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Nuclear energy is no alternative when profits always trump safety

April 8, 2011

by Jamala Rogers

As smoke rises from the Fukushima nuclear plant, some international experts warn at press time that a meltdown may already be in progress. – Photo: TEPCO
The Japanese people got hit with a double whammy of somewhat natural origins. I say somewhat natural because I believe these catastrophes are directly linked to global warming. As Japan is reeling from an earthquake and tsunami, it and the rest of the world are bracing for a more directly man-made calamity, a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Currently, Japanese officials estimate at least 21,000 people are dead or missing from the March 11 earthquake-tsunami tragedy. Damages are estimated at $250 billion, making the disaster the most costly ever. It will take years to rebuild the physical structures and much longer to heal the people’s spirit.

I have found it inconceivable that the Japanese people would ever entertain the idea of nuclear power – even as an alternative energy source. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the epicenter of the atomic bomb dropped in 1945 by the U.S. The horrific vaporization of people and the vast destruction that followed are not ancient world history. The remnants of radiation poisoning are still prevalent and reparations to victims and their families are no real consolation.

The question in the public domain seems to focus on how we can make the nuclear plants in this country safer in the wake of the Fukushima. I think that it is absolutely the wrong question. It’s like asking how we can make playing with fire in a dynamite boat safer.

Much of the nuclear industry is too greedy and too insensitive to human life to be given control over nuclear power. They are too irresponsible to hold the planet in their hands and deal with something as deadly as nuclear energy. To maintain maximum profits, safety protocols and regulations are circumvented or totally ignored. We have every right to fear for our lives and for our future. And we have every right to stop the proliferation of these plants.

A number of the lethal accidents in the energy arena are preventable if companies would invest in maintenance instead of lining their deep pockets and if the regulatory bodies were more vigilant in their enforcement of regulations and laws. The world has witnessed the tragic deaths of workers as well as ecological destruction of entire communities, whether it’s drilling for oil or mining for coal.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. The group just released a report that was already in the works long before the recent problems at Fukushima. The report likened the actions of plant owners to playing “nuclear roulette.” The report cited 14 near-misses in 2010 that should have been avoided had those companies corrected the known problems in a timely way.

As always, I ask readers to follow the money. Weakening the various regulatory commissions are the legislators who get contributions from the very people they are supposed to be regulating.

Jamala Rogers
A potent example of this kind of obscene relationship is the reign of Pietro “Pete” Domenici, who managed to get himself at the head of two powerful Senate committees with direct control over budgets and regulations of the energy bosses. From 1979-2008 – the longest term ever served in the state of New Mexico’s history – Domenici was showered with monies from energy corporations for doing their bidding. In 1998, after the companies complained to him about how regulations were hampering their ability to do business, Domenici threatened to slash the budget of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by 40 percent unless they bowed down to the nuclear industry – which they did.

Informed observers of the energy arena are now openly reminiscing about the accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986. The Japanese government is frantically doing what it can to prevent a Chernobyl-like meltdown, but no one can predict how the nuclear reactors at Fukushima will respond to trial-and-error methods of containment – reminding one of BP’s actions after the spill in the Gulf Coast. We also don’t have fail-safe methods of storing radioactive waste.

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, there are 104 nuclear plants in the U.S. that provide about 20 percent of our electricity. Several of them are in need of serious repair due to age; others continue to operate despite known safety risks.

My recommendation is to halt all new licenses as well as all renewals and begin a systematic shutdown of all nuclear plants in this country. Government and independent entities should be seriously exploring and implementing safe, alternative sources of energy such as wind and solar. Forget about improved evacuation plans or safer plants; the industry has shown us that they are grossly incapable of handling nuclear energy. Editorial Board member Jamala Rogers is the leader of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis and the Black Radical Congress National Organizer. This story first appeared at

2 thoughts on “Nuclear energy is no alternative when profits always trump safety

  1. Don

    Jamala," I say somewhat natural because I believe these catastrophes are directly linked to global warming."
    I do agree with most or your article but this one line. Earthquakes are caused when to tectonic plates slip miles under the surface of the earth, the tsunami occurred as a result of the earthquake. So there are no reason to even question if global warming was a cause or a contributing factor, scientifically it could not contribute to the earthquake! Furthermore wind and solar cannot replace nuclear at the present, only hydro generation can. You should really do a story on the lack of true information about the current nuclear situation in Japan, some articles I have read states drinking water is already over the safe limit in some areas of the US.

  2. The Rad Rider

    Worse Than Chernobyl – by The Rad Rider

    No one likes an alarmist without cause, however, there appears to be ample cause for alarm.

    All nuclear power plants that depend on electrical power for their safety systems are subject to meltdown and/or explosion if the electrical power is lost for an extended period. If a massive solar storm lasted for several days, power generation could be disrupted globally. Unless all of the vital equipment in nuclear power plants is absolutely shielded from disruption, the problems witnessed in Japan could be witnessed world wide.

    Study the close up views of the #3 reactor explosion and you will see that the blast was not the type of explosion one would expect from the ignition of hydrogen. The fireball seen in the corner of the plant may have been due to hydrogen but it was much too small to cause the main blast. Not only that, inspection reveals that this was a directional blast. Much as if a cannon had been fired straight up from inside the reactor building.

    This is what one would expect if the reactor vessel exploded with enough force to take out the drywell dome and the removable concrete pads that cover it.

    Injecting water into a melting core can cause an immediate explosion of steam. If the temperature of the reactor vessel has reached the critical temperature, it will not have the integrity required to withstand this dramatic increase in pressure. The critical temperature of the reactor vessel and the melting temperature of the fuel rods are near the same.

    If my assessment is correct, the dark colored cloud we witnessed, that was shot approximately 1,000 feet into the air, contained the MOX core of the reactor and made this accident worse than Chernobyl. The experts that claim that Chernobyl was the worst possible form of accident due to it's lack of a containment, do not take into account that a contained core, could be violently exploded out of the containment and straight up into the atmosphere. This is worse than exploding a core that is not contained.

    However, this is not EVER supposed to happen.
    Just like the total loss of electrical power.

    I suspect the #1 and #2 reactor vessels lost their integrity by the same process.

    The experts that have been downplaying the seriousness of this accident, have an agenda other than disseminating the truth. It is long past time for the worlds leading scientists to speak up and point out the discrepancies in the current story. So far, only a very few are speaking out about these things.

    Plutonium contamination is being reported as far as a mile
    away from the plant but it is being attributed to spent fuel.

    It is also long past time for news reporters to do the basic research required, before publishing erroneous and misleading details in their stories. This helps to ensure that when someone makes false statements of fact, the reporter will know that they have intentionally been misled.

    While watching Anderson Cooper 360 one night, I witnessed Dr. Sanjay Gupta telling Anderson that a paper suit and a particle respirator would protect him from the "gamma waves swirling about in the air." I immediately sent a message to Anderson telling him that Sanjay was wrong and that he should seek better advise. They canceled the second half of the show and Anderson left Tokyo a short time later.


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