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2ndClassCitizenPundit On March - 15 - 2011

(or How I Came to Prefer the Bomb)

With reports and hype currently abounding regarding Japanese nuclear plants endangered by recent (and continuing) earthquakes, perhaps it is time to take a look at the truth about the state of nuclear power in the world today.

Oh, why bother, the hype and knee-jerk reactions are so much more fun. After all, talking about human beings glowing in the dark (without the aid of glow-in-the-dark condoms or body paint) is a much more fascinating subject, right?

Well, prepared to be bored. It’s time to have some rational discussion on the subject. If that’s not your thing, then you are excused. Well, not really, but your comments won’t be missed.

First of all, let’s dispose of a few Frequently Asked Questions about nuclear power (please note that all of these are questions are ones I have been asked since Friday morning):

Q1: Why can’t we have safe nuclear power?

A: Profits. Building a safe, stable nuclear power plant costs money. As Bechtel conclusively proved in the 1970’s in Midland Michigan, adhering to standards of construction, most of which are intended to make the power plant safe, is not cost-effective. Bechtel proved this by the way, by consistently ignoring standards of construction for nuclear plants.

If corporations were required to adhere to standards of construction (which are only included in ordinances, legislation, and building codes to make the books thicker and more impressive anyway), then people might also start expecting them to use safe materials in their products, pay a decent minimum wage, compensate employees for injuries caused by the corporation, allow employees to go back to their homes on their off-hours, and all sorts of other things advocated by governments who only want to subjugate and enslave their peons, I mean, slaves, I mean, citizens.

Q2: When will the radiation reach the West Coast and irradiate all those namby-pamby leftists?

A: About the time that pigs fly through a wormhole in space to the Delta Quadrant.

I would strongly suggest anyone fearing the West Coast being irradiated (or, conversely, praying for it) look at ocean currents and wind currents of the Pacific Ocean. I’d lay odds on the chances of most people taking the time to do that, so I will just say this: the odds are better that you would be able to fly a paper airplane through a convoy of tornados.

Yes, we all remember how Canada was irradiated by the Chernobyl incident, such that nobody lives in Canada anymore. But Canada is a lot closer to Chernobyl (4434 miles) than Tokyo is to San Francisco (5133 miles), so the end of the gay rights agenda is not within your grasp. Better luck next time.

Also, Chernobyl was a very “dirty” power plant. The Japanese plant was built by qualified engineers who did not receive their degrees solely based on their political loyalties (and bribes to government officials), making those Japanese engineers very suspect to the Republican party and their inbred political cousins in other countries.

Q3: Why wasn’t the Japanese nuclear plant built to withstand an earthquake?

A: See the answer to question Q1 above.

Also, I would say that it is for the same reason that Corvettes are not built to withstand being run over by an 18-wheeler. And 18-wheelers are built with a better suspension than we current manufacture earthquakes with.

Q4: Are we going to die?

A: Yes. We are all going to die. However, unless the Rapture happens (and Yahweh decides to make a power grab and snatch up a lot of people who he has no claim on, such as people from other religions), we won’t all die at the same time.

Death is a fact of life. Everybody dies. Most people die at different times, unless Palin or Britney suddenly tweet something of monumental importance (like what restaurant they just escaped from without paying the bill), in which case a lot of sheeple may die at the same time as they try to retweet while driving through a construction zone.

Q5: How much radiation is actually being put out by the Japanese reactor?

A: Not much.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/15/us-us-moves-shield-idUSTRE72E87L20110315

“Rear Admiral Richard Wren, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan, said the additional radiation exposure for the past 12 hours at the two bases was about 20 millirem, less than one month’s exposure to naturally occurring background radiation.

“There is no appreciable health risk, and we are being very conservative in our recommendations,” Wren said in a video message to naval forces.

The confusion here is the concept of “elevated levels”. Let me put this concept in plain language: if the creek near your home rises 1 inch, it is “elevated levels”. And that probably happens several times a day, but you aren’t evacuating your family every time.

