Yesterday, according to a strangely under-republished story from the AP, the nuclear power plant outside Avignon, Provence Alps-Côte d’Azure, France (same province as Nice and Marseilles) spilled 8,00 gallons of toxic, radioactive liquid into the Gaffiere and the Lauzon rivers and into the water table of the area.
The degree to which this will affect the surrounding area is as yet unknown, but Provence Alps-Côte d’Azure is the third most populated region in France. With a population of nearly 5 million people, Cap d’Antibes, Cannes, Nice and adjacent Monaco comprise the French Riviera, which is the second most popular tourist destination in France. It’s une horreur indeed to think of the fabled Côte d’Azure becoming a toxic wasteland.
The mimimal first AP report stated that:
Authorities banned the consumption of well water in three nearby towns and the watering of crops from the two rivers. Also banned were swimming, water sports and fishing.
A spokeswoman for the nuclear safety agency, Evangelia Petit, said about 30,000 liters (7,925 gallons) of solution containing uranium spilled Tuesday at a factory at the Tricastin nuclear site. It is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the historic city of Avignon.
Another nuclear safety agency official, Charles-Antoine Louet, said the liquid contained about 360 kilograms (794 pounds) of un-enriched natural uranium, which he said is only slightly radioactive although toxic.
This seemingly urgent breaking news item was picked up by some blogs, the Jerusalem Post, and an Irish news service. Not a peep in the first 24 hours from the New York or Los Angeles Timeses!
Both Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama have endorsed the idea of drastically increasing the number of nuclear power plants in the United States in the course of their presidential campaigns; this, while new wind and solar power generation facilities are already being built across the Southwestern states. Frankly, none of these technologies alone will meet all our fuel needs (it will take all of them), and it will take years to replace the fleet of gasoline fueled cars, traditional-diesel fleet of trucks, and coal-fired electrical generation plants.
Meanwhile, oilman T. Boone Pickens – always a step or two ahead of the pack – has thrown his considerable influence behind wind power for electricity and natural gas for cars. Why would someone with such vast oil holdings (and an underwriter of the Swift boat crowd, no less) move to wind?
Consider this: In many states, idiotic legislation was pushed through forcing utilities to divest of their own generators; deregulation that, in turn, gave us the Enron nightmare. Subsequently, in an ass-backwards pander, many state legislatures have been legislating that electric utilities procure 30% of their power from renewable sources – before the renewable power is even available. It is urgent that such generation capability be met, but in the meanwhile, it is, literally, putting the fart before the horse.
As there are not yet sufficient supplies of renewable-derived electricity, this is, thus, a seller’s market. So Mr. Pickens and his investors stand to make (yet another) fortune off his new wind farms and natural gas holdings. But if he’s going to spearhead the move to wind, and spend his estimate of $220 billion to make that infrastructure a reality, he deserves to make a profit, and he’s seeking investors in this project. No doubt, he’s trying to get a jump on the inevitable move that governments will be making shortly towards providing renewables.
You can learn more about Mr. Pickens’ proposal at his website.
You can learn [slightly] more about the French nuclear spill at MSNBC.