Beyond Nuclear International

Nuclear companies are just happy to be in there somewhere

And they’ll gouge the ratepayers to get there

By Linda Pentz Gunter

That teeth-jangling noise you can hear are the fingernails of nuclear power corporations scraping across window ledges in a last, desperate attempt to cling on. It’s a lost cause. Nuclear power is falling to its none too premature death. It just won’t go quietly.

Instead, like Steve Martin’s unforgettable character in The Jerk, the mantra for nuclear corporations has become “I’d just be happy to be in there somewhere.”

The only chance for nuclear energy companies to stay relevant, and even alive, is to squeeze ratepayers. It’s their last, selfish recourse to prop up aging, failing and financially free falling nuclear power plants that should have closed years ago (and in fact should never have been built in the first place.)

Consequently, even as we tentatively celebrated First Energy’s just announced early closures of its four nuclear reactors — Davis-Besse (OH), Perry (OH) and two at Beaver Valley (PA, pictured at top) — we knew that something more devious was afoot.

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Naoto Kan gets a closeup view of nuclear France

The former Japanese PM visits Flamanville and La Hague, and draws 400 locals to an inspiring evening event in Normandy, France

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Most of the time you don’t see former leaders of major world powers trudging along windy clifftops as they listen to anti-nuclear activists hold forth. That is why I find the odyssey of former Japanese Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, ever more extraordinary. For a handful of years now he has been traveling around the world speaking out in favor of an end to the use of nuclear power. And he has been talking to us.

Kan on windswept beach

Naoto Kan visits a windswept Normandy beach from which you can see the Flamanville nuclear site as well as the La Hague reprocessing facility.

Kan of course was the Prime Minister in power at the time of the Fukushima nuclear disaster which struck on March 11, 2011. For all the mistakes and naiveté swirling at the time, Kan made one monumentally important decision. He picked up the phone and countermanded Tepco’s decision to pull its workforce out of the stricken Fukushim-Daiichi nuclear site.

That saved countless lives and likely the entire country. Untended, the reactors would have melted down and released a radioactive inventory that would have forced the abandonment of the neighboring Fukushima-Daiini nuclear plant. That in turn would have melted and the resulting cascading accident could have led to the evacuation of Tokyo. As Kan says in every speech, losing Tokyo would have been the end of Japan.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted a nuclear weapons ban

So did many other black Americans. Why did they vanish from the movement?

By Linda Pentz Gunter

In 1957, when asked his views on nuclear weapons, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “I definitely feel that the development and use of nuclear weapons should be banned. It cannot be disputed that a full-scale nuclear war would be utterly catastrophic. Hundreds and millions of people would be killed outright by the blast and heat, and by the ionizing radiation produced at the instant of the explosion . . . Even countries not directly hit by bombs would suffer through global fall-outs. All of this leads me to say that the principal objective of all nations must be the total abolition of war. War must be finally eliminated or the whole of mankind will be plunged into the abyss of annihilation.”

Today, we remember in particular the life and achievements of King, one of the 20th century’s most resonant proponents of peace. The dark cloud of his assassination forever hangs over us. So, too, does the spectre of nuclear war. This latter drove many black Americans like King to oppose their development and use. One reason, may be surprising. But it forms part of the though-provoking thesis of Vincent J. Intondi’s scholarly but highly readable book, African Americans Against The Bomb. 


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The real Houston problem

Apollo 13 had plutonium on board. Challenger’s next flight would have. Now Trump wants to fire plutonium-powered spacecraft to Mars. What could possibly go wrong?

By Linda Pentz Gunter

“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea.” Donald Trump

President Trump has announced that he wants the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to “lead an innovative space exploration program to send American astronauts back to the moon, and eventually Mars.” But the risks such ventures would entail have scarcely been touched upon.

For those of us who watched Ron Howard’s nail-biter of a motion picture, Apollo 13, and for others who remember the real-life drama as it unfolded in April 1970, collective breaths were held that the three-man crew would return safely to Earth. They did.

What hardly anyone remembers now — and certainly few knew at the time — was that the greater catastrophe averted was not just the potential loss of three lives, tragic though that would have been. There was a lethal cargo on board that, if the craft had crashed or broken up, might have cost the lives of thousands and affected generations to come.

It is a piece of history so rarely told that NASA has continued to take the same risk over and over again, as well as before Apollo 13. And that risk is to send rockets into space carrying the deadliest substance ever created by humans: plutonium.

Now, with the race on to send people to Mars, NASA is at it again. Small fission reactors would be used to generate electricity on Mars to power essential projects in the dark. But first, such a reactor has to get to Mars without incident or major accident. And the spacecraft carrying it would also be nuclear-powered, adding monumentally to the already enormous risk.

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Atomic legacy

Veteran claims three generations of family left with deformities due to nuclear test radiation exposure

By Luke Powell (reprinted with kind permission of the author and the Eastern Daily Press.)

When Robert Fleming (pictured above with wife Jean) watched one of the world’s most powerful weapons detonate 60 years ago, little did he know of the lasting impact it would have on future generations.

Christmas Island bomb test

The Christmas Island bomb test. Photo: John Greenacre.

Aged just 24, the RAF serviceman was stationed on an island in the Pacific Ocean when Britain tested its first megaton-class thermonuclear bomb.

Now aged 83, he believes his prolonged exposure to radiation in the following weeks has led to deformities in three generations of his family.

He said his grandson and great grandson suffered problems with their genitals, while his youngest daughter was born with extra knuckles.

In total, he said eight members of his family – mostly grandchildren and great grandchildren – were born with severe health defects.

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Rachel Carson and the silent environmentalists

Rachel Carson spoke out against nuclear war. Why is the environmental movement so silent?

In late January, Bob Musil, president of the Rachel Carson Council, wrote an article for his organization’s newsletter, entitled: Rachel Carson and Nuclear War? The Pulse and Politics of the Environment, Peace, and Justice.

Referencing the most recent and alarming White House intentions to fund smaller and, by inference, more “usable” nuclear weapons, Musil urged the environmental community to join the disarmament movement, not the least because of the devastating environmental consequences for Planet Earth should any nuclear weapons ever be used again.

We reproduce a slightly edited version of his article here with kind permission from the author.

Rachel Carson and nuclear war? The Pulse and Politics of the Environment, Peace, and Justice

“In nature nothing exists alone.”

“The aim of science is to discover and illuminate truth. And that, I take it, is the aim of literature, whether biography or history… It seems to me, then, that there can be no separate literature of science.”

“If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem.”

— Rachel Carson

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