If a nuclear disaster like Fukushima can rip apart a historically cohesive society like Japan, what effect would a Fukushima-like disaster have on American society? The Asahi Shimbun reports that "ties" have unraveled in Japanese society in the wake of the Fukushima catastrophe. Thus, what was once seen as a benign source of energy for the Japanese people has turned into an issue that stands to undermine the very foundations upon which modern Japanese society is resting upon: the government, the family, social trust.
In America, we're assured by engineers, nuclear industry experts, government bureaucrats, and political "leaders" that the dangers posed by nuclear power are miniscule and in particular, a Fukushima-like disaster can never and will never happen here in the U.S. Whether or not we experience another Fukushima here in the U.S., however, there are disturbing trends that collectively add up to serious human and environmental health consequences. For instance, there have been at least 48 U.S. nuke sites that have been found with tritium leaks, a highly toxic substance. This list could grow in the coming years.
What might be most frustrating of all is that some nuclear power suppliers and their cronies in political office are attempting to force their respective customers and constituents to foot the bill for new nuclear power plants years in advance of their actual construction. In Georgia, such a taxpayer subsidy is being proffered by Georgia Power and their political stooges. But even if the idea of paying for energy years, maybe even a decade, in advance of its actual use doesn't bother you, the horrific history of nuclear plant delays and eventual abandonments are enough to make anyone reconsider any bid for down-payments for nuclear power plants, payments which may never be recovered by the taxpayers if the project is abandoned.
After the nuclear-reactor incidents in Japan, there were individuals in the U.S. audacious enough to scoff at warnings from anti-nuclear advocates that nuclear energy poses risks that have not been properly controlled and that probably cannot be properly controlled with current technology. Some advocates of nuclear energy attempt to point out that newer technologies in nuclear energy will solve many of the problems that anti-nuclear advocates deride. But new nuclear technologies still do not address the problems posed by older nuclear power plants and their reactors. These same reactors have seen an increase in radioactive leaks over the past few years.
The last fact is an important one because it underscores the stratified nature of information that has usually entered the debate around nuclear energy. That is, many of the most horrific facts about nuclear energy don't usually get entered into the public debate surrounding nuclear energy because doing so would probably scare a lot of Americans or induce them to change their minds about the perceived advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy. For instance, if I told you that every nuclear reactor in the U.S. has had a radioactive leak at some point in its history, would you still favor nuclear energy? Or how about the fact that in 1985, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission testified before Congress that there was a 45% chance that a "severe nuclear accident" would occur in the next 20 years. The fact that it hasn't, then, is something close to a miracle.
This shouldn't be a partisan issue, although it's looking more and more like it has become one. The Republican Party, for the most part, seems willing to brush the risk aside to embrace a nuclear future for the U.S. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, has largely stuck to a more precautionary position, not necessarily deriding nuclear power but also not advocating it without relatively strict limitations. Of course, these strict limitations look good on paper but are apparently rarely ever enforced with such stringency. So here's another reason to finally kick nuclear energy to the curb: the supposedly rigid regime of regulation ensured by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has come under fire for not ensuring that its own regulations are being carried out. There is absolutely no reason to conclude that this will change substantially anytime in the near future.
Discussions over nuclear policy usually tend to leave out the elephant in the room: nuclear waste. At present, there is no repository in the U.S. for waste, nor is there one even on the docket. A clear question arises then: how responsible is it to continue accumulating thousands of tons of nuclear waste without a clear and feasible solution to the repository dilemma? Consequently, how responsible is it to continue relying on nuclear energy for nearly 20% of the U.S.'s energy production? What sources of energy production are being obscured by a focus on nuclear energy?
While Japan's water-dependent nuclear power plants suck and wheeze and spew radioactive steam, "there has been no wind facility damage reported by any [Japan Wind Energy Association] members, from either the earthquake or the tsunami," says association head Yoshinori Ueda.Wind's clutch performance is especially notable in light of how much Japanese power companies have resisted it.
Even the country's totally badass Kamisu offshore wind farm, with its giant 2 MW turbines with blades big as the wings on a jumbo jet, and only 186 miles from the epicenter of the largest quake ever recorded in Japan, survived without a hiccup thanks to its "battle proof design." As a result, the nation's electric companies have asked all of its wind farms to increase power production to maximum, in order to make up for the shortfalls brought about by the failure of certain other aging, non-resilient 20th-century technologies.
Here in the United States, when we're making our energy choices we ignore things like how well they'll survive a disaster, or how vulnerable they'll leave us to global price shocks, or how many cases of asthma they'll cause. Instead, we pick our energy sources almost solely on how cheaply they can produce a unit of electricity. We get low prices in the short term, but like Japan's shaky nuclear construction, what long-term bills may come due?
UPDATE by Lowell: I've embedded the video after the "flip." Also, note to Teddy (or whoever else wants to post video) - just go in there and grab the embed code, it's very simple. Really! :)
Days ago the Pentagon realized that the paucity of American presence in the Mediterranean sent a signal for a power grab. The Mediterranean is becoming a Chinese lake filled with Iranian fish. The Chinese are at this instant establishing their hegemony with action in Libya. This moment became imminent the day Bush chose preemptive military action over posturing and leading from a position of strength. The entire United States naval force presence plan lays shattered.
The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. - Sun Tzu
The Republican frat boys whose strategic skills were honed during exam weeks playing all-night Risk and taking speed never learned from overextending their armies on the board. They were happy to defend Kamchatka successfully. But this is real and there are consequences. And they have been laid in President Obama's lap.