Monday, March 28, 2011


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Different societies and cultures respond to crisis in different ways. As Tokyo tries to downplay the threat of nuclear meltdown, the German Green Party has mobilized an anti-nuclear campaign that may land it the next premier of their country. In the United States, the federal government is busy figuring out how to spin its way out of the recent exposure of corrupt relations between nuclear oversight agencies and the industry they are supposed to regulate.

While we wait to see if Fukushima becomes the next Chernobyl, you might enjoy this guest article by my friend Juli in Atlanta. We both grew up next to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington state. Prior to Chernobyl, Hanford was the most contaminated site on earth.

Since Native Americans have born the brunt of the nuclear industry here, it might be wise for us to hear what they have to say as well. This talk by Russell Jim is also related to Hanford. Russell is a fellow and board member of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, and is in charge of the negotiations between the Yakama Indian Nation and the US Government to clean up Hanford, the largest Superfund site in the country.

Indigenous peoples in Canada also live on the front lines of the battle for survival. The film documentary Uranium lays it all out in detail.

When I was in college in the early 1970s, I did research on nuclear-related carcinogenic medical statistics for the people who ultimately stopped the proliferation of plants in Washington state. Later in that decade it was revealed that two of the plants, halted after construction, had life-threatening structural deficiencies due to fraudulent x-rays submitted by the contractor in order to omit the required steel reinforcement for the massive concrete structures and thence pocket substantial profits on the bid.

Later yet, watching the movie China Syndrome, I was reminded of this simple fact about nuclear energy: it's a boondoggle for heavy industry at taxpayers' expense -- always has been -- and with that amount of public funds on the table, it will always attract crooks.

Five years ago on NPR, I listened to a nuclear sceptic debate a nuclear apologist, and learned about both improved technology and the still-unsolved waste storage dilemma, as well as nuclear power's unavoidable vulnerability to sabotage. I also learned that each plant in the US requires a billion dollars annual government subsidy just to operate, waste disposal and management issues aside. And I almost learned about a recent failure of the most modern of designs built in France before NPR's host scrambled to commercial--a story covered later by Mother Jones.


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