Faster Than Ever

It’s supposed to snow tonight. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow, tomorrow night and into the middle of Saturday morning. Except during the warmer, mid-day hours tomorrow, when it’s supposed to turn to rain and then back into snow.

Spring snow is not unusual around here, but tonight’s will probably carry radiation. It’s been dry since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. Tests taken by the Vermont Health Department have shown radioactive iodine, presumably from Fukushima is showing up in the state. There’s no safe level of radiation, but what we’re getting in Vermont is no cause for panic.

Now that precipitation is on the way, however, it might be a good time to take a holiday from milk. Not easy to contemplate in a diary state, where small farmers have enough to contend with, but milk drinking was the primary route for radioactive material into people’s bodies after Chernobyl in 1986. Radiation was detected in Washington State milk earlier this week.

Again, it’s not life-threatening, but precaution, a concept that escapes federal agencies – whether the issue is genetically-modified food, toxic pollutants, nuclear devices or climate change – is a good thing. “An abundance of caution.” The phrase looks so old fashioned.

Monday past was the 32nd anniversary of the partial reactor meltdown at Three Mile Island; last Thursday was the 22nd anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill. The first anniversary of the BP blowout is three weeks from tomorrow and the 25 anniversary of Chernobyl is four days after that. (It’s a busy time for me at work right now.)

A week ago, we learned General Electric, which designed the reactors at Fukushima (and 23 just like them in the US), pays no taxes, despite profits in the billions of dollars, while shipping jobs overseas.

As I mentioned then, America’s nuclear regulators knew in 1972 that the design of the GE reactor’s cooling system was flawed, but kept their mouths shut for fear it would lead to the end of nuclear energy. Four of the six troubled reactors at Fukushima Daiichi are the flawed GE design and were built AFTER the regulator’s memo was written.

Precaution, as I said, is notably absent from our government’s thoughts, even when lives are on the line. OK, so you’re a regulator who wants to cook the books on behalf of the industry you’re supposed to regulate. Could GE quietly be told to stop selling flawed reactors? Could the purchasers of said flawed reactors be quietly told to beef up the power supply for the cooling systems?

Will anyone ever be called to account for this? Doubt it. If you think your government is honest and acting in your best interest, act accordingly. If you think your government is dishonest and not acting in your best interest, act accordingly.

Those people in the tea party are not entirely off base. They’re right to be angry (and scared). I think they’re angry at some of the right people (and some of the wrong people). I think their prescriptions for change are misguided, deliberately misguided by the people on whom they rely for information.

Seismologists say as a result of the March 11 earthquake, the world is spinning faster, by 1.8 microseconds per day. It feels like we’re spinning faster than that.

© Mark Floegel, 2011

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *