Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Pronuclear Advocate's Worst Nightmare Comes True


Norris McDonald

I was the first environmentalist in the United States to publicly support nuclear power starting in 2000.  The Center is the only environmental organization in the United States that has aggressively promoted nuclear power.  Although the nuclear industry has not acknowledged our role, they know these facts to be true. Ask them if you do not believe this to be true.

I dreaded the day that I would awaken to a nuclear meltdown or any serious nuclear accident.  Now that nightmare scenario is reality.  I woke up on March 11th to the news that there was a major nuclear accident in Japan.  Three explosions have followed and Fukushima is now being touted as an accident worse than Chernobyl.

What is a pronuclear environmental advocate to do?

The physics and energy reality have not changed.  Nuclear power is still the best way to provide base load electricity to millions of households.  Yet San Onofre and Diablo Canyon are in the path of some future tsunami.  Although they are vital to California's electricity power pool, I fear that they might have to be shut down.  I submit that California should figure out some way to build 4 reactors to replace them, just not on the coastline.  I also worry that the American nuclear fleet is aging.  Yet climate change remains the most vicious environmental issue facing us today and tomorrow, bar none --  not even a 300 year Japanese tsunami that decimated an aging nuclear facility that was located on the wrong side of the island.

The tsunami crippled the Fukushima plant.  Knocked out the backup cooling systems and produced the nightmarish scenario that is still working itself out.  Yet that was an historic earthquake and a horrific resulting tsunami.  If Japan is to build new nuclear reactors, I believe they have learned to not build them on the susceptible Pacific Ocean  side, but to build them on the opposite side of the island facing China.  Thus, the island will serve as a barrier to the sort of damage that occurred during this terrible, historic, nightmarish tsunami.

I was called crazy to support nuclear power way before other environmentalists followed.  I put it out there because I knew that I was right.  And that the science and logic supported my position.  I will accept the crazy label as I continue to support the technology.  Even as I am vilified by the anti crowd and not acknowledged by the nuclear industry.  Science, logic and the right energy policy are their own great rewards.

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