Why Supporters Of Nuclear Power Are 100% Wrong

Three words: The Human Factor. Yesterday I posted an article about how the management at a nuclear power plant concealed a deadly leak from a government inspector and then a Republican appointee quashed any investigation into the cover-up. The response?

I’m a bleeding heart liberal who overwhelmingly favors top of the line, high tech safety engineered nuclear power over fossil fuels. Nuclear power must be considered as a significant part of our future fuel mix. Don’t be dissin’ nukes if you don’t understand the science.

This is not the first time I’ve gotten this kind of poorly reasoned comment. “Don’t understand the science?” Like this makes the slightest difference in the reality that nuclear power is a for-profit industry. That reality means that the people running the facilities will cut corners, cut payroll, under train the staff, use substandard parts and ignore as many safety regulations as possible. Why? Because it saves money. Period. Story, end of.

Insisting that nuclear power is “safe if you know the science” means that you are ignoring the inescapable fact that nuclear power is as safe as the people in charge and the track record is conclusive: nuclear power, as an industry, is insanely dangerous. Even the vastly superior French reactors in the hands of greedy American corporations are just a disaster waiting to happen. Facilities will not be maintained, parts will wear out and will not be replaced, “small” leaks will be ignored, etc.

Further, insisting that proper regulation would solve this problem means that you are, at best, delusional. In a perfect world, this would be the case. In the world we actually live in, however, one of our two political parties is dedicated to deregulating everything short of our DNA and that’s debatable. Corporations have billions to spend on “convincing” politicians that those pesky rules are unnecessary. Even if we put in ironclad regulations now and they work, there is absolutely no guarantee that a future Congress won’t weaken or flat out eliminate them. Look at Glass-Steagall; it was put in place after the Great Crash of 1929 to keep it from happening again. 70 years later, it was repealed. Less than ten years after that? The Second Great Crash. Let’s not kid ourselves.

Further further, pass all the rules and regulations you want, until real, actual penalties are enacted against the owners, the CEOs and the rest of the upper management, the cost benefits analysis will always show that paying a fine or two is worth the additional profit. People die, lives are destroyed, no one goes to jail.

Examples? The Massey coal mine collapse. The BP oil spill. The Ford Pinto. Oh yeah, and the collapse of Wall St. Are you seeing the pattern of reckless disregard for common sense regulations? How about a deliberate strategy of ignoring those regulations? Why in the world would anyone think that nuclear power should be different? There’s already a clear pattern of contempt for the law now. More regulation won’t change that.

The difference between a collapsing coal mine and a nuclear leak is that a leak will poison entire populations for generations. The Fukishima power plant almost rendered Tokyo uninhabitable. The children in nearby towns are developing all kinds of abnormalities. If that was the United States, would anyone take responsibility? No. They’d tie it up in the courts for decades and end up paying a piddling fine.

Nuclear power is an unnecessary risk in a world where profit comes first. The “science” is irrelevant as long as there is a profit motive. Living in denial of this fact doesn’t change it. It’s time to close this chapter and move on to other, less prone to human error, technologies.

7 comments for “Why Supporters Of Nuclear Power Are 100% Wrong

  1. Mike
    August 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Dammit…ruined my arguments completely. You are of course correct, the human factor wasn’t something I had considered. Profits before everything else is the corporate golden rule. Customers and employees are a necessary evil to the business of making money.

    And no, I’m not the person who sent the the above comment, but I was thinking that way, until you went and ruined it!

  2. drakesdrum
    August 20, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    … All this article has left me with is depression. Okay, so nuclear power isn’t particularly safe. Fossil fuels are killing the planet. Renewable energy, for now, isn’t particularly viable on a massive scale. So… The fuck can we do?

  3. Andy Alexander
    August 20, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Then how are we supposed to generate the power needs of the 7 billion people on Earth? I don’t want us to force the masses of humanity to live in the terrible squalor they currently do. And any largescale space endeavor, which is critical for the long term existence of our species is going to need nuclear power.

    I believe you are being short-sighted on this (to be fair, I am normally quite a fan, I just disagree with you on this)

  4. Robbie Yarber
    August 21, 2012 at 4:02 am

    This is exactly why we need to be hurrying our asses the fuck up on nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion is the holy grail of green energy. Very little waste is generated in the reaction, and that waste rapidly decays into harmlessness, and contrary to what you see in Sci-Fi, fusion reactors DO NOT explode, it is IMPOSSIBLE for them to explode, you can stop a nuclear fusion reaction literally with the throw of a switch, because it takes energy to maintain the reaction. Unfortunately it seems like nuclear fusion is always “50 years away.”

  5. Bamsucker
    August 22, 2012 at 12:21 am

    It kind of is sad one of the greatest advancements in the fields of energy, in my opinion, can’t even be properly regulated because people would rather cut corners than not kill people. But to me the heart of this argument isn’t that “nuclear power is bad” but that “There needs to be actual punishment for corporate misdeeds instead of the sham of a system we have today.”

    • Justin Rosario
      August 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      I agree. If CEOs went to jail for cutting corners and causing accidents and death, then nuclear power would be awesome!

  6. Robbie Yarber
    August 22, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    As for spacecraft propulsion, chemical rockets have worked just fine for over 50 years. Contrary to what people will tell you, single stage reusable spacecraft ARE possible, and we have had the high efficiency rocket engines with which to power them since the 70s!

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