Top | Prev
the OTHER paper
N U C L E A R P O W E R A N D Y2K
By A. STANLEY THOMPSON
Y2K flaws may cause nuclear power reactor meltdown, spreading poisonous radioactive elements into the environment. One large nuclear reactor contains radioactive products equivalent to 1000 Hiroshima bombs. These products include radioactive iodine, strontium, and plutonium which enter unnoticed and destroy living tissue.. Their spread by an accident causes cancer, death, and mutations for present and future generations.
After several reactor failures, there are still 103 aging power reactors in the United States. Reactor accidents are inevitable. Complex nuclear power plants are operated by fallible and occasionally malicious human beings. Reactor structures fail from radiation damage and other random causes. Harmful design compromises are made to try to reduce the high cost of nuclear power. The Chernoble reactor spread radioactive materials over the whole northern hemisphere. Accidents at Three Mile Island and elsewhere in the United States show that our reactors are not immune to failure.
After shut down, radioactive elements in the reactor core continue to generate energy. It has been estimated that this residual energy is sufficient to melt an uncooled reactor core in perhaps two hours, spreading its poisonous radioactive contents into the environment. For a long time after shut-down power for core cooling must be provided by a source independent from the nuclear power plant, for instance by diesel generators. Unfortunately, these independent systems have not proved to be sufficiently reliable.
Nuclear power plants are dependent on computer programs for their control. Many of the programs are unable to identify the start of the new millennium, the so-called Y2K problem. The programs are complicated, and there are many reactors with many components, It is almost impossible to locate and correct all built-in Y2K flaws. These flaws may result in a rash of reactor accidents on and after January 1, 2000.
Reactor operators cannot see what is happening within a reactor, which is covered by thick layers of shielding for their protection from its lethal radioactive emanations. During an accident the operators , in their control room, are surrounded by panels filled with instruments and flashing lights, some of which may be giving them false signals. They must handle myriad switches with unerring accuracy while resisting panic from their sense of impending doom. Under such duress, operators tend to err, aggravating any developing catastrophe.
Among other new groups, Citizens Concerned About Nuclear Disaster (CCAND) (541-338-7572), in Eugene, Oregon, maintains that all nuclear power plants should be shut down as soon as possible, allowing time before January 1, 2000 to cool the reactors and prevent catastrophic melt-down. There will be great resistance to this proposal from the nuclear establishment, which endorses the myth of reactor safety. Citizens must become organized to overcome this resistance.
The question has been asked, how do we get enough electrical power for our needs without the nuclear option? We should rectify our neglect of gentler energy sources such as solar. Most important of all, we must develop plans to conserve energy, starting now. What energy wasters can we do without?
A. Stanley Thompson, 1910 Monroe Street, Eugene, OR 97405 (541-683-2332) (email@example.com)