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23 Years After Chernobyl, Nuclear Power is Still a Threat

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I am writing this on April 26, 2009, the 23rd anniversary of the tragic and deadly explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. The Chernobyl disaster is widely considered to be the biggest technological and industrial disaster the world has ever known.

And I am remembering the 1979 meltdown at the nuclear plant on Three Mile Island, about 100 miles from where I currently sit.

Today, about a block from my home, I can look to the west and see the cooling towers of the Limerick nuclear power plant sending a steady flow of steam into the sky.

Each month, the power company Exelon, which operates the Limerick plant, conducts a siren test to ensure that the noisemakers are in good working order in case they need to notify the public of an emergency.

And, periodically, potassium iodide tablets are distributed to people who reside within a 10-mile radius of Limerick and other nuclear power plants here in Pennsylvania, to help protect them from the effects of a possible release of radiation.

In other words, where there are nuclear power plants, there is the risk of accidents that could pose a very serious threat to the population.

Indeed, a 2006 report from Greenpeace, "An American Chernobyl", identifies almost 200 near misses at 50 reactors that have occurred in the United States since 1986.

Add to that the consequences of a possible terrorist attack on one or more nuclear power plants, along with the problem of nuclear waste disposal, and it appears to me that nuclear power is not worth it.

Unfortunately, proponents of nuclear power are using the movement away from dependence on foreign oil as an excuse to ramp up nuclear power development. But there are safer alternatives out there, such as wind power and solar energy. We should be putting our time and money into the safer alternatives.

Earlier this month, President Obama promised to work towards "a world without nuclear weapons."

Unfortunately, however, he still seems to approve of nuclear energy. Does he not realize that Three Mile Island, Limerick, and all the other nuclear power plants around this nation and around this world all have the potential for becoming weapons of mass destruction should another mishap occur?

 

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
 

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