Deadline Now: Nuclear Power
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Deadline Now: Nuclear Power

Friday, May 27, 2011

When a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in March 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant reactors were severely damaged. Here in Ohio, Davis Besse nuclear power station is just 21 miles east of Toledo. It has seen its share of safety concerns and violations in recent years. This week, Deadline Now focuses on nuclear power and its safety.

Al Compaan, Physics & Astronomy Professor Emeritus at the University of Toledo, and Tom Henry, staff writer for The Blade, are this week's special guests.

Here are host Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of Deadline Now:

For decades, the picturesque drive along the Lake Michigan shoreline from Petoskey to Charlevoix meant catching a glimpse of the Big Rock Point nuclear power station, right on the shoreline. The plant, Michigan’s first nuclear facility, looked like something out of a early science-fiction movie, with its perfectly round containment building. In fact, it was finished in the early 1960s. It’s gone now, decommissioned and torn down in the late nineties. But Big Rock left something behind. Sixty-four tons of high-level nuclear waste, old fuel rods stored in a guarded building off in the nearby woods.

Three hundred miles south, tons more radioactive waste is stored on-site at the Fermi 2 nuclear power station near Monroe. Twenty-three years worth of it. All this should have been trucked off and stored in a national permanent nuclear storage facility.

That was the plan. Indeed, anyone who receives electricity from a nuclear plant has been paying taxes to fund construction of such a site. But there isn’t one, and this has led to a growing national crisis. There was supposed to be a national nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But that has been blocked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is from Nevada, and the attitude of people and politicians everywhere else, whose position is NIMBY: Not in my backyard. So this highly dangerous toxic waste piles up. Michael Keegan, an anti-atomic energy activist from the Monroe area, recently characterized the nuclear power industry this way” It’s an industry without a disposal system,“ he said. “No one wants the waste, and no one knows what to do with it.”

That seems hard to dispute, regardless of your position on nuclear power. One of the first rules animals seem to learn is not to foul your own nest. Humankind doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo. It seems to me that before we even talk about more nuclear energy, the nation needs to make it a top priority to find a place or places to store the stuff we’ve already produced. There’s a lot of it, by the way -- according to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than three thousand tons of high-level nuclear waste in Michigan alone.

Somehow, it seems that this is a potential threat far greater than that someone may take a tube of shampoo in their airport carry-on bag.

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