Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
As the first Democrat presidential debate finally approaches (on Oct. 13), America’s nuke power industry is in accelerated collapse.
The few remaining construction projects in the U.S. and Europe are engineering and economic disasters.
But as a nation we must now focus on the 99 dying U.S. reactors that threaten us all every day. In terms of our national survival, this is what Sanders and Clinton really must discuss.
Fukushima still dumps huge quantities of radioactive water into the Pacific every day. The site is out of control. The myth that U.S.-made reactors can’t explode has been buried forever. Three melted cores are still missing. Especially among young children, health impacts in the region are devastating. Two dozen General Electric clones of Fukushima Unit 1 now operate in the U.S. They all need to shut.
Meanwhile the extreme success of Germany’s Solartopian Energiewende makes it clear the world can indeed run entirely on renewables. The central electric grid is no longer sustainable. All German nukes will be done by 2022. Germany’s great green community-based assault on King CONG (coal, oil, nukes and gas) is ahead of schedule and under budget. Clean energy prices are plummeting along with climate impacts.
Worldwide reactor construction has sunk into economic chaos. Russia, China, India and several smaller countries are still talking about building new reactors. This is an issue of grave concern for all of us.
But the radioactive road signs bode badly for them all.
France’s Areva, once the industry flagship, is in shambles. Reactor projects in Finland and at Flamanville, France, are billions over budget and years behind schedule. So are the two each in South Carolina and Georgia, where the local economies stand to be devastated by gargantuan cost overruns. Detroit Edison wants to stick the people of Michigan with the enormous up-front costs of a proposed new construction fiasco at Fermi 3, which could bankrupt an already shaky state economy.
It will take years more of dedicated activism to make sure the lessons of these failed projects are understood everywhere.
But in the meantime, above all, we fear the 99 U.S. reactors that crumble as we speak:
1. The infamously lax Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) warns that Pilgrim, south of Boston, can’t meet even the NRC’s absurdly loose safety standards. Entergy may shut it down rather than pay to fix it up. The two candidates should demand they do it now.
2. Indian Point Unit 2, near New York City, has been operating without a license. The Unit 3 permit expires in December. Both must shut immediately.
3. The shield building at Ohio’s Davis-Besse is literally crumbling. FirstEnergy wants Ohio’s Public Utilities Commission to hand it a $3 billion bailout. This may be the world’s most decrepit nuke. It should have shut a very long time ago.
4. Exelon is begging the Illinois legislature for massive bailouts at five money-losing, increasingly dangerous reactors. That should be denied.
5. Entergy’s FitzPatrick in New York is losing millions, as is nearby Ginna. Both must go.
6. California’s Diablo Canyon reactors sit atop an interconnected web of 12 known fault-lines. They are 45 miles from the San Andreas, less than half the distance of Fukushima from the seismic trench that destroyed it. They are in violation of state and federal water quality laws. They’re being propped up by a corrupt Public Utilities Commission. They need to close.
… and that’s just for starters.
Through the rest of this presidential campaign, we can expect the Democrats to broadly endorse a green-powered future, and question the sanity of nuke power.
Thanks to decades of hard campaigning by the global grassroots No Nukes movement, that’s no longer hard to do. Even Donald Trump has made rumblings about shutting Indian Point. Even Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich is posturing as a friend of renewables, an industry he’s done his best to decimate.
What we really need now are focused, persistent campaigns to bring these rogue nukes down before they blow up. Every one of them has the power to kill millions, irradiate entire sections of the globe and bankrupt us all.
In the big picture, Clinton and Sanders could start with a demand to remove the federal insurance that protects these radioactive relics from liability when the inevitable melt-downs arrive.
But they can help us most by addressing these dying nukes by name, and by joining us in court and on the barricades to get them buried before they kill again.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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