Edward L. Quinn, past president of the American Nuclear Society, ignores the grim reality of what happened at Fukushima in March in his Viewpoint of Nov. 11. The catastrophic release of radiation into the air, sea and soil from three nuclear meltdowns continues to this day. The Japanese Atomic Energy Commission said on Nov. 2 that it will take more than 30 years to dismantle the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
The magnitude of the catastrophe at Fukushima is recognized by Gregory B. Jaczko, Nuclear Regulatory Committee chairman. On Nov. 10, he stated, “... there are a number of nuclear power plants that have experienced significant safety challenges. Right now, there are two plants that are shut down due to safety concerns, three plants that are showing declining performance, and there are 19 plants that have been singled out for special inspections — more than at any point in memory.”
These are the words of the NRC chairman, not those of anti-nuclear activists.
Mr. Quinn’s Viewpoint claims that “other energy industries,” such as coal, oil and gas, have a worse safety record than nuclear power. He fails to mention that hundreds of square miles in Japan will be uninhabitable for decades and that the massive release of radiation will cause cancers in current and future generations. He skips over the fact that the 2,000 metric tons of nuclear waste stored on the fragile, seismically-active coastline at Diablo Canyon include several of the most lethal substances on Earth.
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Within weeks of the initial explosions in Japan, milk from the Cal Poly dairy had elevated levels of strontium-90. Strontium-90 acts like calcium and migrates to the bone, increasing the risks of leukemia and bone cancer. Mr. Quinn also skips over the fact that that the experts in risk assessment, the insurance industry, disagree with his opinion that nuclear power is safe. No private insurer will accept the risks of insuring nuclear plants, so the taxpayer has that burden under the Price-Anderson Act.
We who live on the Central Coast will leave the legacy of nuclear waste to the next thousand generations. The waste will remain at Diablo Canyon unless the United States government orders it transported on our highways and railways to some central location, risking accident or sabotage along the way. It is nonsensical to continue to produce waste that will remain lethal for 250,000 years. San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace opposes a 20-year license extension of this aging, vulnerable nuclear plant. The California Energy Commission has mandated that one-third of all energy produced in the state be from sources other than nuclear or fossil fuels by 2020, and we have just begun to conserve.
It is time to shut down Diablo Canyon and invest in clean, renewable energy.
Linda Seeley is a spokeswoman for San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace.