Long-Term Costs

The people of Japan have suffered greatly from the effects of a natural disaster. It’s humbling and frightening to see how inadequate human efforts are when people need food, water and blankets in places where roads are destroyed and the ground is still shaking. This blog has focused on the Fukushima nuclear disaster because nature gives us no choice except to work with her or endure her. We do have choices about what we build. When we build unwisely, the suffering from natural disasters is multiplied.

Since the tsunami damage to the nuclear plants, nuclear power advocates have been claiming that it can’t happen here, that nuclear power is cheap and green, and that the disaster– still ongoing– is not that severe.

We have a number of aging nuclear plants in the US, partly because the cost of decommissioning is so high, and it’s not popular to spend money on electricity we used years ago. Japan has to act now, but it will be at least a decade before the fire is put out.

From today’s BBC News…

Japanese reactor maker Toshiba says it could decommission the earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in about 10 years, a third quicker than the US Three Mile Island plant.

Radiation has been leaking from the Fukushima plant since a 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami on 11 March.

Its operator said it would stop pumping radioactive water into the sea on Sunday, a day later than expected.

If there is enough free press in the world to breach corporate sponsorship of the news, the long-term costs will be counted. We’ve been told that radioactive water in the ocean is nothing to worry about but time will tell.

If the most optimistic assessments of the health risks turn out to be true, which would be a good thing– the financial picture will give industry and governments reason to hesitate before forging ahead with new nuclear plants. It will be a tough sell in many places, when citizens contemplate their own back yards.

Small, local and smart power won’t come from corporations or governments. It will come from popular demand.

It’s estimated the next presidential campaign in the US will cost billions of dollars. We each have one priceless vote. Take the long view when you make your decision.

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