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The Nation: A Warning From Japan

Author: Christian Parenti, The Nation
March 17, 2011

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Christian Parenti of The Nation believes that the message out of Fukushima is clear: our own fleet of leaky old nuclear plants should be decommissioned now.

At press time, the nuclear crisis in Japan is out of control: three reactors are in partial meltdown, two are leaking radiation, at least one pool full of eighty tons of “spent” uranium fuel rods may be burning, two other such pools are getting very hot. Three major explosions have destroyed much of the Fukushima plant's basic infrastructure, like cranes, monitors and mechanical controls.

Japanese officials have prevaricated, fumbled and have now largely retreated; the distressed plant is just too hot. Their understanding of the crisis is fragmentary. What they tell the public is even more limited. In total desperation they bombed the site with water dropped from helicopters but aborted that plan when radiation exposure proved too dangerous. Radioactive fallout is already sickening people. And this is just the beginning.

Fukushima is a grave warning. The message is clear: systems fail; the unthinkable happens. Yet even in the face of this catastrophe a gang of pro-nuke zealots, like Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of California, are saying the crisis will actually be good for the much-hyped but elusive “nuclear renaissance.”

Nunes wants the United States to build 200 new nuclear plants! But that figure, while stunning, is largely meaningless. Why not call for 301 or 517 new plants? The fact is that the amount of private capital required to build new plants is nowhere on the horizon. Wall Street is rightly scared of such investments; nukes go over cost and present huge risks. Only governments in places like China and India—unconcerned about making a profit on investments—build new nuclear plants.

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