Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Letís learn from Japan disaster

Sometimes, 100-year events occur in our lifetime. It's remarkable how some Idahoans who are connected with the nuclear industry are downplaying the horrific events in Japan. While some of these officials say they are confident that a similar event could never happen here, I sense a credibility gap and I'm unsure whether they are seriously taking into account all contingencies.

For instance, what about the fact that the INL operates amid an earthquake zone—one strongly active in recent times? On the 20th anniversary of the 1983, 6.9 Borah earthquake, Stephen Weiser, assistant deputy director of mitigation for the Idaho Bureau of Disaster Services, said, "Central Idaho is extremely vulnerable to earthquakes and has a great deal of seismic activity."

Besides occasional earthquakes, other challenges that the purportedly failsafe and "clean" nuclear industry needs to contend with are the possibilities of terrorist attacks, infrastructure wear and tear, discontented employees, and plain old human error. Then there's the proud legacy of nuclear waste. Our country stores more spent fuel rods than Japan does, and this insidiously deadly radiation will endure an epoch longer than the most ancient Egyptian pyramid.

One-hundred-year events sometimes do occur within our lifetimes: 9/11, Pearl Harbor, Hurricane Katrina, the Indonesian and Japan tsunamis, Mount St. Helens exploding, the Teton Dam bursting or even spring flooding in Woodside. It's downright disingenuous for putrid plutonium prophets to claim that a nuclear accident could never occur here; especially when one already has.

We will be stuck on the road to ruin if our leaders continue to be too shortsighted to plan no further than the next election, muffle whistleblowers so we don't learn from our mistakes and neglect to upgrade nuclear plants to high modern standards, trading short-term gain for long-term environmental disaster.

Jim Banholzer


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