Monday, March 11, 2013

No More Fukushimas

Today in Japan, thousands of people turn out to remember the 2 year anniversary of the catastrophic tsunami and the continuing real time disaster of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. I find it pretty incredible that it is hardly talked about in the news, but then again, not surprising in light of the concerted and militant campaign by the nuclear power industry to rehabilitate it's image after the world wide reaction against immediate threat of nuclear accidents and the long term reality of dealing with this technology, even when nothing seems to be going wrong.  I am not a Luddite. I believe in science. I believe in the future of our planet and the human species. I do believe that nuclear power is a dead end in many ways. The immediate greed driven profits generated for the companies and the governments which enable them blind us to real progress. Real progress is being made incrementally every day. We are closer to a world of passive, free, safe energy and we did it with out a Manhattan project. Where would we be now if there had been a "Manhattan Project" to develop passive safe energy?  I have always been opposed to and I will always be anti nuclear energy. Will you stand with me?
 I have written quite a bit about Fukushima and the accident here on this blog. If you are interested in learning more about Japan, the culture and the mind set which allowed this to happen and is now trying to reverse the obvious reality of the disaster for corporate greed, you could check out my nephew, Alex Kerr's book,  Dogs and Demons. Alex is truly embedded into Japanese culture and is the only non Japanese writer to have ever won their version of the Pulitzer Prize. This was not the book that won him a prize, though. He got in a lot of hot water for daring to speak the truth!  I grew up in Detroit in the 50's and the 60's. My uncle was an engineer for Detroit Edison and worked on the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Plant in Luna Pier, Michigan. Luna Pier is a spit of land on the marshy shore of Lake Erie South of Monroe. It was supposed to be a showcase of new technology. The first commercial liquid sodium cooled commercial reactor in the world. The engineers were inventing the technology and solving problems as they built it. It went on line ahead of schedule and in 1962, my school went on a field trip to visit the reactor complex. I got this great propaganda comic book!  One month later, the operators of the reactor were making panicked phone calls to the Monroe County Sheriff Department to tell them that they had to evacuate Monroe and they might only have 20 minutes...It took almost 30 years to figure out what had happened in Luna Pier. It was after the designer of the system died and there was access to his personal papers that they even realized he had designed, in dealing with a technical problem, a solution that was never even incorporated into the final plans: To regulate the flow of the liquid sodium, he designed titanium flutter valves. After the system went on line, one of the little butterfly wing valves broke and clogged the system. The Sodium stopped flowing and the reactor began to melt down. The Fermi plant was so contaminated that it took years before any real diagnostic attempt could be made. The cameras showed a little metal chip in the line and the immediate verdict was to blame the workers for dropping a beer can pop top accidentally into the system. It wasn't the workers though, it was a little piece of titanium and perhaps, Gil Scott Heron is more eloquent and passionate than I am capable of is one of Americas greatest modern poets telling us about How We Almost Lost Detroit:

No more Fukushimas! Will You Stand With Me?

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