Slow learners

The question of Vermont Yankee’s decommissioning schedule seems to have been resolved to Bill Sorrell’s and Governor Shumlin’s satisfaction; but one phrase in the press release from Entergy should certainly give the savvy Vermonter pause:

…We will begin that decommissioning process within 120 days of the fund having adequate money in it to decommission.

Or, as Johnny Mathis might put it, the dregs of Vermont Yankee may be with us…

“until the Twelfth of Never…

And that’s a long, long time.”

While our attention has been occupied closer to home, the situation at Fukushima continues to be anything but stable.

Despite official efforts to suppress the flow of information concerning the crippled plants and surrounding environment, bits of worrisome news do creep into the light of day.

Radiation from groundwater leaking into the ocean became an issue early on; but recently, it has been reported that the contamination goes much deeper into the earth than was previously believed to be the case.

Discovery of this deeper migration of radioactive water raises concerns that much more contamination has been reaching the ocean than had been predicted based on superficial flow alone.

The painfully slow and risk laden job of removing fuel rods from Fukushima’s twisted rubble has begun, concentrating first on the spent fuel pool left exposed to the elements by explosions in the first days of the catastrophe.  

There were 1,533 fuel assemblies in the pool at Reactor #4 alone, and each of those assemblies holds 80 individual fuel rods.  While they are characterized as “spent” rods, the radioactive potential concentrated in them is far from exhausted and requires the utmost caution to handle.  

Once all of the fuel rods in Reactor #4 have been safely removed and stored in casks, a task that will take until the end of the coming year (longer if problems occur),  the entire procedure must be repeated at each of the three remaining reactors where an equal number of spent fuel rods await removal.

Dangerous and delicate as that lengthy task is, once completed, the worst will be yet to come.  

As reported by the Guardian:

More challenging by far will be digging out the molten cores in the reactors themselves. Some of the fuel burned through its primary containment and is now mixed with cladding, steel and concrete. The mixture will have to be broken up, sealed in steel containers and moved to a nuclear waste storage site. That work will not start until some time after 2020.

Meanwhile, no effective solutions to the continuing groundwater problem have presented themselves.

Despite the obvious message carried by the Fukushima story, even in Japan, the push is on once again for nuclear energy.  

In the U.S., the industry has succeeded in recruiting some environmental voices by representing nuclear as the best “short term” option to decrease carbon emissions.  Except that it never will be “short term;” and neither will be the environmental impacts, as has been amply demonstrated at Fukushima.

So, instead of turning-up the volume on a call for energy efficiency as a principle strategy for ending our fossil fuel dependence and hastening the switch to truly clean renewables, those environmentalists have been persuaded that nuclear energy is somehow better than carbon based energy…this, despite the necessity to ignore sourcing issues as well as disposal and decommissioning issues (nevermind the implications of any functional failure or accident in between) in order to buy into that meme.

What was the Cesarean rule?  Divide and conquer? Looks like that’s the only lesson the nuclear industry has learned since Fukushima.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

2 thoughts on “Slow learners

  1. A few years ago I calculated that if we did a nationwide upgrade of industrial motor controls and domestic refrigerators we could shut down half the nuclear plants in the country. A few more efforts on electric heat, electric hot water, electric dryers, and a few other industrial uses and we could shutter another 30%.

    Europeans use less than half the electricity per capita compared to us and they aren’t living in caves. Our motto should be “No more nuclear waste until there is no more electrical waste.”

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