Wednesday, April 7, 2010

One of my fears

My thoughts and prayers are with the workers and their families who were involved in the recent mining tradegy in West Virginia. And also with every person who works daily in those conditions. We take for granted the energy that we use provided by folks working in hot, dirty, hazardous jobs.

Coal, whether dug underground or strip mined, has been providing us with energy for too long. We are seriously destroying our planet by digging tunnels for fuel to be burned and set off into the atmosphere. Likewise, oil and gas have been pulled from storage beneath the ground (and oceans), and consumed "like it was going out of style". Well, it is.

So one would think I must be a big supporter of nuclear power. Sorry. No. Perhaps because I vividly remember Three Mile Island. I was a young working gal, listening to the news and joining in the talk around the water cooler. The news reported contamination of the area around the reactor and could not estimate how widespread it could be. There were months of worrying about a possible melt-down, because they had trouble cooling the tower. It made a big impression on me. There was also the Chernobel disaster in the 80's, causing deaths, radioactive illnesses, and destruction. There are still miles and miles of land that can no longer be used and towns that can no longer be inhabited.

While living up north there were occassional news reports of "missing" spent fuel rods at the Vermont Yankee plant. How can you mis-place a fuel rod for a nuclear reactor? It turns out that these are stored in water baths to keep cool until they can be placed in permanent storage. The water baths are deep and dark and rods can be "overlooked" so they are reported as missing. Not being able to keep track of your nuclear waste is pretty disturbing to me, as is the fact that they have to be stored forever deep inside some mountain in the west. Along with the logistics of transporting them to that mountain.

This past winter I read several news reports about a tritium leak at the nuclear power plant in VT. Traces showed up when testing wells on company property. Reportedly, there has been no effect on residents of the area. Would I feel assured if I lived nearby? Nope.

Last week I read this report in the NYTimes about the Indian Point reactor, 35 miles north of NYC. The water that it uses from the Hudson goes back into the river, contaminated. They are not meeting acceptable limits and are violating the federal Clean Water Act. A letter from the Department of Evironmental Conservation said that "radioactive material had polluted the Hudson after leaking into the groundwater."

Now, I realize that this plant generates much of the power needed for NYC and that there would be a calamity if they had to shut down, but at what cost can they keep it running? Is it okay to kill off some fish and wildlife? How about knowing that this stuff is going into your drinking and bathing water?

And then we still have to truck those fuel rods out west.


My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

they have been on my mind for days too...



Wendy said...

I lived for many years (as a teen and then as a young adult, fresh out of college) in a coal mining community. My father grew up in that same community. I've seen first hand the cost of coal on the people, on the communities, on the environment. It's ugly, the whole of it, and I am strongly against the use of coal-fired power plants. I think we could all use a lot less than we do, and in fact, I think that's the only answer. There is no equivalent fuel to coal, gas and oil, and we're just going to have to learn to use less.