Monday, March 30, 2009

RECOVERED HISTORY: THREE MILE ISLAND

Christian Parenti, Nation - It was thirty years ago this week that the Unit 2 reactor of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant began a partial meltdown. . .

One reason more radiation was not released was because "paranoid" anti-nuke activists worried that the plant, built directly in the flight path of the Harrisburg airport, could be hit by a jet. They demanded a very strong containment shell be built over the reactor. As a result, TMI had one of the strongest such protective seals in the country. Had the meltdown not been caught when it was and had there not been a containment shell, the whole Northeast could have become a fallout zone for 10,000 years thereafter. It would have been like those Chernobyl fallout zones: a radioactive wilderness; a national sacrifice zone; devastation akin to Sherman's March, except permanent. America would have been reduced to a rump version of itself. . .

During the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain called for forty-five new nuke plants to be built. Barack Obama, while less specific, also pledged federal subsidies to help build atomic power plants.

This second wave of state-of-the-art atomic power plant construction is pure fantasy. No one wants to invest in nukes, despite government guarantees to cover 80 percent of the costs if the projects default. No one will insure them. They will not be built. However, underneath this nuclear renaissance discourse lurks the real danger: while we debate the fantasy qualities of a new fleet of plants that will never be built, a handful of companies that own the existing fleet of decrepit old zombie plants are quietly pushing these reactors to the very edge of their capacity and beyond.

There are 103 reactors in sixty-four locations across the United States. None of these reactors were designed to last more than forty years. We are reaching that deadline. . .