Q6:Why do you keep bringing logic and facts into this? What is wrong with you?

A: I was born with a brain, which I do not use to prop up my eyebrows and my hat, but rather for the purpose for which the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Steve Irwin, Robert Heinlein, and Gaia intended.

I was also educated by a long series of teachers, instructors, mentors, and professors who conveyed a love of learning, taught me how to do basic research (Google is your friend, and wants to know why you never call anymore), and taught me how to construct a logical argument.  In other words, union teachers, which puts me near the top of the list of Wisconsin Governor Walker’s list-of-people-to-eliminate-by-whining-about-them-to-the-media-and-the-Koch-brothers.

The sarcasm is all my own, I have a signed statement from my mother’s obstetrician to prove it.

 

Now, I have seen part of this discussion somehow derailed with comments and reminiscences of Chernobyl. In fact, CNN is currently quoting a French official (who does not seem to have actually gone to Japan) saying the Japanese “crisis” is on par with Chernobyl, despite the fact that experts present in Japan and actually monitoring the situation have already said that the levels are already dropping back down.

We have some people screaming that it’s not fair to compare Chernobyl and Japan. Construction, and therefore flaws, are completely different, they say. As a matter of fact, the only people I have seen comparing the two are either saying “not even close” or are so-called experts who are worried that their names haven’t been in any articles lately and they are afraid they may have to resort to alcohol in order to get that warm, fuzzy feeling before leaving the office (and unconfirmed reports suggest that the price of alcoholic beverages has risen by a whopping 31% this past year).

Yes, there are people who are recalling or reminiscing about Chernobyl. The “crisis” in Japan has caused some people to go back and look at the lasting damages caused by the Chernobyl incident, as well as Three Mile Island, Love Canal, and Bristol Palin’s Dancing With The Stars appearances.

This is normal behavior. I have also seen people talking about the Haiti disaster, despite the fact that there appear to be more people who care about Japan a lot more than Haiti. After all, none of our favorite electronics are manufactured in Haiti, other than tourism. And there is a surplus of tourism in lots of other places, so it’s not like the global economy will suffer. Besides, we can always ship Las Vegas to Haiti to make up for any shortfalls, and everybody will be happy.

When the supposed “crisis” about Priuses was going on, nobody complained that it was unfair to bringing up the old Pinto “crisis”. Despite the fact that Pintos were totally chick-magnets, and not even a gay man finds men driving Priuses attractive.

No, my friends (and I use the term intentionally knowing how many of you will feel insulted), it’s not a question of “that’s different!”  It’s a question of “they are related”.

When something like a reactor breaks, or a cheaply-made Styrofoam car develops issues with brakes and accelerator pedals, it is common to draw on our past experiences with similar instances. Nobody is saying they are the “same”. They are saying that they are reminded of something “similar”.

Let me say this again: it is common. It’s kind of like saying something tastes like chicken. It doesn’t taste like chicken, per se, but it reminds us of eating chicken.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look at what is really driving the discussion right now: cheap power.

Why can’t we have a cheap, efficient method of powering our thousand-and-one-absolutely-necessary-accessories? Because of profits.

Cheap power is only considered cheap if consumers pay less for it. This violates the basic precept of so-called “public utilities”. Power should only be cheap for those who provide it, so they can jack up the price, and therefore the profits they get.

So what is going on right now? Nuclear power is, once again, catching flack as being unsafe. Yippee. Synchronize your watches, because it’s going to happen again.

Utility companies love it when this subject comes up. They get to whine and cry to the media about how they are being maligned, and how they wish everybody (except them) would stop bringing up these “false facts”. As a result, the price of their stock drops, the company can then buy back their own stock from nervous investors, which means that when it comes time to distribute profits (and they always have profits) the company gets the biggest share. And the only ones who get to share in that lion’s share of profits are company executives – in other words, the people who have been whining about it on TV.

