January 13th, 2009
Now we know the real reason the “powers that be” let Obama win: He’s vehemently pro-nuclear.
Obama’s nominee for Energy Secretary, Dr. Steven Chu, is utterly pro-nuclear. And in sworn testimony today before the Senate energy committee, Chu proved that you can win a Nobel Prize and yet still not know enough to get by productively in today’s world. The guy needs an education in dozens of nuclear issues, and his confirmation — almost certain — will be a calamity for honest energy decisions in America. Or for any hope of productive change in our society. Yeah, it’s that important. Energy is a huge chunk of our economy and the secretive cabals that control it — Dick Cheney‘s infamous energy policy meetings being only the tip of the iceberg — need to be exposed, and brought down. Corporations like AREVA. People like Steven Chu.
If nothing else, Dr. Chu proved today that you can win a Nobel prize in physics and not know much about radioactive waste. Supposedly, his current studies concern “biological systems at the single-molecule level” (according to Wikipedia). Clearly, though, damage to populations from radiation has escaped his attention (even though it all starts at the atomic and molecular level). Perhaps it’s too statistical for him, or too abstract, or too real, or too complicated, or too simplistic, or whatever. One way or another, he overlooked it.
So for more than an hour he promoted “recycling” of nuclear waste, which is actually still known as “reprocessing” among most people, including a number of the Senators at the hearing. Apparently the new term is “recycling” because it sounds more eco-friendly, and was portrayed that way by Chu and by various Senators.
But whatever you call it, reprocessing nuclear fuel ISN’T eco-friendly. However it took Chu more than an hour of promoting it before he admitted that he doesn’t actually know much about it. He did, however, admit it — in sworn testimony!
Then he went back to promoting nuclear fuel “recycling.”
France was cited as a bastion of successful recycling. What France actually does with its nuclear waste, and the waste from probably more than a dozen other countries (I don’t have the exact number; it’s hard to obtain, but is surely in that range), is grind up, chop up, and then melt down, burn up, or chemically dissolve the highly poisonous spent fuel rods. However, each gram of spent fuel contains over 500 DIFFERENT radioactive isotopes, representing the ENTIRE spectrum of known elements!
What is called a “success” in France is really just isolating the plutonium and uranium from these other elements, and then isolating specific isotopes of those two elements (and perhaps thorium). All this creates large amounts of chemical pollution, at a huge cost, and with the concomitant loss of vast quantities of radionuclides into the environment, Noble gases, for instance, are simply released to the environment. their quantities are barely even estimated. Many other elements such as Strontium-90, Cesium-137, Iodine-131 — France releases them all into the environment in order to accomplish “recycling.” It’s not clean. It’s not safe. The industry lies at every step so as not to annoy the public — and has plenty of help from the government in the form of covert operations against legitimate activist groups and official cover-ups of wrong-doing, leaks, etc.. Is this what we want in America?
Chu apparently doesn’t know any of this, but he’s all for it anyway.
But that’s not the silliest thing about Chu’s performance today before the Senate committee. Surely the silliest thing about his ambitious nuclear plans is that he believes that nuclear spent fuel rods can be safely stored somewhere. Obviously, he means “on-site” in something — some container — NOT Yucca Mountain.
Not that he opposes Yucca Mountain. He wants it to keep crawling forward. There is no Yucca Mountain, by the way. One activist today told me she thought it was already being filled with waste. It isn’t.
Another citizen witnessed, first-hand, what is called “safe” by Dr. Chu:
“Are they building another reactor at San Onofre?!?” he asked me this morning, after a recent fishing trip brought him close to the local nuclear reactor. ”No, that’s the spent fuel storage facility you saw. Soon it will be the #1 terrorist target in Southern California. If a small group of terrorists pierce that casing and light the spent fuel rods that will be stored there on fire, or if anything else causes them to burst, we’ll be dead within minutes (we live about 12 miles away) and SoCal will be ruined forever. And one millionth of a gram will kill you many times over.”
“They were as big as a cruise ship! It had to be seven stories tall! Is it going to be all steel?”
“No, it will have a lot of concrete around the steel. But not enough.”
Those “dry casks” have other problems, too, which Dr. Chu conveniently doesn’t acknowledge. There have been corruption issues with the design, the construction, and the implementation of NUMEROUS INSTALLATIONS of dry casks.
The security staffs protecting these spent fuel installations fall asleep on the job. This has been reported in — yep — NUMEROUS INSTALLATIONS in the past. And even if they’re fully awake, there aren’t enough guards at any one plant to overcome a concerted attack.
There never could be enough guards, because a concerted attack will STILL come from the air. It will be swift, it will be over in seconds, and it will be devastating. There is no defense planned, and Dr. Chu doesn’t care. To him, these casks are safe — despite the dangers from earthquakes and tsunamis (not to mention asteroids, improper construction, and a thousand other possible FATAL — to 500,000 people or more — FLAWS of spent fuel storage.
