The horrifying news from Fukushima worsens daily. It is an unparalleled global catastrophe that cries out for anyone and everyone with nuclear expertise to pitch in.
Topping this list should be Dr. James Hansen. Hansen is a climate scientist and a hero of the global warming movement. He has courageously engaged in civil disobedience against mountaintop removal and the Keystone Pipeline.
Hansen also claims some nuclear expertise, a credential he’s used to justify his support for a new generation of Small Modular Reactors.
Many of us in the No Nukes campaign find this advocacy profoundly mystifying. Even under the best of circumstances, there will be no SMR prototype for as long as a decade or more.
The SMR’s primary customer, the Tennessee Valley Authority, has now pushed back to 2015 the target date for submitting its construction permit application. Even if wildly successful, the SMR could not meaningfully affect climate change for another 20 years—this in the midst of a crisis Hansen and so many others see as critical and immediate.
The SMR blueprint hinges on technologies that have already failed. The leading candidate for SMR production at this point seems to be Babcock & Wilcox, which brought us Three Mile Island and Ohio’s infamous Davis-Besse. It was there that boric acid ate through a pressure vessel to within a fraction of an inch of major disaster.
Big questions remain unanswered about the SMR’s health and environmental impacts such as on water, vulnerability to terrorism, its effects on waste disposal and much more.
We hope Hansen will switch from pushing the theoretical new SMR to helping humankind bring this all-too-real “old technology” disaster under control.
Perhaps he, McKibben, George Monbiot and other key climate activists can join us at Diablo Canyon to prevent the next Fukushima from happening there. Or at one of America’s three dozen “old technology” reactors threatened by global-warmed dam breaks and flooding, which has already inundated two reactors in Nebraska. Or at one of three U.S. reactors already damaged by seismic shocks, which in many places are being made even more dangerous by fracking.
Hansen certainly has the right to advocate a new generation of reactors. We can respectfully disagree.
But ask yourself: When you draw a line from Three Mile Island through Chernobyl and Fukushima, what comes next?
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- TEPCO may consider discharging contaminated water into sea: IAEA Xinhua News Agency via GlobalPost
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