A few months from now, the utility companies will whine about how they can’t provide enough power unless they build another (publicly-funded) power plant, and someone will leak some documents showing how dirty coal or natural gas power plants are. Activists will get fired up about clean energy once again, but natural forms of energy are erratic or inefficient due to the state of technology, etc., so the public will demand a nuclear power plant instead. Which will be funded mainly through public funds, have huge cost over-runs, and probably never open anyway, as evidenced by the two nuclear power plants that were supposed to be built in Midland Michigan.

Meanwhile, the utility companies will jack up their price per kilowatt-hour to account for the increased demand, so they make even more profit.

The argument about how different plants are constructed is inconsequential. Why? Because that is information you do not have, and will never have. Sure, the US and the UN would love to give you details on schematics and architectural plans for nuclear reactors! Good luck on the Freedom of Information Act request, despite the fact that the UN and other countries are not even beholden to follow that Act, and post-9-11 has the plans and details of any power plant as classified material.

I toured the Midland nuclear plant (the first one, the one that was actually built) in the 80’s, more than 6 years after it was started. One of the things that scared the bejesus out of me was the piles of kitty litter under a large number of rather large pipes. An engineer on the project explained that the kitty litter was intended to soak up leaks when they occurred.

He said “when”, not “if”. In other words, leaks in those pipes, carrying irradiated liquid away from the reactor, were not a possibility, but a certainty. Just to be clear, “certainty” means it will happen.

Are you surprised that the US government finally refused to entertain any notion that the Midland plant would ever be allowed to go online?

Why are these power plants constructed so shoddily? Let me break it down for you.

The plants are designed by engineers who are supposed to know what they are doing. Few of those engineers will ever visit the power plant. Most work their 9 to 5 job and go home. The power plant is an intellectual exercise for them. They will never be held responsible for any issues. Ask Bechtel how many of those engineers were fired after the US shut down the Midland plant.

The plants are constructed by construction companies who usually do not have more than one or two actual engineers on staff. Those engineers are supposed to review the plans and implementation for multiple projects at the same time.

The people doing the actual construction work are people like you and me. They have no idea what kind of stresses the system will be under, what the specifications should be, they can only go by the plans they are given. Most construction companies, to save money, will cut corners here and there. They have to, in order to make a profit themselves. They have to bid under everyone else in order to get the job, and to make a profit off that bid, they have to do the job as inexpensively as possible. And inexpensive, in today’s society, means cheap. As in, not worth paying for, not intended to last long, not worth a snowball’s chance in hell.

The people overseeing all of this are the executives of the utility company. They want profits. They will never live within the blast radius, should something go wrong, and the plant is usually put on stand-by while they are present for ribbon-cuttings and other photo-ops. The safety of the power plant itself is of no consequence to them.

Pop quiz: how many people were charged in criminal or civil court for the Three Mile Island incident? (an all-expense paid trip from my house to the corner to the first one who gets the question right)

The people paying for the plant are usually those who pay taxes in the area, since municipalities love to write contracts giving large corporations open access to their standard of life, without any penalty clause anywhere (I refer you to the way Jackson Michigan willingly submitted to being sodomized by Consumers’ Power, later renamed to Consumers’ Energy, to the tune of millions of dollars). While there are mutual funds and investors who enjoy buying up bond issues for these power plants, the burden is usually shifted, over time, to small investors and local communities.

In other words, people who don’t count anyway.

Why can’t we find a cheaper way to get energy? Check why Nikola Tesla’s energy transmission patents were never acted upon. The answer is, there was no way to make money on it. Think of it, freely available electricity for the world.

Obviously, that’s not the way the world works. It’s unethical not to charge people as much as the market will bear, while trying to force them to bear the burden of budget over-runs, poor management, and management perks.

Power, and the profits to be made from it, do not lie in the hands of citizens, the poor, the workers, etc. Power rests only in the hands of those willing to abuse it, just like Yahweh intended.