The operating nuclear power plants are an even greater threat — in terms of probability of an accident — than the spent fuel. But in terms of how many citizens could die from an accident? That’s a toss-up. Short-lived radionuclides would be released in a reactor accident — seal the windows and doors carefully with duct tape, don’t use up your oxygen too fast, eat canned food and drink bottled water for a few weeks and you’ll be fine, unless whatever exposure you do get (and you’re sure to get some) results in a cancer later, or heart disease, or inflammation, deformed children, or a thousand other ailments. If you’re outside or otherwise unprotected at the time of the accident, you will die a horrible death, wherein your cells are broken down by the radiation which gets inside your lungs, your gut, and is absorbed through your skin. Certain organs in your body are targeted by some radionuclides, other organs, by other isotopes. Either way, it’s often very painful, it can last a long time, it is usually accompanied by an agonizing and unquenchable thirst, and it will happen to perhaps half a million Southern Californians if we don’t close the plants and properly secure the waste. Such deaths – known as “acute radiation poisoning” — will occur as much as 500 miles downwind, and in broad swaths in every direction. You will not know where to run: The poison is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. Roads will be crowded, or crowded with the dead. Or both.
Support Dr. Chu, and you support this fate. Chu’s policies are deadly. They are irrational. They will be expensive to implement, expensive to undo, and a million times MORE expensive if — and when — they fail.
And no, Yucca Mountain is not the solution. And yet, there is no known better solution! In fact, the Yucca Mountain team was allowed to suggest anything they thought was a better idea, other than simply choosing some other site and basically doing the same thing there instead of at Yucca Mountain.
I do not have a solution. But I assure you, neither does Dr. Chu. The difference is, he’s probably going to be confirmed as head of the most notorious promoter of nuclear power on the planet, the U. S. Department of Energy — and I’m one citizen out of nearly seven billion. And I DO have a solution to the GROWING problem of nuclear waste — STOP MAKING MORE.
Nearly every Senator asked about renewable energy solutions or “clean coal” which invariably meant “carbon sequestration.” And Dr. Chu always had an answer for these — he was all for biomass, and all for ethanol from sugar, and all for wind and solar, etc.
But don’t be fooled! This man will continue the death-train of nuclear poisons — created, released, ignored.
Dr. Steven Chu should not be confirmed, but he surely will be. Republicans love him. Democrats love him. The status quo loves him, because the status qua is to keep the 104 operating nuclear plants in America open — until an American meltdown shuts them. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), who has a degree in “Industrial Management” and wants “300″ nuclear power plants in America, loves Chu. Senator Corker and others want to help Chu find more and more ways for the federal government to finance so-called “private industry” to restart the nearly-catatonic (thank goodness — but it ain’t dead, by any means) “Nuclear Renaissance.” They want nukes in THEIR state. Big money loves Chu. And everyone at our corrupt National Laboratories loves Chu too, of course.
And worst of all, with all Chu’s talk of renewables, environmentalists who don’t know any better will probably love him, too.
I think the Obama Administration’s great secret has finally been revealed: They’re no different. They won’t stop using Depleted Uranium munitions in war. They won’t shut the nuclear power plants. They won’t solve the nuclear waste problem (because that is a physical impossibility, as ANY physicist worth his degree knows, and 60+ billion dollars and 60+ years put into finding a solution should prove it “prima facie” to everyone else), and they won’t do anything to stop the criminal backroom deals that have allowed the nuclear industry to keep moving forward, despite the deaths it causes.
I do not believe Dr. Chu believes everything he said today. Maybe I just don’t think you can be that dumb and still win a Nobel Prize. Maybe I think his occasional rapid blinking and other mannerisms suggest blatant dishonesty. But either way, I am convinced Dr. Chu lied under oath. Well, we’re used to that, after the Bush Administration.
Come next Tuesday, when Obama is sworn in, it will be Business As Usual in America. And don’t expect any kind of national health care to pay for your illness when you get cancer!
It should be noted that it was surely not an accident that the biggest media event of the confirmation hearings — Hillary Clinton’s day in the sunshine — was the same day as Chu’s all-important Energy Committee hearing. This kept the press off the nuclear issue, so people wouldn’t hear the bad news.
Expect more Davis-Besse near-disasters, more Three Mile Island nearer-disasters, and a few Chernobyls (real full-blown nuclear disasters) in America during, or some time after, the Obama Administration. Don’t bother being surprised when it happens.
Radioactive death for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Americans, is as inevitable as sunshine and rain now. Chu is a shoe-in for Energy Secretary. Our fate is sealed.
The Code Killers: An Expose of Nuclear Crimes Large and Small, High And Low, Far and Wide