonged cold spell and is accumulating ice mass.

            “Also highlighted in court arguments was Al Gore’s admission in Grist Magazine that ‘I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it [global warming] is.’

            “As a result of the partisan political nature of Gore’s film, school teachers will not be allowed to show the movie without telling their students the film is scientifically controversial.

            “The British High Court properly recognized that Al Gore’s movie is nine parts political propaganda and one part science. Virtually every assertion that Gore makes in the movie has been strongly contradicted by sound science.

            “The British court decision should guide teachers in the U.S. to similarly treat Gore’s movie as the inaccurate and misleading propaganda tool that it is.”

            http://www.wildsingapore.com/news/20070910/071009-4.htm

          • Cory

            OK, but only with a VP pick of Kucinich or Feingold!

    • RobertME

      And so the converstaion ends with the dismissal of overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is real, highly influenced by humans and upon us… a global, liberal conspiracy. Well science will have the last laugh and we wont be around to share in it!

      • Anonymous

        Nielsen poll in Australia: Just 35% of voters support carbon dioxide swindle. I suppose this means that 65% of Australians are flat earthers? Anyone that is so ignorant and arrogant to call someone a flat earther because they do research and don’t rush to judgment is probably not smart enough to follow the links I put up today either.

        http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2011/03/bob-carter
        http://hotair.com/archives/2011/03/14/gallup-poll-shows-global-warming-fears-losing-steam/

        • Philonous

          Science isn’t subject to majority vote from non-scientists. And yes, the arguments for a flat earth are of the same type as those against climate change.

        • http://www.ukumbwa.com Ukumbwa

          Be careful of your intoxication with the binary argument. Though complementary forces exist, all arguments are not reducible to either/or binaries.

    • Zeno

      Tobacco products do not cause cancer…there is no definitive link…the cancers we see are caused by natural processes.

      The earth is flat…Gravity is not provable…Jesus will save us.

      • Anonymous

        You sound so much more intelligent now… NOT!

    • Ukumbwa

      Brandstad, with all due respect, this is a priceless post. You have culled so much of the status quo perspective that it becomes inconsequential to try to continue this conversation in this narrow band. As mass media narrows into deeper niche “markets”, it’s harder and hard to reach the multiplicity of people that need to learn how flawed your brickish suggestions are. I wish we actually had a mass-media dialogic function available to us or that we were actually willing to use. We have so much to learn in this arrogant society.

      • geffe

        It is amazing how misinformed this Brandstad chap is. Of course I’m now going to called elitist.

        • http://www.ukumbwa.com Ukumbwa

          Tell the truth, no matter what people call you. Truth crushed to the earth, shall rise again.

        • Cory

          You elitist!

          • geffe

            hahaha…

    • John

      instead you can use my tax dollars to continue nrg production that is less safe and as expensive as alternate resources, dont forget the continued redistribution to companies that are already swimming in profits, out of touch.

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      Brandstad,
      You are a target with this statement: “false theory of Man Made Climate Change”.

      Man is adding CO2 to the atmosphere. This is clear. CO2 is a greenhouse gas so there is some climate effect.

      However, the science is not settled. Is the CO2 level bad? What is the correct level for the planet?

      Read this essay by Professor Richard Lindzen, a MIT climate scientist:

      Richard Lindzen: A Case Against Precipitous Climate Action:
      http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/17/richard-lindzen-a-case-against-precipitous-climate-action/

    • geffe
    • Cory

      Why is it a false theory? Is it because you accept the opinions of a small minority of scientists against all evidence and the opinion of the vast majority of the scientific community?

      “…steal money from Americans to redistribute it to the poor.” The wording of this statement seems to suggest that the poor in America aren’t Americans.

      The beautiful thing about democracy is that if the impoverished masses decide to redistribute societies wealth, they have the power to do that with their vote. They just need to pull their heads out of their butts long enough to realize their power. So buy lots of gold and hide it somewhere, Brandstad! ;)

  • David

    Nuclear power plants:

    Too expensive to build, no financing available.

    Cannot be privately insured. The insurance companies won’t do it.

    No where to depose of the waste. No one wants it in their state.

    So, you, the taxpayer must pay for all of the above plus the electricity you will get in about ten years’ times.

    The owners will take the profits.

    See how that works?

  • Saul

    MUCH better program than yesterday’s. Thank you very much.

    Most important point of the show: These events unfold slowly.
    Please avoid the breathless cliches like “situation changing by the minute”. The only thing that makes it seem that way is confusion which just comes with the territory with catastrophes like this.

  • geffe

    Why is it that some people are separating the tsunami from the earthquake? The quake caused the tsunami. The two events are connected.

    • Tom2

      I don’t think a tsunami is going to hit a nuclear power plant in Kansas, or most of Germany!

      • geffe

        I was not talking about Germany or Kansas. Try to pay attention.
        Why is it that I feel like I’m trying to deal with 6th graders?

    • Saul

      I separate them because of the stark constrast of results.

      The plants, due to Japanese over-engineeering, survived an earthquake 10 times more powerful than they were designed for.

      The plants, due to not building the sea walls high enough, did not survive the tsunami.

      They got one thing very right, and one thing very wrong.

      And, if you look at the pattern of destruction around the earthquake zone, this is repeated over and over. Buildings that withstood the earthquake got washed away by the tsunami.

      Sure, they’re linked causally, but there are engineering and risk assessment lessons from looking at them separately.

      • Zeno

        The collective “we” know nothing about what the quake and the tsunami did to these plants. I heard a pundit state yesterday that neither the quake or the Tsunami had anything at all to do with the problem at the plant.

