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Life Arts

End Nuclear Power Before it Ends Us

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The Japanese people are now paying a horrific price for the impossible dream of the "Peaceful Atom."   For a half-century they have been told that what's happening now at Fukushima would never occur.

Our hearts and souls must first and foremost go out to them.  As fellow humans, we must do everything in our power to ease their wounds, their terrible losses and their unimaginable grief.
We are also obliged---for all our sakes---to make sure this never happens again.
In 1980, I reported from central Pennsylvania on what happened to people there after the accident at Three Mile Island a year before.  I interviewed scores of conservative middle Americans  who were suffering and dying from a wide range of radiation-related diseases.   Lives and families were destroyed in an awful plague of unimaginable cruelty.  The phrase "no one died at Three Mile Island" is one of the worst lies human beings have ever told.

In 1996, ten years after Chernobyl, I attended a conference in Kiev commemorating the tenth anniversary of that disaster.  Now, another fifteen years later, a definitive study has been published indicating a death toll as high as 985, far.

Today we are in the midst of a disaster with no end in sight.  At least four reactors are on fire.  The utility has pulled all workers from the site, but may now be sending some back in.

The workers who do this are incomparably brave.  They remind us, tragically, of some 800,000 Chernobyl "Liquidators."  These were Soviet draftees who were sent into that seething ruin for 60 or 90 seconds each to quickly perform some menial task and then run out.

When I first read that number---800,000---I thought it was a typographical error.  But after attending that 1996 conference in Kiev, I spoke in the Russian city of Kaliningrad and met with dozens of these Chernobyl veterans.  They tearfully assured me it was accurate.  They were angry beyond all measure. They had been promised they would not encounter health problems.  But now they were dying in droves.

How many will die at Fukushima we will never know.  Never have we faced the prospect of multiple meltdowns, four or more, each with its own potential for gargantuan emissions beyond measure.

If this were happening at just one reactor, it would be cause for worldwide alarm.

One of the units has been powered by Mixed Oxide Fuel.  This MOX brew has been heralded as a "swords into ploughshares" breakthrough.  It took radioactive materials from old nuclear bombs and turned them into "peaceful" fuel.

It seemed like a neat idea.  The benefits to the industry's image were obvious. But they were warned repeatedly that this would introduce plutonium into the burn chain, with a wide range of serious repercussions. Among them was the fact that an accident would spew the deadliest substance ever known into the atmosphere.  If breathed in, the tiniest unseen, untasted particle of plutonium can cause a lethal case of lung cancer.

But like so many other warnings, the industry ignored its grassroots critics. Now we all pay the price.

For 25 years the nuclear industry has told us Chernobyl wasn't relevant because it was Soviet technology. Such an accident "could not happen here."

But today it's the Japanese.  If anything, they are better at operating nuclear reactors than the Americans.  Japanese companies own the Westinghouse nuclear division, whose basic design is in place throughout France.  Japanese companies also own the GE nuclear division. Among others, 23 of their US reactors are extremely close or virtually identical in design to Fukushima I, now on fire.

Jeffrey Immelt, head of GE, is one of the many heavy corporate hitters now advising Barack Obama. Obama says (so far) that he has no intention of changing course in nuclear policy. That apparently includes a $36 billion new reactor loan guarantee giveaway in the 2012 budget.  Energy Secretary Steven Chu has made clear he considers the situation at US reactors very different from those in Japan. Essentially, he says, "it can't happen here."

Chu and others keep saying that our choice is between nukes and coal, that atomic energy somehow mitigates global warming.  This is an important sticking point for millions of concerned citizens, and an important and righteous legion of great activists, who see climate chaos as the ultimate threat.

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Harvey Wasserman edits . His SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at . The Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show airs at .

HARVEY WASSERMAN'S HISTORY OF THE US is available at, as is A GLIMPSE OF THE BIG LIGHT and clues to the whereabouts of the Holy Grail.

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There is no doubt that you have to chase madly for... by Ned Lud on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 9:40:31 AM
In a couple of weeks, after radiation reaches the ... by steve windisch on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 9:48:54 AM
It's not "FirstEnergy" or others. It's knowledgabl... by John Toradze on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 12:46:10 PM
for another fifty nuclear power stations, like my ... by John Sanchez Jr. on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 1:45:19 PM
Sun uses PV panels. Most are produced in Japan and... by John Toradze on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 6:43:19 PM
is conventional thinking. It seems that nearly eve... by John Sanchez Jr. on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 7:28:56 PM
And please look at this from Senator Sandershttp:/... by steve windisch on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 9:55:11 AM
Sorry about the malformed link to Senator Sanders ... by steve windisch on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 10:08:17 AM
One other problem not mentioned is how do we dispo... by liberalsrock on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 10:13:41 AM
I just wrote down on my To-Do Today list: buy Pota... by GLloyd Rowsey on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 12:05:16 PM
Iodine 131 has a half-life of 6 days. Adults have ... by John Toradze on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 12:50:13 PM
Potassium Iodide protects ONLY against radioactive... by Ron Freeman on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 12:56:24 PM
Take PABA tablets if you are worried. They won't h... by John Toradze on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 6:46:23 PM
This is a good article and comments. Where I live ... by Clark on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 12:09:49 PM
I calculated that to get as much of a dose as a tr... by John Toradze on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 7:02:37 PM
Toradze should be ashamed of himself for belittlin... by Allen Gerhardt on Thursday, Mar 24, 2011 at 8:29:12 AM
Per Joly, the oceans average 5 tons of dissolved u... by John Toradze on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 12:40:36 PM
First, that fallout map is ridiculous. It's just w... by John Toradze on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 1:05:49 PM
Before one belittles the deaths in Chernobyl, it m... by Allen Gerhardt on Thursday, Mar 24, 2011 at 8:37:56 AM
Mr. Wasserman, I completely agree with your articl... by Ron Freeman on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 1:12:48 PM
So FirstEnergy and many other private MONOPOLY ene... by steve windisch on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 1:29:45 PM
Here you go. by John Toradze on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 6:52:40 PM
Don't really give a hoot either. As i said, he's e... by steve windisch on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 7:49:45 PM
Heavy isotopes yielding disfigured DNA could end t... by Stephen Pitt on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 1:57:36 PM
DNA is breaking all the time. It breaks from UV. I... by John Toradze on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 7:08:26 PM
I encourage everyone to disregard the lies of nucl... by Allen Gerhardt on Thursday, Mar 24, 2011 at 8:44:48 AM
I do not automatically want all nuclear plants shu... by Patrick Varley on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 2:26:13 PM
Now that I've read this column and all your whiny ... by Common Sense on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 7:54:32 PM
It will be little different when radiation release... by Allen Gerhardt on Thursday, Mar 24, 2011 at 8:56:02 AM
Here's the rest...The entire chamber including fu... by Common Sense on Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 7:55:51 PM
Mr. Wasserman, if I am not mistaken, I talked with... by Steven G. Erickson on Saturday, Mar 19, 2011 at 1:06:24 PM
Just for you, Mr. Gerhardt, I have to come back a... by Common Sense on Friday, Mar 25, 2011 at 10:08:50 AM