Friday, March 25, 2011

Nuclear's Teenage Invincibility Syndrome

I see it everyday with teenagers. They all think that they are indestructible and therefore that nothing bad can ever happen to them. It is egotism, and wishful thinking too be sure, but at least teenagers have the excuse of youth. The nuclear industry constantly evinces a similar level of false confidence in the invincibility of their technology. Yet, they are far from invincible, as the events in Fukushima, Japan show all too clearly. The designs of these reactors were downright negligent and slipshod in terms of disaster preparedness. Even a smaller tsunami likely could have flooded the basement levels where their electric pumps and batteries were kept to circulate coolant. This design is about like giving a beer helmet to a teenage driver and expecting that he (or she) will use it solely for head protection.

Similarly, the cooling facilities for spent rods clearly are inadequate to prevent the release of radioactive materials in the case of emergency. The "invincible" plan was that water would always cool the rods. But what happens, as in the case in Japan, when these pools crack and spring leaks? What happens when the facility around it catches on fire?

Perhaps teenagers would believe that such systems were failsafe and foolproof, but the people of Tokyo, one of the most populous in the world, must now pay for the foolhardy and all too fallible presumptions of a nuclear industry that needs to finally grow up.

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