        Our information is not certain, and governments and corporations will say anything to avert legal entanglements. No one did a thorough inspection of the plant post quake and re-certified the plant before the tsunami.

        Its all speculation at this point, and we may never know for certain.

        • Saul

          That’s just not true.

          In broad strokes, there’s no disagreement about what’s happening to these plants. Much of it is confirmed by photographic evidence.

          Will there be an after the fact cover up? Who knows. But it doesn’t seem to happening now.

          • Zeno

            Photographs and statements by the controlling corporation (broad strokes) do not equate to a concise assessment of the plants condition just before the tsunami. Photographs do not see what happened throughout the complexity of the plant above and below ground.

          • Saul

            Yes, of course, there needs to be detailed damage assessment to learn engineering lessons.

            But do you doubt that there was an earthquake, a tsunami, a station blackout (power failure), loss of redundant backup power systems, cooling system failures, hydrogen explosions, and a fire?

            Do you think that they aren’t struggling to keep get the plants under control?

            What do you think they might be hiding?

          • krypton

            i think they are hiding an actual meltdown, actually. one could even say they blew them up on purpose – as that was the best case scenario and the wisest thing to do. but you wont hear them say that.

          • Saul

            “Meltdown” covers a wide range of events, from a little bit of the fuel melting to, well, all of it.

            They’ve said that the fuel rods on reactor #2 were uncovered when coolant level dropped and that some melting likely occured.

            So, no they’re not hiding a meltdown. They’ve disclosed that they likely had a meltdown.

          • krypton

            ok fair enough. So, I think its worse than they say..and getting worser by the minute…

          • Zeno

            “But do you doubt that there was an earthquake, a …”

            Now, now. Don’t start getting obtuse. I have made a entirely rational statement about what little could be known in the interim of the two events. What gives you your certainty that the quake caused no damage to the plant? Press statements and photographs would not win in court.

            They might be hiding anything to avert lawsuits, but I think that they the people running the plant did not know the state of the plant after the quake any more than they understood the state of the plant after the tsunami. …or actually understand what is going on now. they have inadvertently uncovered the cores multiple times (that is a huge lack of awareness of the conditions at the plant).

            There is too little time between the quake and the tsunami to declare that the result was created by the tsunami alone. I will wait for cooler assessments to be made postmortem…if possible.

            The plant will most likely undergo entombment.

      • geffe

        Saul with all due respect. The tsunami was caused by the earthquake. If the quake did not happen no tsunami.
        Why is this so hard to get?

        • Saul

          I’m not sure what your point is.

          I get that. Really.

          Would it help if I said “the plant survived the earthquake generated shaking, but not the earthquake generated tsunami”?

          I think it’s interesting in the “lessons learned” category, to understand how the Japanese got the former so right and the latter so wrong.

          Why is that so hard to get?

          • geffe

            My point is people keep thinking in the wrong way about this.
            The fault was in the design that’s a given. The Japanese relied on a tsunami wall for the reactors that was not designed for a 30 foot wall of water. They had the generators near the water instead of higher up or even off the ground. So you have two design flaws right there.

            This was 9 point earthquake which is huge. That’s the point, you down play the earthquake when it was the event. It’s all connected.

  • TerryTreeTree

    How many Wind-Turbines and Solar Collectors would it take to equal ALL of the currently addmitted dangers, and problems of these Nuclear Power Plants? How many to leak the billions of barrels of oil, spilled by one oil drilling platform? Do the people that gain the most money from oil, coal, and nuclear, that keep insisting on how safe it is, LIVE and WORK within the worst dangers of their industry? Before the first Nuclear Power Plant was built, the ‘experts’ said they had planned for ALL possible contingencies. Japan, due to experience of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, had the most Nuclear Power cautious people of any country. Their people were more wary of it,and insisted on the BEST safeguards, and the Best available Nuclear Technology in their power plants.
    ALL Nuclear Power Plants should have to be upgraded to 9.5 earthquakes, with upgrade of safeguards to deal with a worse situation than has just happened, before any new plants can be built. ANY new plants should have to be designed to deal with worse.

    Terry

    • Philonous

      9.5 magnitude earthquake? That happens only exceedingly rarely.

      • krypton

        thats what they said about a “9″ not too very long ago. and we have had 2 of those in just a few years…
        fact is, we do not know what is rare anymore. we are not earth-mind readers. why tempt fate?

      • TerryTreeTree

        8.9 was considered to be nearly impossible.

    • krypton

      rather than do all of that re-designing, why not start perfecting the other alternatives instead? why bother kicking a dead horse?

      • Philonous

        Nuclear power isn’t dead. For some applications, it’s the only workable source–submarines and some space vehicles, for example.

        • krypton

          i give a *F* about those! I want to live clean and grow food and be sheltered in a sensible safe manner. thats all we need.

          • Philonous

            I want to know what’s out in the solar system and beyond, and I want a strong defense as well as exploration of the deep ocean, so I still want nuclear power for those applications.

          • Cory

            So you want a cadle lit agrarian world with a population that never exceeds 1.5 billion?

          • krypton

            and you call this a culture? fat slobs glued to light boxes.
            seriously, you are being the alarmist with comments like that..We have to START somewhere and take some steps. you cant know all the answers before starting. all i am saying is lets TRY something different and NOW. it will take time and go in steps, step by step.

      • TerryTreeTree

        Redesign because the nuclear plants won’t be shut down today. I’m all for perfecting, and mass producing, alternatives today. Many devices and processes to conserve energy (fuel) have been stopped by polluting industries.

