Vol. 9, No. 21
May 24-30, 2001
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Perils of Power:
Nukes Back On Line in America’s Grid

Is it just us, or is the new national debate about nuclear power sort of like landing in the Twilight Zone? Maybe it's the episode where an entire village loses its collective memory.

We started feeling like our memory was fading while listening to recent happy talk about the resurgence of nuclear power. We feared a serious public memory lapse last week when we heard President George Bush prattling about the need for new nuclear plants as part of the nation's new energy strategy.

We really began to worry when we read a poll Sunday finding that 57 percent of normally clear-headed Marylanders believe that we need more nuclear power.

We understand the need to think about stable power production in the future given California's recent blackouts - even though we don't buy into this business about an energy crisis. We think that one of these days soon we'll wake up and realize that a handful of energy conglomerates has fleeced us.

We always think it's a smart thing to plan for the future. We just don't buy the Bush-Cheney tonic that to look forward, we must look backward. That's what they're telling us. Besides using the energy scare as a pretense for relaxing environmental standards, the new administration is giving short shrift to the potential of renewable energy sources like solar and wind and charting a course to the old days of plants fired by nuclear power and high-sulfur coal.

We hear reassuring talk from the nuclear industry about a new generation of safe reactors being tested in South Africa. We could probably find the same people saying similar things prior to the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania and the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine.

In this moment of forgetfulness, we haven't heard too much about that fateful day 15 years ago April 26 when two explosions in reactor No. 4 at Chernobyl sent radiation hundreds of times worse than the bomb at Hiroshima wafting across Europe and claiming thousands of lives.

Scary stuff aside, big problems have hung around for decades unresolved. Neither the industry nor the government has figured out what to do with spent nuclear fuel once it's removed from the core of nuclear reactors. By now, the radioactive wastes from Calvert Cliffs and the other 101 reactors around the country were supposed to have been crammed deeply and safely into caverns in New Mexico or a mountain in Nevada.

Not in my back yard, said those states.

Do you know where those deadly materials are today? Stored in metal casks stacked on concrete pads in Calvert County and elsewhere around the country.

The baskets of glowing zirconium rods will leave the shores of the Chesapeake Bay for a new home about the time pigs learn to fly.

As best we can recall, not even in the Twilight Zone did pigs go airborne.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly