Besides the fact that we don’t even need another nuclear reactor in eastern Missouri, the damn things are scary. I don’t just mean Chernobyl-type scary, either–though there is that. Once you grasp the amount of radiation in one, it’s enough to make your eyes bulge out:
Radioactivity is measured in “curies.” A large medical center, with as many as 1000 laboratories in which radioactive materials are used, may have a combined inventory of only about two curies. In contrast, an average operating nuclear power reactor will have approximately 16 billion curies in its reactor core. This is the equivalent long-lived radioactivity of at least 1,000 Hiroshima bombs.
And in this age of terrorist threats, nuclear plants are dirty bombs in our backyards.
Thirty-two of this country’s 104 reactors are especially vulnerable to air attack because their General Electric Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) design includes irradiated fuel pools containing hundreds of tons of high level nuclear waste, situated outside of the steel and concrete containment structure on the upper story of the reactor building.
The website I quoted doesn’t specify which plants those are, so Callaway County may not present that particular danger. Still, this country spent $20 billion after 9/11 improving aviation security, but only $1 billion to secure nuclear plants.
We can only hope that Missouri is not going to be the site of some dire Chernobyl scenario, but consider that even if nothing of that sort occurs, nuclear plants put radiation into our air, water and soil as part of their daily routine. They pump irradiated gases through filtered rooftop vents and they discharge millions of gallons of water a day from the cooling towers. That’s gas and water that’s been filtered but not completely cleaned of irradiation.
And whatever radiation these plants add to our environment stays there. And stays there. And stays there. For thousands or millions of years. Studies are showing how cancer cases cluster around the plants. A recent meta analysis of 17 research papers in various countries show an increase in leukemia rates among children under nine years old of 14-21 percent.
After all this news of doom and death, it’s time for some good news. The recent economic stimulus bill had provisions in it for $50 billion to be spent on new nuclear plants. That provision was stripped out of the bill this last week. So now that funds for building such plants will be harder to come by, it’s time to tell the Nuclear Regulatory Commission your concerns about Ameren’s request for a license to build another plant.
If you’re seriously committed to fighting the licensure, you could show up in Fulton on Wednesday, February 18th, for one of the two “scoping” meetings, where you can express your reservations about the new plant. Or you can, sometime before March 24th, write the NRC:
Chief, Rulemaking, Directives, and Editing Branch
Division of Administrative Services
Office Of Administration, Mailstop TWB-05-B01M
U.S. Regulatory Commission
Washington, D.C. 20555-0001
or by Email to the NRC at Callaway.COLEIS@nrc.gov
If you want to carpool to Fulton or want more information about what to include in your letter to the NRC, contact longtime anti-nuclear activist Kay Drey at 314-725-7676.
One of the host of witnesses at the Tuesday Senate CWIP hearing was a young woman studying engineering at Rolla. She spoke in favor of building another nuclear plant and pointed out that when voters passed the 1976 law restricting utilities from charging customers for a new plant before it came online, they were really expressing more of an anti-nuclear sentiment than a concern about how such plants are financed.
The woman’s voice was a wee bit shaky, so I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for her when Senator Joan Bray said, gently, that she herself was one of that generation of people who voted for the law. Bray said that those who did so hoped to spare this young woman’s generation from the dangers of nuclear power. The senator asked whether there was any safe way to dispose of nuclear waste, and the student stammered something about maybe someday they’ll figure that out. Then she fell awkwardly silent.
At the end of the hearing, I told Senator Bray that I appreciated her comment to the young woman–but that I couldn’t help feeling sorry for someone who had already been so visibly nervous. I think the senator felt some empathy too, but she said that she thought the woman needed to hear what she had said.