    • Cory

      Terry, just because the highest recorded richter scale reading recorded was 9.5 in Chile in 1960, doesn’t preclude the possibility that a 9.6 could occur. Just sayin’!

  • http://www.ukumbwa.com Ukumbwa

    ANY technology, for energy or any other purpose, that leaves as residue TOXIC WASTE, is inherently flawed, no matter what the $aving$ are. Your experts handily dodged the deeper question posed to THEM about their way of spinning this human tragedy….a tragedy lived out by the mere presence of so many working nuclear plants right now. This issue goes beyond energy, beyond electricity and balance sheets. Because we can pretty up the picture doesn’t mean that there is not a deep tear in the underlying canvas. Nuclear power is a horrible mistake in principle and a sad statement of modern myopic arrogance in practice.

    • Cory

      Fine, what is your solution? Do you propose a candle lit agrarian society?

      • http://www.ukumbwa.com Ukumbwa

        Cory, unluckily, your questions point to that myopia I speak of. Most people who espouse the modern mistake have no real clue as to what the options are. You seem to want to define humanity by its tools and that is a modern mistake. We have much to learn from the longer history of indigeny on this earth as opposed to the short time that modernity has been making it’s grand mistakes. And if this is about ME having a solution, then we are wrong again, though I may be able to voice the generalities of human genius. That human genius does not belong to me. Our modern problem is one of simple math. These technological and social choices do not add up. And to get to your “point”, if we actually were adult enough to do the math and live as though we were actually world citizens in a delicately balanced universal eco-system, as all indigenous cultures have recognized, we might just find that living in candle-lit agrarian societies IS the way to avoid the serious and deep disease and stress states that modernity has so “proudly” created and, at least, that we may have to seriously rethink and retool and pull away from many of the functionally flawed technologies that the academic/scientific/corporatist complex has created and championed. What if candle lit agrarian societies actually WERE the best way to live on the earth in a sustainable and peaceful fashion? Would you have the maturity to let go of your modern technologies to live in a way that would suggest respect and love for future generations….say, seven generations or so?

        Your question is actually, though, such a limiting and desperate reach for the “blue pill”. It feels comfortable to be able to lie back in the ideological “asendency” of modern thought and pseudo-convenience. The lives of privilege we lead are the result of lives and eco-systems oppressed in other areas…we live at the behest of enviro-benefit displacement. There is a core inside of us that know that this can not continue any longer, no matter what people with nice titles and letters after their name say (and I have a few of those letters myself). We have yet to sit down and come to terms with the real effects of our actions in this world…as a modern social group. And when (or if?) we do, we may just find out that a radically different way of being is required if we aspire to be able to look our children in the eyes and be able to tell them that we’ve done our best, that the world we’re handing over to them is a safe world. We can’t do that right now and you know that. We all know that.

        If we continue on this path, our children will curse us as they consider looking into the eyes of their own children. We are making deep mistakes. There are traditional ways of being on this earth that are tested by time and the sanity and groundedness of the creators of those traditions. Those ways are manifold. Though there may yet be some usable ways of being and creating and relating that come out of the modern experiment, history shows us that those indigenous traditions are the most reliable. We must learn to adapt them to our current realities in these challenging times.

        And if that means candles, then we better figure out why all the bee populations are decreasing so drastically.

        • Cory

          Sooooo… Yes.

          I agree with almost all of your points, but the idealism must be juxtaposed with a fair dose of reality. You’ll notice another of my posts where I say we are collectively stupid and are incapable of changing until the change is forced upon us. I am certainly open to the argument that we took a wrong turn when we develpoed food surplusses, currency, and specialization. Nevertheless, here we are.

          • http://www.ukumbwa.com Ukumbwa

            Was not the thought of a nuclear future “idealistic”? Was not the idea of space travel “idealistic”…or a world “run by computers”? Why is the better alternative, the grounded reality of common, on the ground (indigenous) sense be put into the charged context of “idealism”? I am grateful for our resonance on this issue, but the terms within which we couch our possible solutions must be dealt with. To throw the most real things about human development, our traditional genius, is but to say that success is impossible. That is unwise and incorrect. And I don’t agree that we are collectively stupid and incapable of changing. There is too much clear and abiding genius in the universal human body. A corporate/governmental elite has created unconscious addictions and life-patterns for the majority of people that have confusing paths for resolution because the solutions we hear about most are FROM that elite. That is madness. We can change. We can figure that out. It just takes more work than we are used to exerting in a social framework that we’ve been convinced is beyond engaging, that the facebooks and iPads and electronics/robotics and virtual surreality are the only locus of hope for humanity.

            Change does not have to be forced upon us. Saying that devalues all of us and allows us to sit and wait for the change to be forced by the elite, not developed compassionately by the populace fully engaging its humanity. We cannot go on living lives limited to current, dominant ideological frameworks. It’s our task to spread clarity and understanding wherever we can, to build trust in humanity and to live as though we believe and trust in what we know and think correct. We have to be willing to change behavior…and we can do that.

            Yeah, here we are. But until everyone knows exactly what that means, what price we have paid to get where we are, we won’t ever grow beyond the narrow vision that the creators of the status quo see for us through their dollar-colored glasses.

            Nature teaches us that everything changes. We may be “here” now, but our future “there” is coming and we all must be a part of developing what it’s going to be like.

  • Jimaach

    As a worker in a US nuclear plant, I usually cringe when I hear experts discussing nuclear issues, since they typically have no real world experience and tend to drift into flights of fancy. The guests on the first 40 minutes of your show were different however — they were really good. Well done.

