Sunday, March 13, 2011

Unclear on nuclear energy?

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power plant
While everyone is worrying about an earthquake generated meltdown at a nuclear generator (or three) in Japan the nuclear energy people here in the United States are all upset that it will cause negative reaction (pun intended) to plans to expand nuclear plants in this country. Like it is all our fault?

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in California sits on top of one of the most geologically active (read that as earth quake prone) areas in the United States. And one plant in California was shut down because of earthquake activity. The 63 MW Boiling Water Reactor at the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant in Eureka was in operation by PG&E from August 1963 to July 1976. It was the seventh licensed nuclear plant in the United States. It was closed because the economics of a required seismic retrofit could not be justified after riding through a moderate earthquake.

California law now prohibits the construction of any new nuclear power plants in California until the Energy Commission finds that the federal government has approved and there exists a demonstrated technology for the permanent disposal of spent fuel from these facilities. California's existing nuclear power plants provide a significant amount of California's non-fossil fuel based energy and power but produce significant amounts of spent nuclear fuel. Continued operation of these plants will require substantial investments in replacement steam generators, turbines and other major pieces of equipment, ongoing recruitment and training to maintain an experienced nuclear work force, and accommodation of evolving federal policy regarding nuclear technology, in addition to other requirements.  

All, well and good, especially since everyone wants to store those spent nuclear rods in caves in New Mexico and Nevada.

However, this 1978 action, makes no mention of the San Andres fault and the tendency of power companies to build their plants on such unstable and shifting bases. And in high population areas. On the map below white is where it would be safe to build. But when I was living in Missouri we were fighting to shut down the building of a plant on the New Madrid fault. That is that red oval on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

The track record of companies proposing to build nuclear power plants is not good. The old joke was would you want to go on a rocket ship to the moon built by the lowest possible bidder? The bidding system on construction projects in the United States is about cheap. That New Madrid Fault plant was using substandard materials and rusty rebar. It does not inspire confidence. And some of the problems that occurred in the Three Mile Island near melt down was due to inadequately trained personal hired on the cheap.

So if we here in the United States are seemingly anti nuclear power may I suggest the fault is not in us but in the companies that build and maintain these plants. Look not at the population but at yourselves. Show us you can be responsible and also that you won't lie to us.