Wednesday, April 20, 2011

We Demand Nuclear Accountability Now!

My first New Year's Eve in France was in 2000. I had flown from New York the day after Christmas via Frankfort to Toulouse. My plan was to take a train from Toulouse to Brive la Gaillarde. The night before I left, the news was pretty ominous from France because the storm of the century had sliced across the country and had devastated the region around Paris. I was relieved, because the Dordogne seemed to have been spared, but the storm was a one, two punch...the next day another more powerful storm came ashore at the mouth of the Gironde, above Bordeaux and roared south. I was blissfully unaware, on my Lufthansa flight. As I took my connecting flight from Frankfort to Toulouse, there was rough weather at one point, but in Toulouse, there was gentle rain and rather mild temperatures for the season. I took a bus from the airport to the train station, le Gare de Toulouse Matabiau, where all hell was breaking loose. My French at the time was pretty spotty. I looked at the board of arrivals and departures and saw the train I wanted. I was wondering what all the carrying on around me was about. I stood in line to buy my ticket only to have the clerk tell me that there was no train to Brive. I thought it was my bad French and I didn't quite understand, so I pointed to the big board where my train was still posted as "on time" and the clerk again tried to tell me that there was no train to Brive.
Then, a fellow who spoke English explained to me that there had been a second more terrible storm and the lines were totally out of service. Dis oriented, I called my wife from a pay phone to tell her. She was amazed that the phone rang at our house. It had been out all day. She had been in the house in terror during the storm which destroyed the veranda and damaged the roof. We had gotten off easily, but I was stuck in Toulouse for a few days until they could get some sort of arrangement. My wife couldn't leave because there was no gas for the car as the electricity for the gas station pumps was out. Finally, I made it to Montauban and we arranged a rendezvous. The trip in the car from Montauban to our little house outside of Thenon was heart wrenching as we viewed the increasing devastation of roofs and forest. It took years for the forests to recover. We still come across areas that show the scars of the storm.
When we finally got back, it was a week of living in the middle ages. No electricity, no water as the system was powered by electric pumps, the only heat was the fireplace. Still we had out New Years Eve with friends who lived just inside the area that had power.
the Blayais Reactor complex
In the days to come, we learned how serious the damage really was. The electrical system had been crumpled like toys cast off by a petulant ill tempered child. Then news about a "little problem" at the Blayais Nuclear Reactor on the estuary of the Gironde. There had been a "little' release of radioactivity, but nothing to look at, move on....
Only now, 11 years later, after the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant in Japan is data making it to the public as to what really occurred at Blaye. Blaye was hit by a tidal wave and totally flooded and lost power and began to over heat. It took days of frantic work to shut the plant down and it was months before it went back on line. Nobody knows the levels of radioactivity that was actually released.
Surry Nuclear Facility
Earlier this week, a series of devastating tornadoes swept through the south and mid Atlantic states in America. The storm system was said to be the worst in 40 years.  A news item which I never really saw reported in the American press, surfaced in the Guardian. It reported that the Surry Nuclear Facility in Virginia had suffered damage and had shut down. The electricity to the plant was knocked out and they were trying to operate the cooling system with diesel generators. I googled for more information and found nothing in the American Press but a reference in a Virginia Business News Site that was little more than a passing reference.
The other place I found a reference was through Reuters Africa Energy News. 
As the reality of what occurred in Japan unfolds and though the enormity of the disaster is hard to comprehend, one point cuts through...the level of disinformation and denial of TEPCO, The Tokyo Electric Power Company, who operates the plant. After a weeks of denial, now we learn that there was actually a partial melt down in Unit 2. The clean up will never be over. Like Chernobyl, this will become another Nuclear Industry Sacrifice Zone on the planet. 
As long as our governments sanction the insane nuclear power industry, they will cover up the realities.
Germany abandoned it's Nuclear energy program definitively after the Fukushima disaster and had already started to phase nuclear out after a supposedly safe Nuclear Waste Storage facility was compromised by an unforeseen shift in the geological structure of the abandoned salt mine it was located in. 
That is why, the next post down, the post about the RDTN Kickstarter project is so interesting. It is about creating a network of independent monitors to hold government and the industry accountable by making our own real time data base of nuclear levels and emissions. Watch the video.

1 comment:

Laci the Chinese Crested said...

OK, the woman I was living with and I went to Paris for the millenium. Our flight was for Boxing Day. We received a call telling us to get to the airport early since our flight had been rescheduled. They didn't tell us what had gone on. Anyway, I slept through the flight to awake to the flight attendant in a panicked voice saying "brace yourself".

We figured out what had happened after the flight had landed.

Anyway, I am in total agreement with you that there is no way that nuclear power could ever be considered safe, yet it is being pushed as an alternative to other fossil and coal based forms of generating power.

It's even weirder that the Japanese would tolerate it.