    My novel “Rad Decision” culminates in an event very similar to the Japanese tragedy. (Same reactor type, same initial problem – a station blackout with scram.) The book is an excellent source of perspective for the lay person — as I’ve been hearing from readers. It is available free online at the moment at http://RadDecision.blogspot.com . Reader reviews are in the homepage comments.

  • Stephen Smith

    Don’t panic. The nukes we have online are ancient technology, inherently fussy and each one, a custom-designed swiss watch, ripe for failure. However, the new nuke technology, PBR’s which do NOT use water but liquid sodium or helium as heat transfer are SAFE. If one fails, and the circulating medium is totally breached by nature, by being emptied, by terrorist bombing–guess what. It fails and shuts down the reaction PASSIVELY. This is very advanced technology. Test reactors are being built in China and elsewhere, because, quite frankly without these, we have no hope in the immediate future of converting from fossil fuels. These new PBR’s can be made modular, so the huge lead time from conception to going online is minimal. And the components of these small reactors can be transported and setup quickly. If we implement this technology, it would clean up our skies, make LA a breathable city, and allow us to proceed to total electric cars, new electric infrastructure, and leave these dinosaurs–relics of the “atomic” age of the 40′s-50′s behind. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, let’s throw the water-cooled ancient reactors out. And replace them with PBRs.

    • Saul

      Yes, let’s rush ahead to replace our current reactors with models that have not even been put into production yet. That would be prudent.

    • http://www.ukumbwa.com Ukumbwa

      I can’t believe we as creative humans can’t perceive that cutting BACK our energy usage is a viable option. Stephen, your statement smacks of nothing but technical hubris without human and environmental consideration. We are part of nature that nuclear TOXIC WASTE is killing, maybe slowly, but IS killing. This argument is akin to the confidence of a 5 year old who has a more current copy of a toy or video game, strutting about as if he is king of the playground. Modern science has afforded us a(n) (un)comfortable divorce from the intuitive skills that tell us that this nuclear path is a dead end, particularly when we look at ever-increasing energy requirements simply to run machines of convenience, not cultural life systems of necessity.

      • krypton

        right on!
        And also, many so-called scientists are more dogmatic than the religionists.

      • Anonymous

        The problem with intuition is that it can be very wrong. I’d rather data, thank you very much.

        • http://www.ukumbwa.com Ukumbwa

          Data is good and can be very helpful. Intuitive skills are often right most of the time when those skills are developed and culturally validated. And do keep in mind, we are in a veritable data glut right now in history….”information super-highway” and all that crap….and look at the shape we are in. Yes, data is wonderful, but it is not the only way of knowing….the problem of the scientific complex and your point is that it refuses to respect the human technological instrument in the validation of knowledge. And with that we get shaky nuclear infrastructure, rampant pollution and environmental degradation and nutritive diseases of excess. Yeah, data alone is doing just great. (that was sarcasm….since you only go with data and not intuition and other human software skills, you might not realize that) ; ) (wink)

    • TerryTreeTree

      Build the PBRs on sites of existing reactors, so that risks won’t be increased, fuel that can be utilized won’t be transported far, switchyards can be shared, power will be available to decommission the old plants, and many other advantages, including a savings of security costs. IF they’re as safe as you say. Many safer options exist.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks! Very interesting!

    • Kurt

      So these are the same Chinese that built elementary schools that collapsed on all their kids in THEIR earthquake a few years ago? And they’re testing a new kind of reactor that positively, absolutely cannot fail? Oh goody, now I’ll sleep better at night.

  • liza

    If I heard correctly, one of the guests said that the only significant increase in cancer as a result of the Chernobyl accident was the epidemic of thyroid cancer among children, but that in any case, cancer is a common disease. Yes, it has become an incredibly “common disease,” and why is that? There is no question that cancer rates have increased dramatically over the past few decades, and this cannot possibly be because people are living longer since more people are getting cancer at younger ages.

    Though I don’t disagree with Pilonous – “The only way to determine if a release of radiation caused the cancer is to look at the population in the region as a whole… One cancer occurance (sic), by itself,
    does not prove the cause” – I don’t see anyone actually doing, or even trying to do this “looking.” What I do see is a cancer-medical complex which has no interest in determining the causes of cancer, which does
    not even question (until forced) its own role in the rise of cancer due to diagnostic testing (often unnecessary and unregulated), never mind being concerned about the radiation to which we have all been exposed for so many decades from hiroshima and on through weapons testing and nuclear plant accidents and “incidents.”
    Granted, radiation is not the sole cause of the increase of cancer, but at least until Three Mile Island, its critics has been dismissed as looney tree-huggers, despite the evidence and concerns raised by very
    mainstream scientists, including those involved with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

    When will we ever learn?

    • Anonymous

      One reason cancer rates have increased is because we live longer.

      If you die of typhoid before you reach the age of 30 you’re unlikely to get cancer.

      Other factors, obesity, lack of vitamin D (maybe — science is still out on that) may also contribute, but longevity is probably the main reason.

      • liza

        As I wrote, longevity cannot explain the increase in cancer among people who are young – whether you consider ‘young’ to be 60, 50
        or 40 (and, obviously, even younger).
        The generation before mine, for example (I was born in 1945), was not dying of typhoid before they were 30; most of them seem to be living longer than succeeding generations will, judging by the current rising cancer rates.
        As long as corporations run the country, we will continue to be poisoned, one way or another.

  • krypton

    Brandstad,
    I want to put it on the record that i am smarter than those 1000 scientists. . And so is Zeno. I have no proof, of course, but it is true.

