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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

We Could have Lost Windsor!

Back in 1966, there was a little nuclear incident (accident) at the Fermi 1 Nuclear Power Station in Munroe County, Michigan. It was little reported. One might even say their was a conspiracy of silence. Makes one wonder how many other nuclear incidents have happened without the public being properly informed.

With the current concern for renewable energy nuclear power is getting another look as the great green, cheap solution in spite of the persistent problems: high capital costs, the inevitable accidents, and what to do with the persistent dangerous waste.

There is a need for public discussion of this energy source and its serious problems as well as the promise .

Only recently did I learn about the Fermi 1 incident. I have been interested in nuclear power all my adult life. My first social protests were about "Ban the Bomb" and the attempted introduction of American BOMARC missles in Canada at North Bay. (An American owned disarmed BOMARC up on a pedestal is one of the sights to see in that city even today. The Americans are supposed to come and take it back soon.)
The reality of the Fermi incident is chilling. If it had been a meltdown and explosion the damage would have been disasterous for the US and Canada. Since then we have had Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, too big to be kept from the public., to help us understand the consequences. Perhaps, a look at the result of Chernobyl, The Dead Zone is the place to start getting yourself worried.

In North Bay every year Ukrainian children affected still from this nuclear disaster come for a visit for the summer to recover from their polluted environment a little in the fresh air, water and safe food. It apparently does them some good and reminds us yearly of the on-going environmental damage of that nuclear incident. If the Fermi 1 incident had gone bad, their reality could be our reality today.

Voices have occasionaly been raised. Below are the lyrics to a song written by Gil Scott- Heron. in protest of the incident at Fermi 1.

We Almost Lost Detroit

It stands on a highway
like a Creature from another time.
It inspires the babies' questions,
"What's that?"
For their mothers as they ride.
But no one stopped to think about the babies
or how they would survive,
and we almost lost Detroit
this time.
How would we ever get over
loosing our minds?
Just thirty miles from Detroit
stands a giant power station.
It ticks each night as the city sleeps
seconds from anniahlation.
But no one stopped to think about the people
or how they would survive,
and we almost lost Detroit
this time.
How would we ever get over
over loosing our minds?
The sherrif of Monroe county had,
sure enough disasters on his mind,
and what would karen Silkwood say
if she was still alive?
That when it comes to people's safety
money wins out every time.
and we almost lost Detroit
this time, this time.
How would we ever get over
over loosing our minds?
You see, we almost lost Detroit
that time.
Almost lost Detroit
that time.
And how would we ever get over...
Cause odds are,
we gonna loose somewhere, one time.
Odds are
we gonna loose somewhere sometime.
And how would we ever get over
loosing our minds?
And how would we ever get over
loosing our minds? Didn't they, didn't they decide?
Almost lost Detroit
that time.
Damn near totally destroyed,
one time.
Didn't all of the world know?
Say didn't you know?
Didn't all of the world know?
Say didn't you know?
We almost lost detroit...
There are those who might think the loss of Detroit in its present sad state of repair and governance is not a wholly bad thing. Such disasters know no borders. As a Canadian, I do think the loss of Windsor, and all of Southwestern Ontario, where so much of our food is grown, and the damage to the Great Lakes as well as the loss of life and health is worth raising our voices in protest and some sober second thought on nuclear power. It is not a quick fix to the environmental problems of energy sources.


At 7:30 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off reactors in the civilized world have a negative void coefficient, so by the laws of physics a Chernobyl type accident is literally impossible in western reactors.

Chernobyl was the Hindenberg of nuclear reactors. It had a positive void coefficient, something almost as mind blowingly dumb as filling an airship with hydrogen.

Modern molten salt reactors are not subject to anything like Chernobyl for three reasons:

1) The reactor is at sea level pressure, so it is unphysical for it explode.

2) The salt fuel solidifies on contact with air acting as it's own sealent so a leak would not contaminate farther than the plant (and you can expect the workers to have proper gear for radiation, after all radiation is not voodoo magic and it can be shielded against).

3) The graphite is always in the fuel so it is once again, unphysical for the reactor to explode.

Most of the objections you had to nuclear power in your youth were probably from the deficiencies of old designs.

Just as airships are now filled with Helium nuclear power has reached a technological point of safety that exceeds coal. I, for one, would rather bank on the laws of physics to save the thousands of lives lost every year to coal. But then again that might be my reductionist thinking...

At 8:11 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your statement that reactors in the "civilized world have negative void coefficient" so Chernobyl type accidents are 'impossible" is false.

Canadian CANDU reactors share this design flaw with the Chernobyl RBMK reactors.


At 8:27 p.m., Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

It is interesting to me that the two Anon. commentors found my blog entry quite fast. They represent in some respect two sides of the argument. Is this by chance or is there a concerted effort to challenge articles on nuclear power immediately.

These two people are carrying on a dialogue in technical language I do not understand.

I am a simple soul and only share Edward Teller's (father of Hydrogen Bomb) probability concern,
" A single major mishap in a nuclear reactor could cause extreme damage, not because of the explosive force, but because of the radioactive contamination. . . . So far, we have been extremely lucky . . . But with the spread of industrialization, with the greater number of simians monkeying around with things they do not completely understand, sooner or later a fool will prove greater than the proof even in a foolproof system"

At 8:44 a.m., Blogger KGMom said...

Philip--I was thinking along the lines of "whatever can go wrong will go wrong" (Murphy's law).

As someone who lives almost within the shadow of Three Mile Island, I do not take nuclear power lightly. Also, as someone who lives in a coal mining state (albeit hard coal), I know the dangers of coal exhaust adding to our carbon footprint.

Surely one are that MUST be explored is how can we be less spendthrift in using resources. We need to learn to conserve more, use less.

At 8:45 a.m., Blogger KGMom said...

Make that AREA (not are) in the last paragraph of my comment--wish there were a way to spell check comments on Blogger!

At 9:38 a.m., Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

You are right Donna. The easiest solution to the energy problems and the resultant environmental problems is not on the supply side, with more energy created, which is mostly talked about but on the demand side. We need to learn to use less. Dramatic changes could be made in this area relatively painlessly BUT not much profit is made from using less. This is the self destructive flaw in our economic system.

At 9:59 a.m., Blogger sandegaye said...

I know I feel antsy just living as close as we do to the Oak Ridge reactor site.. & that's an hr away.
Great post!

At 10:10 a.m., Blogger Julie said...

I posted last night, but it didn't appear,, must have done something wrong.. :(

Anyway, in Erwin Tn, in upper east Tn, they make the fuel for all the NUKE subs. It came out last year that several years ago the suspected leak was in fact true. There is a high than normal incidence of cancer in that area. It's a beautiful, remote mountanious area of tennessee as well. A good hiding place so to speak and not full of wealthy, powerful complaining folk either.

I was ignorant of what happened in Michigan and am deeply saddened but not surprised.

I always find it interesting how anon posters but such opposing facts and post them as anon! It's probably a good thing you live in canada and are not subject to the 'patriot act' and still have civil liberties!


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