You are on page 1of 2

July5,2011

AtomicEnergy,YesorNo:ItsYourCall Partoftheproblemwithevaluatingatomicenergyaspartofourdailylivesisthatmostpeopleare toopoorlyeducated(notstupid,justignorant)onthescienceinvolvedtoreallyunderstandhowitall worksand,becausetheydontgetthescience,theyareleftlisteningtopoliticians(themselvespretty ignorant)whoarepushinganagendaoftenwithoutanylongtermscientificassessmentor,worse, dependentonlobbyistswhohavetoldthemwhattothink.IamsorryChuckSchumer,theoneissueyou haveconsistentlybeenwrongonisatomicenergy.ChuckwasallfortheShorehamNuclearPowerPlant. $4billiontobuild,$4billiontotakedown.Chuckthoughtitwassafe.Sincethattime,hesbeen rethinking,thankfully. Look,anuclearpowerplantislikealargeteakettle.Theatomicreactormakesheat,loadsofitina controlledrunawayreactionofatomsbumpingintoeachother,smashingintothesidesoftheir container,bash,smash,loadsofheatbuildup.Putawatervesselontopofthisheatanditmakessteam. Thesteamwhistlesoutofthetopofthekettlepassingthroughapropeller(turbine),makingitspin whichturnsageneratormakingelectricity.Thewatercoolsandispipedbackintothekettlewhereit reheats.Okay?Gotit?Simplereally.Exceptthatanythingcomingincontractwitheitherthereactor,the fuelrods,thewaterthatsheated,thekettle,oranythinginthevicinityneedstobekeptawayfrom everylivingthingfor,ohIdontknow,athousandyears.Maybemore. Therearesomanyofthesereactorsandpowerplantsthattheworldisseriouslyworriedaboutsuch cheapandaffordableelectricitysaftercare.So,hiddeningovernmentbudgets,areawholehostof agencieswhosesolejobistocheckuponthepowerplantoperators.Theirjobistomakesurethe powerplantsemployeesdonotgoofandsendoutglobalcontamination.Aplantin,say,Nebraskaisjust asabigariskasonein,say,Chernobyl. ThatswhyRussiasFederalAtomicEnergyAgency(FAAE)isangry.Sure,theysay,theUSAtomic EnergyfolkscanwaltzintotheUkraineandtellusthatweregoofingup,butwhentheUShasanear catastrophicmeltdown,notonlydotheynottelltheircitizensafewmilesaway,theyrefusetoallow independentinspectorstoverifytheconditions.Andwhatsworse,theAdministration,tokeepthe publicconfidencehighintheseeconomictimes,ordersblanketcensorshiponallnewsmedia.Howdthe newsgetout?SixdifferentinternationalnuclearregulatorybodieshavefinkedontheUS.Meanwhile theUSsownagencies,servantstothepublic,maintainallswell.

Locatedabout20minutesoutsideOmaha,theFortCalhounNuclearPlantsufferedacatastrophic lossofcoolingtooneofitsidlespentfuelrodpoolsonJune7thafterthisplantwasdelugedwithwater causedbyhistoricfloodingoftheMissouriRiverwhichresultedinafirewithradioactivegassesescaping intotheair.TheFederalAviationAgency(FAA)issuedanoflybanoverthearea.Thepresswasnot allowedtoaskwhy.Mediablackout. Russianatomicscientists,however,pointoutthatallnuclearplantsintheworldoperateunderthe guidelinesoftheInternationalNuclearandRadiologicalEventScale(INES)whichclearlystatesthe eventsoccurringattheFortCalhounNuclearPowerPlantputthedangeratLevel4.Thisisan emergencycategoryofanaccidentwithlocalconsequencesthusmakingthisoneoftheworstnuclear accidentsinUShistory. Nowthatyouknowalittlemore,caretovoiceyouropinion?Inthenextyears,youllbeaskedto voteonatomicenergyattheballotbox,soitisagoodthingtoknowsomething,evenifitisjustthe basics.