  • Sherm Grossman

    I have never heard more fear mongering than I did from the representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists. She played right into our native pastime of wanting everything for nothing and with zero risk.
    So I suggest that all UCS members turn their thermostats down to 65 degree in winter and, if cold, wear their woolies all the time; stop traveling by any means of conveyance other than public transportation (or trains for longer distances); sell their dwellings to buy only LEED Platinum-certified houses; sell, or don’t buy their electric cars; never run their air conditioners in summer and unplug all their heavy energy-consuming appliances.
    Because we ARE dependent on energy and if we don’t change our approach to using it, we’ll continue to need more, and when one rates the risk of slowly poisoning our atmosphere with the byproducts of hydrocarbon fuel burning vs. risking a nuclear “event,” I’ll take the risk of the latter against the sure thing of the former.

    • krypton

      thats a false choice. a very small box to think in.

    • geffe

      I’m already doing that. My thermostat was never above 62 this winter. I do drive as public transportation is not so good in my part of the city. I don’t use AC in the summer anymore. This is more about money than the environment.

      • http://www.ukumbwa.com Ukumbwa

        But the environment will always be “more” than our money.

    • http://www.ukumbwa.com Ukumbwa

      Our dependency on “energy” is a created reality, not a required reality. This is a choice that we don’t need to make, to create more nuclear plants simply because the corporations want to keep selling us machines that work on electricity. This is short-sighted ideological confusion with no integrity. Modern technologies are choices, not requirements.

      • Worried for the country(MA)

        Nope. Cheap energy = prosperity

        • http://www.ukumbwa.com Ukumbwa

          But that is the core of your major flaw….what is the non-dollar price, the environmental, the social price of that energy technology. We are paying for things that the corporations refuse to put on the balance sheet and can’t. Not everything is reducible to “cheap” or expensive. To do that is infantile…just because we can doesn’t mean we should. We are paying a high price for our creation of economically “cheap” non-solutions. It’s too bad you aren’t right about that. I wish it were as simple as your “nope”….but it ain’t…and way more people than you are missing the bigger issues.

          • Henry in SC

            You have that right, Ukumbwa! “The Weather Changers” should be required reading for everyone on the planet. Climate has about as much to do with weather as an elephant does to an amoeba. Our climate is changing and it is clearly human-caused. All the science bears that out. CO2 has steadily and relentless increased since the start of the keeping of records. As TWC book points out what will be the salvation of the planet’s future is a paradigm shift in energy policy, away from corporate control of energy options to something on the community and individual level. Communities in Europe are already there. Even 3rd world countries will be able to do this. Coal is perhaps the worst culprit. The future can be a combination of wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and many others NOT fossil & we can turn this around. It is possible. We have the will. Corporations exist for fat profits alone, witness the Koch brothers, they clearly could care less about the earth as they refuse to live in a real world. Their greed & the misinformation of the tea-baggers who want to guy EPA, etc. mean that in the end all mattering to them is the bottom line and self-interest. To save the planet I guess we may have to move beyond capitalism. The capitalists who sold nuclear power to Japan, a place clearly in constant grave seismic danger has shown us in the end scientific reality always trumps PR & sales and bottom lines. I am looking for any “good” news here & find none. We all need to shift our paradigms here, learn and get on with our future…

          • http://www.ukumbwa.com Ukumbwa

            Thank you, Henry, for this great input. This is part of the necessary clarity that we must engage in, engaging a change in US, not just the tools with which we degrade and desacralize the earth and ourselves. Unluckily our good news is elsewhere, in places that even On Point seems many times reluctant to go.

      • Anonymous

        So you type on your energy requiring device.

        • Kurt

          Where are low-energy computers? These things are energy hogs. We need computers that are all-in-one solar-powered, hand-crankable, AND plug-in-able to conserve energy. From the EnergyStar website “If all computers sold in the US meet ENERGY STAR requirements, the savings in energy costs will grow to more than $1.5 billion each year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 2 million vehicles.”

          And treating mobile phones as throwaway devices–what are the energy costs to clean up that pollution and make new ones? All these new devices that are supposedly obsolete wind up on land fills, causing pollution and requiring even more energy to clean up. And more energy to make the “new, improved” ones.

        • http://www.ukumbwa.com Ukumbwa

          Exactly. That’s what I am doing. I’ve made a conscious choice to use these technologies in particular ways for particular progressive reasons….and sometimes I drive cars, mostly zipcars when I do. And what I don’t recycle ends up in landfills like the refuse you get temporarily rid of. Kurt below raises a better question than the suggestion that because I want us to seriously consider the unconscious process that has created these technologies and contributes to greater digital/electronic proliferation and waste that my usage, for the particular and controlled reason I use them should be somehow immediately curtailed so you don’t have to hear a serious challenge to our societal dependence. I get your point, ultramarine73, but it is not well placed for the resolution of the suggested issue. The implication is that my input and others like mine to this latent discussion should be ended instead of the communicative channels being used with prinicipled conviction to raise an important social issue. No, I will not resort to distributing hand-printed flyers with natural ink pigments….yet. Yes, we all need to be held to our personal levels of responsibility, but, if you had asked, I could actually have told you how deeply I consider my electronic technology usage. I check myself daily on this issue. I hope you would join me in this endeavor and provide some input that actually helps us all to get some deeper clarity on this vexing issue rather than speaking the obvious to someone who it seems you don’t know.

