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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.