Nuclear Power is Unsafe and Unaffordable: The U.S. Must Move to a Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free Energy Economy
Today, March 11th, marks the fifth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that devastated coastal communities and caused the disaster at the Daiichi nuclear power plant in the Fukushima prefecture. The anniversary was marked in Japan by a national moment of silence at 2:46 pm, the time of the earthquake.
In 2011, of the six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima plant, three had meltdowns of their cores, which are unable to be located to this day, and one of the three reactors that was off line at the time exploded and caught fire. Forty three thousand people had to flee their homes because of radioactive contamination and are unable to return.
The disaster at the Daiichi nuclear power plant is ongoing today as Tokyo Electric Power Company works to clean up the area. This is expected to take thirty to forty years. Hundreds of thousands of tons of water have been contaminated. Some is stored on site and large quantities have been released or are leaking into the Pacific Ocean.
In the United States, we have recently learned that nuclear reactors in New York, Vermont and Florida are leaking radioactive metals into water. This raises the question: how many of our other aging nuclear reactors are leaking?
There is an illusion that nuclear energy is clean and necessary as part of the rapid transition off fossil fuels to renewable sources. The reality is that the entire nuclear chain from extraction to processing to energy production and finally to waste is energy-intensive and dirty. And as Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer and board member of Fairewinds Energy Education, explains: with nuclear power you can have “forty good years and one very bad day.” In addition to the human and environmental damage, that one bad day in Fukushima has cost at least $100 billion in clean-up and will escalate as economic losses, compensation and decommissioning costs are included.
Nuclear energy is too expensive and too slow to be part of the necessary energy transition. Two reactors being built in Georgia have seen their estimated price increase from $14 billion to $21 billion. The last reactor built in Georgia took 18 years to complete. In comparison, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are less expensive and take only months to come on line.
Scientists report that the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere last year was the highest ever recorded, more than 3 parts per million. We must plan for an energy transition that is both rapid and moves workers into the new energy economy.
The good news is that researchers such as Maryland resident and nuclear expert Arjun Makhijani and scientists at Stanford University have laid out paths to a carbon-free and nuclear-free energy economy. I am committed to pushing for a just transition to clean renewables. The signals are all clear that the nuclear energy era, like the fossil fuel era, must come to an end.
For more see:
Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Fukushima: A Global Threat That Requires a Global Response.
Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, A Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free Energy Economy is Inevitable.