    • Kurt

      Im not a UCS member, DO turn the thermostat down (to 64 days/60 nights in winter), wear longjohns and use afghans in winter, take public transportation whenever possible. I’ve also weatherized my house and plugged air leaks as best I could, installed insulation and storm windows, have a smaller car that gets high gas mileage (not an SUV with 11 mi to the gallon)–hope I can afford a hybrid when the current car dies), run a small a/c only in 2 rooms (one is for the kids) at night only when temp + humidity are quite high, use solar-powered fans, solar-powered radio when possible, use Energy Star appliances, fluorescent light bulbs in all my lamps and light fixtures but one (has an intermediate stem I can’t find in a fluorescent–can’t afford rewiring the fixture just now), unplug everything but the fridge/freezer and one automatic coffeemaker/clock at night (that’s an unnecessary indulgence, I admit) and unplug other appliances when not in immediate use. Except the TV, which has some settings that get totally screwed up when the power’s been off. These are currently not very popular things to do, or possible for everybody (the elderly might need it warmer in winter, for example), but if more people did stuff like this we might not need so much energy.

      I’ve seen closed office buildings with lights on all night and know that many keep computers on, a/c on, etc., even though nobody’s there. Multiply it by the thousands, and you’re talking serious energy waste.

    • Jose

      I lived in Japan for a number of years and dreaded the winter months. The cost of heating a home was very, very expensive so we just turned off the heat at night and only heated one room during the day. I find the idea of living like that here in the USA very depressing and stupid. To inflict this type of living style on millions of people just to keep some green movement happy is insane.

  • The Geezer

    The tragedy in Japan is horrific. However, I suspect the number of casualties caused by the nuclear accident is going to be a small fraction of those caused by the earthquake and the resulting tsunami.

    The media – including some of the focus of the moderator on this show – was on some possible future catastrophe caused by the nuclear plants.

    Why? I suspect that it goes to a psyche that the nuclear plant failures are happening because of something that man has done, and we think we can control what man is doing.

    These nuclear plants are not failing directly because of the earthquake or the tsunami, but because of a design error that assumed that the backup power generation — needed for the orderly shutdown of the reactor – was safely sited. This is a disasterous mistake, but one that is very correctable at all nuclear plants throughout the world.

    Instead of being concerned about earthquake survivability for nuclear plants, we should appreciate that this disaster shows that a nuclear plant can be built to survive one of the most severe earthquakes in hstory. I am sure that the engineers will find ways to improve on this survivability based on lessons learned from this disaster.

    Some have commented on the closeness of the plant to the sea. Nuclear plants require a lot of water for cooling so siting them near bodies of water is an effective practice so large volumes of coolant do not need to be transported great distances. This is especially important for earthquake survivability.

    Mention was made of how escaped radiation from Chernobyl got into the milk supply and caused health problems in children. A comparable awareness should exist about escaped radiation that may blow out to see and get into the seafood supply that all Japanese depend on.

    Dr. Forsburg’s point about balancing risks between going to war for oil versus increased use of nuclear energy is an important point that is seldom part of the general discussion.

    If engineers design and build nuclear plants based on all of the current best practices and do not skimp on quality or cut corners to save a buck in the construction, nuclear energy is the key to providing a safe replacement for the fossil fuels that we will undoubtedly run out of.

    As much as I like wind and solar, they have the limitations of requring massive land footprints and operating at a small fraction of a 24/7 duty cycle that is required.

    Last point… The total volume of nuclear waste that the US has created ever is small. If the US government repeals the 1950s law enacted to protect the uranium mining industry that prevented the spent nuclear fuel rods from being reprocessed (as is done routinely everywhere else in the world), then the volume of waste would be reduced by 90%. Based on what I have read, even packed in proper lead lined concrete barrels, all of the re-processed waste could fit in one or two railroad boxcars.

    Disposing of the waste needs to be based on finding locations that are geologically appropriate not politically expedient. Yucca Mountain is not and never has been approrpriate. We should review how this is handled in Europe and Asia where this is not the public concer it is in the US.

    Remember, that the largest opponents of expanding the use of nuclear energy in the US are the Oil, Gas, and Coal industries who know it is a major threat to their businesses. Bring on the special interest scare mongering!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for such a well reasoned and informative comment.

    • Burt

      Given the fact that the costs for new nuclear power plants are already significantly higher than other CO2 reducing options, it’s doubtful that increasing their costs to make them safer is somehow going to make them more competitive.

      newsweek.com/2008/05/17/missing-the-market-meltdown.html

      • The Geezer

        The high intrinsic cost of nuclear power plants is another one of the great lies coming out the fossil fuel world.

        Two cost factors need to be considered:

        1/ Fossil Fuel plants need to be continually feed with increasingly expensive fuel sourced internationally to produce energy. The fuel cost, including the cost of disposal, for nuclear energy is almost almost insignificant. And the fuel can be sourced domestically, practically forever.

        2/ Significant economies can be achieved by siting multiple plants within the same location. Using a common design, a single safety and security organization, etc. can bring the unit cost for each nuclear plant down to the level of a fossil fuel plant.

        The fossil fuel industry knows that nuclear can be inherently cheaper than their alternative so they encourage all of the scare tactics.

        They have been so effective that nuclear power plant developement in the United States has been effectively stalled for 20-30 years. So, of course, all of the existing plants are getting old and are not as efficient or safe as plants being built with current technology.