Written by 2ndClassCitizenPundit

45 year old gay man, ordained minister, veteran, writer, living in Vancouver WA (previously Palm Springs) About the time you assume I am serious, I will post something humorous or snarky; about the time you assume I am a clown, I will hit you with rational thought - don't assume. Read what I write, not what you think I write.

18 Responses so far.

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  1. I would like to say that this article was meant in no way to denigrate or minimize the risks to people in Japan right now. This article was written and published before the latest news regarding the reactors and aftershocks.

    I am deeply concerned for people in Japan right now. But I have faith that they will handle the situation far better than other countries or municipalities. Japan’s government and citizens, as far as I can see, tend to do better at creating rational responses to issues and circumstances than, say, FEMA and other government agencies in the US, or the mobs of carpet-baggers that descended on NOLA following Katrina.

  2. chazmania says:

    As soon as you make a machine like a reactor you have created a monster that will continuously produce highly radioactive material (20 tones a year) that has to be stored for thousands of years kept cool or it explodes. All for some to profit.
    Humans are far too ignorant selfish and hungry to ever do anything decent with the potential life has given them..Its inevitable that we force our own extinction for a few CEO’s and banking mafia families to count the money, exploit and enslave other people..And the people just keep bending over and taking it because they worship authority and hubris and the system and celebrate the worst behaved hairless ape on the planet…Worship money as a god and the Apes that accumulate the most are worshiped as gods…Truly the sickness that will be our demise.

    If we do not as a species adopt a resource based way of life we may as well give up of seeing mankind progress from here. And expect much more human suffering at the hands of politicians and corporatist…hold on to your seats its gona be a bumpy ride from here on in. The sickness is deep and embedded.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z9WVZddH9w

    • Buddy McCue says:

      You say that “Humans are far too ignorant selfish and hungry to ever do anything decent with the potential life has given them,” and I hate to agree with you.

      But it sure does seem that way sometimes. And since atomic power has a great potential for evil purposes, it might be nice if it weren’t used at all.

      Should Atom and Evil ever be wed… well, I’ll let the Golden Gate Quartet explain it.


    • What we really need is a way to teach ethics and personal responsibility, and incorporate that into the curriculum at an early age, rather than rampant consumerism.

      We need a way to evaluate advances in technology, in advance, as to the consequences and impacts of that technology on our society and individuals.

      Until we do so, I have no faith in our species’ ability to survive much longer.

  3. KQuark says:

    You bring up ,many very salient points.

    Personally I’m not going to comment on the nuclear crisis right now except to say I hope the Japanese peoples’ health is effected as little as possible. Frankly I can’t see past my personal feelings for the people to comment anyway. It’s just heartbreaking to see such a proud and family focused people suffer so much.

    However I promise to write as sober and informative piece as I can about all our future energy options.

  4. BigDogMom says:

    People, I think we have the next Erma Bombeck in our midst…2CCP you need to get a syndicated column, your that good!

  5. Abbyrose86 says:

    I just LOVE sarcasm! It makes the telling of these facts and stories, so much more interesting!

    Excellent job 2CCP of telling the issue with just the right amount of sarcasm and wit!

    Sadly, due to the situation you so aptly described, most people no nothing about Tesla as his mentor Edison MADE sure most people didn’t know of him and HIS ideas…because Edison was a power hungry egomaniac. Tesla, was basically just a nerdy engineer and didn’t seem to be as big into gaining attention and POWER like his boss, was..so it’s no surprise that Edison pretty much ended up being the one who become rich and well known and Tesla is regulated to the back pages of the History books.

    Which like many POWER hungry egomaniacs, money and thus PROFIT are the means to their POWER and ability to gain MORE power. POWER is such an aphrodisiac. I would be willing to go out on a limb, and suggest that AFTER a certain point, it’s not really about MONEY anymore…not really. Money and MAJOR amounts of money are simply a means to extreme amounts of POWER.Thus, the accumulation of POWER that that money generates that IS REALLY, REALLY what these people are after.

