Thursday, July 19, 2007

Between the Fault Lines

As has been the case with virtually every nuclear power plant incident in the last 50 years, the operators at the Tokyo Electric Plant admitted after the fact that damage to the reactor was worse than initially reported last week and, in a small, barely reported side note stated that the earthquake force had exceeded the design limits of the reactors at the site. In a article, Harvey Wasserman surveyed some of the other catastrophes waiting to happen, plants located on or near fault lines, where a severe temblor could contaminate a region the size of a state. In the article summary, Harvey says:
To this list we must now add additional tangible evidence that reactors allegedly built to withstand “worst case” earthquakes in fact cannot. And when they go down, the investment is lost, and power shortages arise (as is now happening in Japan) that are filled by the burning of fossil fuels.

It costs up to ten times as much to produce energy from a nuke as to save it with efficiency. Advances in wind, solar and other green “Solartopian” technologies mean atomic energy simply cannot compete without massive subsidies, loan guarantees and government insurance to protect it from catastrophes to come.

This latest “impossible” earthquake has not merely shattered the alleged safeguards of Japan’s reactor fleet. It has blown apart—yet again—any possible argument for building more reactors anywhere on this beleaguered Earth.

Earthquakes and nuclear reactors are a volatile combination and one we definitely don't need if we want to balance safety and energy efficiency.