        • Burt

          Besides the fact that the nuclear corporations are pointing out the high capital costs themselves: thestar.com/comment/columnists/article/665644 , n.pr/731PLn
          Which is probably a reason why new nuclear power plant require so much subsidies: bit.ly/9H16Ok

          In 2009 China installed 14 GW of wind, 23 GW of hydro, 29 GW of solar thermal, and 9 GW of geothermal and 0 GW of new nuclear power. Is this because China is somehow ruled by Greenpeace and not because the renewable options are less costly and built faster? bit.ly/fndUjs

          By the way why do we need international tax-payer paid organizations such as Euratom and IAEA to promote nuclear energy and none to promote efficiency and renewable energies?

          And why has nuclear energy received order of magnitudes more R&D funding than renewables and conservation according to world-nuclear? bit.ly/eRwJhy

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    Brandstad,
    LOL! I think you have misinterpreted my position.

    Climate science is a very immature science. Further, a cabal of ‘save the planet’ climate scientists have bungled scientific method and corrupted the peer review process.

    Scientists from other disciplines have taken notice and called them to task. Check out this short analysis by Dr. Richard Muller (Berkeley physicist) on the most famous ‘climategate’ incident:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BQpciw8suk

    I think you’ll enjoy it.

    • Anonymous

      I apologize. My previous post that followed yours was not intended for your vary fair post that I do agree with.

      Climate science is as you say ” immature ” so much so that we don’t know what the weather will be in 45 days but some people think that a computer model will magically tell us the exact temperature in 100 years.

      Please continue to post your very insightful and not well distributed information.

    • geffe

      So what’s happening in the polar regions is not due to global warming? Is this what you guys are saying? Because they are both losing huge amounts of ice and snow every year. Greenland is losing prodigious amounts of it’s glaciers. The question I have for people like you and anyone else who denies that global warming is the problem or even part of the problem in this phenomenon is this:

      What if your wrong?

      • Worried for the country(MA)

        “What if your wrong? ” about climate change.

        This is a reasonable question.

        First, did man cause the global warming? Not clear, but let’s say yes.

        Now we have to ask ourselves, is warming bad? Is CO2 bad? We know historically that the current CO2 levels are much lower than the historical high. We also know that CO2 is food for plants.

        We also know that the earth has natural cycles. There are ice ages about every 10,000 years. We are now in the zone of a possible new ice age. We also know the earth has been much warmer.

        I think we can agree that cooling is more dangerous for the earth than warming. We know the ice was more than 1 mile deep over NYC during the last ice age.

        Finally, let’s say we know we want to reverse what man has done because we can then revert to the optimal temperature (whatever that is). How do we do that? Build the Halliburton CO2 sponge? Even if we could get the Chinese and Indians to agree to stop all CO2 emissions, its not clear that it would have any effect. I’ve seen proposals to inject large sulfur clouds into the upper atmosphere to force cooling. I believe this is technically feasible but do we really want to do this?

        The good news is I think there is common ground. If we can agree that we need economical, clean energy AND get off foreign oil due to the inherent geo-political and economic risks we can get there quickly. Nuclear and next gen nuclear gets us CO2 free electric power at relatively low cost. I like what Steven Chu is doing with the ARPA-E solar investments. His goal is coal parity (installed < $1/W). Natural gas as a bridge for transportation.

        Back to the climate, I suggest you look at this essay by the MIT climate scientist Richard Lindzen. He makes the case that we shouldn't rush to judgment quite yet on climate action:

        http://thegwpf.org/opinion-pros-a-cons/2229-richard-lindzen-a-case-against-precipitous-climate-action.html

  • Busara1

    If, instead of nuclear power plants, Japan generated power with wind farms, what would the situation be now?

    • Gregg

      They would never have become the industrial power house they are and all the birds would be shredded.

      • John

        Actually domesticated cats kill thousands more birds with the difference that a single domesticated cat cannot power 1000 households.
        Also Germany is not only getting 10% of its power from wind and photovoltaics it is actually exporting over 80% of its wind turbines with a profit.

  • Anonymous

    Shows like these are why I listen to NPR. Thank you for the very balanced coverage.

  • Sean

    The chaos that is ensuing in the world, despite the seeming unrelatedness of the many events, is a result of one function- overpopulation. This is the issue that we, the entire world, are too afraid to confront directly. We find indirect ways of struggling with the issue- like arguing about climate change and clean energy (including the oil and nuclear questions), about the distribution of wealth, about food production and distribution, etc. Why not begin discussing a strategy for curbing the rise in the Earth’s population, dialing down our “need” for mass technological consumption and waste production (or is this an addiction??), and beginning to envision a planet based more on Aboriginal wisdom, like Ukumbwa has suggested?

    Will On Point provide a forum to discuss the issue of overpopulation? We would be able to bring a lot of loose ends together and make a lot of necessary connections between the many uprisings in the Middle East (really about the power structures created in the interest of controlling oil wealth), the nuclear energy question, the issues of climate change and natural disaster (are they related??), etc. When we start to imagine a world based less on financial speculation (a fabricated reality) and more on the human factor (real reality), then we may begin to make progress toward a collective, cooperative, equitable, constructive future instead of toward hysteria and mayhem (which is the result of a fabricated, abstracted, non-humanistic worldview).

    • Kurt

      Well, see it goes back to Pres. Bush I and Pres. Bush II, who didn’t want to fund Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood International anymore because of the religious groups that oppose abortion. THe Republicans wanted those votes. BUT, if we had encouraged family planning and distributed reliable (and much-wanted) family planning devices and contraceptives in developing countries, we wouldn’t be in such a pickle. We were on the right track until the 1980s or so.

