Climate change should hasten end of nuclear power
The front-page article (“Experts: Warming world no place for nukes,” Sept. 25) reported about the risks of nuclear weapons in a rapidly warming world, as conflicts over land and resources increase.
Climate change will also make the risk of accidents at nuclear power facilities greater. Many of them are on or near the ocean or in places susceptible to tornadoes and earthquakes.
We already know what happens when there are co-occurring nuclear and natural disasters. Think Fukushima, Japan, 2011. The natural disaster created a radiological disaster, and the response to the meltdowns blocked emergency response to victims of the tsunami. Nor is this nuclear disaster in any way “over.”
Plans for radiological emergencies in the U.S. simply do not take this type of scenario into account. A storm like Harvey can block nuclear evacuation routes with debris and flooding. Designated shelters for nuclear evacuees could themselves be under evacuation orders, as was the one in Bay City, Texas. Designated first responders would be overwhelmed.
There were six nuclear power units in Texas and Florida under threat by Harvey or Irma. The nuclear watchdog group, Beyond Nuclear, called upon their operators and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to shut them down in advance of the hurricanes’ landfall. South Texas Units 1 and 2, on an ocean bay south of Houston, operated throughout Harvey. Florida Power & Light shut down Turkey Point 3 in advance of Irma’s arrival but kept Unit 2, right on Biscayne Bay, operational until a main feed water valve tripped. St. Lucie 1 and 2, located on a barrier island off the Florida coast, operated at 100 percent power until salt started caking in Unit 1’s switchyard.
Shutting down nuclear power plants costs a lot of money. But gambling with even remote odds of a nuclear accident for the sake of saving the nuclear industry money places industry interest above public safety.