    As such it is rather ironic that industries that generate POWER often attract those who are POWER hungry as a means for them to MAKE obscene amounts of money and THUS amass MORE power. THEY get the best of both…they make RIDICULOUS sums of money, which makes them very influential and thus very powerful AND they control the sources of POWER, which makes them RIDICULOUS sums of money and GIVES them EVEN MORE power. The mad scientists in most comic books, usually do the same thing…they look for power sources to control and take them over in their quest to dominate the world. It’s actually a pretty old story.

    Growing up in Buffalo,NY…WHICH for those who aren’t aware is less than 20 minutes from Niagara Falls (THE falls were actually a BIG player in the electricity biz…sadly THEY don’t get the press they deserve, or enough credit for the power they generate) and being the city where electricity was first introduced as a means to power industry, information about Tesla is rather easy to come by in these parts. MOST of us, as students at one time or another, have had to write at LEAST one paper on Tesla, Edison and Electricity at some point in their school career. AS well as going on field trips to the MANY museums dedicated to this subject or tour the power plant while in grade school or High school.

    Niagara County also has the dubious distinction of being home to many superfund sites! YEAH…aren’t we lucky! (SIGH) and have some knowledge of the toxins that such GREAT power leaves behind. Niagara Falls, in case some of you don’t know is home to Love Canal.

    Yes, the great state of New York and the elite power brokers and robber barons (also called industrialists) of the early 20th century decided it would be great fun, to destroy a natural wonder of the world,and it’s surrounding areas and make it a hub for ALL sorts of great industries. Those great industries, decided to use the surrounding countryside and the GREAT lakes, as a waste dump for their wastes! It was so CONVENIENT that there was so MUCH empty land and waterways, just lying around! WOULDN’T want to actually DISPOSE of the waste properly, now would they? THAT just might cost them to use some of those profits! So instead they decided to just ruin the EARTH…since they didn’t live THERE…I guess it didn’t matter much to them.

    Although, they seemed to forget that the GREAT LAKES are a fresh water source and as such MAY actually be a beneficial asset. Silly, madmen seemed to have forgotten that PEOPLE…ALL people, even RICH and powerful PEOPLE, need fresh water TO live. AND water is one of those things THEY CAN’T manufacture! They also seemed to have FORGOTTEN or maybe they didn’t know…that WATER flows and moves into OTHER water sources.

    AS I said, they are like the mad power hungry scientists in the comic books…BUT without the knowledge of SCIENCE.

    • Abby, you would not believe which groups of people are actually at the forefront of reviving knowledge of Tesla and his patents: music fans and steampunkers.

      Via the cult-favorite band Tesla, fans of the music started wondering what the word meant. Some actually looked it up. Others asked their friends.

      Steampunk aficionados are not only fostering appreciation for Tesla, they are actually *building* some of his devices for shows, conventions, exhibitions, etc. The steampunk subculture is becoming a real hit across the world. (And whilst painting a condo and being subjected to the boss’s “this is an Ikea showroom” design sense, I kept mentally redecorating the condo as a steampunk-themed apartment)

  6. jkkFL says:

    Bravo 2ccp!
    Unfortunately, I have a small bit of blasphemy to inject. While I was reading your post- (which I found very reaasonable, but I am in the minority with you.) I suddenly realized that Piers Morgan-(whom I detest) was on, AND he had Sen Vitter as his guest- who must have read your post just prior to airtime :)
    Go figure- who knew David Vitter knew anything about anything above his waist!

  7. ADONAI says:

    I know we can build a safe nuclear plant. My problem with nuclear plants is that we are creating tons of nuclear waste. We have no way to get rid of it other than bury it and hope future people find a solution.

  8. Caru says:

    I’ve heard recently that the Polywell method of controlled Nuclear Fusion has overcome many design hurdles.

    Apparently, the concept works and the whole idea just needs to be refined for commercial energy purposes.

    If this is true, it would be incredibly important. From what I understand, in case of a containment breach the reactor would simply shut down because the containment itself is what is allowing the reaction to occur.


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