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it was put in place after the Great Crash of 1929 to keep it from happening again. 70 years later, it was repealed.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.