      Oh, and it also takes educating women, because when women are better educated and begin to make a bit of money, their husbands don’t demand more children as a way to add to the family coffers down the road. And better educated women have healthier children who don’t die, and when fewer children are dying within a community, women overall reduce their family sizes by not having more kids to compensate for the ones who will get sick and perish.

      But we just defunded Planned Parenthood, so go figure. I agree, an On Point show on this topic would be terrific.

    • Lesly

      I have been listening to this show and reading the comments and it seems strange to me that no one brings up the possibility of everyone making a small sacrifice and simply using less energy rather than doing things that take more money and government intervention, such as population control and developing new “clean” energy technology. One of the guests on the show mentioned that nuclear power is very “unforgiving” and I think this is an insight we should not take lightly. When we have no way of knowing whether a source of energy can be disposed of safely in less than 1000 years, it seems irresponsible to go ahead and use it anyway just because we think more power is a necessity. Especially when many of the things that require this extra power are not necessities but luxuries (ie: televisions, computers, microwaves).

      I think in these sorts of crises it is important to think about what each of us can do personally to fix the problem and if that means giving up appliances that are very convenient but not “necessary” so that we can curb the ever-growing demand for more power, we should do so. It would be an interesting experiment to see how much less power would be required if just those 3 appliances I mentioned got even half the use they currently get!

      Maybe I am falsely optimistic about the ability of individuals to have a significant impact on the power industry, but in situations such as the current one, where many people are worried about the people in Japan and worried about the possibility of something similar happening here in the U.S. but don’t know what they can do to help, it seems assessing one’s own energy consumption and how much of it can be done away with is a good first step. And actually doing away with that extra energy consumption an even better second step. At least it seems more doable than hoping for governmental change!

  • Arius

    I was listening to couple of international news channels and it seems like everything else, quality of news coverage and analysis is also degrading in the US. This program as a whole didn’t give out any technical or otherwise details about the disaster. Japanese have tried to cool down reactors by adding boron in sea water to contain spread etc.. there are 10 other things which these guys could have brought up including impact on financial markets etc in little bit more detail.. very poor job.

  • geffe

    It now turns out the the type of reactors they have at the Fukushima Daiichi plant have a serious design flaw. One in that has been known since the 70′s. If the nuclear industry wants to be taken seriously they need to do better than this. It’s just not good enough.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/asia/16contain.html?hp

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      Geffe,
      Thanks for that pointer. Very interesting.

      It will be interesting to see if the Japanese reactors have the upgrades mandated in the US.

      I’ve read that reactor 2 has MOX fuel (reprocessed weapons). It’ll be interesting if that was a contributor or just coincidence that this is the most problematic reactor.

      • Worried for the country(MA)

        Also, once things settle down in Japan if the prediction of a 90% failure rate comes to fruition.

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    geffe,
    Before you put complete faith in the ‘climate scientists’ and completely dismiss ‘climategate’ as a farce (it was actually an insider whistle blower). Check out this scathing analysis by Dr. Richard Muller, Berkley (5 minutes):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BQpciw8suk

    • geffe

      I don’t know but when an overwhelming amount of scientist say there is a lot of proof that this is happening I’m inclined to give them the some credence. Talk to the people of Newport Virginia about faith and climate change. Their town is sinking and it’s happening right before their eyes.

      We can say whatever we like about this subject one way or another. The reality is something is happening and it’s happening now.

    • Robot

      It’s important to remember that while “climate gate” gained much sensational attention, the questionable data and emails that produced the news story were few in number amoung a vast quantity of research from many years. These few faulty reports and exchanges do not invalidate decades of solid climate research, supported by respected scientists and institutions, (like NASA and NOAA to name two).

      A little added perspective on Richard Muller at Berkley:

      http://www.grist.org/article/2011-02-14-exclusive-richard-muller-charles-koch-judith-curry-and-the

  • Paul

    Hi guys,

    How long before these rods cool down enough to get the situation under control?

  • Christopher LeFay

    Although I have only been follow events as an interested non-professional, I was greatly disappointed by the relatively insubstantial dialogue of the program- perhaps if the host had been acquainted with both the technology and contemporary reports sufficiently to ask important questions and critically review the answers the broadcast could have been useful. I would have been better off giving my time to the BBC, Spiegel, or Al Jazeera.

  • dAr

    Why hasn’t any more been said about China’s ability to recover spent uranium, as disclosed in the news article on January 11 this year?

  • Shawn

    Hi Tom
    This is a question that might be considered as a wild card endeavor; would it be possible to dislodge a fault line by exploding a nuclear device undersea? Admittedly this is an odd question that might be explored by looking at the charts to see if there was an unusually large, single event that does not match the usual makeup of a quake.

    Without sounding sinister, I’m wondering if some accident might have taken place with a warhead or something.

    Shawn Orlebeck
    Author, Raven Dancer
    RavenDancer.Blogspot.Com

ONPOINT
TODAY
Jul 31, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin heads the Cabinet meeting in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence, outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 30, 2014.  (AP)

The US and Europe face off against Russia. Are we looking at Cold War II? Something hotter?

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A comical sign suggest the modern workplace is anything but collegial . (KW Reinsch / Flickr)

When the boss is a bad apple. How some pretty dark traits can push some to the top.

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Conservative firebrand Dinesh D’Souza says he wants an America without apologies. He’s also facing jail time. We’ll hear him out.

 
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Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Israel escalated its military campaign against Hamas on Tuesday, striking symbols of the group's control in Gaza and firing tank shells that shut down the strip's only power plant in the heaviest bombardment in the fighting so far. (AP)

Social media is changing how the world sees and talks about Israel and Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians. We’ll look at the impact.

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