Nuclear Giants

by Todd Walton, April 21, 2016

“Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water.” — Albert Einstein

Listening to the Giants bombard the Dodgers last week, I decided to pay a couple bills. This year, so far, for the first time since I was a kid listening to Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges doing the radio broadcasts, the boys are winning games with strong hitting rather than great pitching. Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, and Alou were a scary battery for any pitcher to face in the 1960s, and today we’ve got Panik, Posey, Pence, Belt, Duffy and Crawford smacking the ball around the park, not to mention our ace Madison Bumgarner taking the loathsome Clayton Kershaw deep in their first meeting of the year.

So I opened our PG&E bill and found two notices of requests for rate increases. PG&E wasn’t asking for my approval of these proposed increases, they were informing me that they have asked the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) to allow them to jack up our rates again. These announcements always strike me as disingenuous since PG&E is not a public utility, though it should be, and the CPUC approves everything PG&E wants as a matter of course, though they shouldn’t.

Both rate increases are to gouge us for hundreds of millions more dollars to pay for PG&E’s ongoing nuclear power debacle, otherwise known as Fukushima Waiting To Happen Here. One of the increases will pay for seismic studies. You would think such studies were done long before they built the stupid Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, but apparently PG&E needs to confirm they built the idiotic thing on an active earthquake fault and in range of a tsunami because, I dunno, maybe they forgot. But since when does a seismic study cost a hundred million dollars?

The other rate increase is supposedly to help accrue the countless billions of dollars they will need to decommission (tear down) the nuclear power plant once they admit they never should have built the poisonous thing in the first place. It is one thing to shut down a nuclear power plant, and quite another to dismantle the massive radioactive structure and safely remove all the nuclear fuel rods that will remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

In fact, no one has ever successfully dismantled a nuclear power plant and safely disposed of the remains, because the only way to successfully dispose of nuclear waste is to send the deathly stuff to the original nuclear mass, our sun. And that’s not happening any time soon. So for now let’s just put the nuclear waste, um, over there somewhere. You know. Way over there.

Meanwhile, the exploded melted down Fukushima reactors in Japan continue to pour radioactive matter into the Pacific Ocean, there to accumulate in the flesh of fish born and growing and caught in that now-toxic sea—for your dining pleasure.

Baseball makes sense. Nuclear power does not make sense. Baseball is the perfect combination of explosive physicality and pleasing ritual. Nuclear power is a horrible combination of danger and stupidity.

My choice for President of the United States, Bernie Sanders, has long opposed nuclear power, whereas his rival for the nomination, the odious Hillary, has been a cheerleader for nuclear power her entire political career. This alone should convince anyone of even moderate intelligence to vote for Bernie over Hillary, but I still know people who seem to be moderately intelligent who say they support Hillary because they feel she won’t change things too much, and they are deathly afraid of change, even it turns out to be good change.

I would not be surprised if nearly all Giants fans are for Bernie and most Dodger fans are for Hillary. When I listen to the games between the Dodgers and the Giants, I imagine the Giants are playing for Bernie and the Dodgers are playing for Hillary, that Giants fans are advocates of solar power and Medicare For All and an end to war, and Dodger fans think nuclear power is fine and they like amoral health insurance companies and they adore weapons of mass destruction.

So we took three out of our first four games from the Dodgers, and three of the four games were day games, so I weeded and gardened and chopped wood while I listened, and took my little radio to town with me on my errands. Life is good when the Giants are beating the Dodgers and Jon Miller is waxing poetic and the sun is shining down on the little town of Mendocino and the Bernie Sanders mobile headquarters is parked outside the GoodLife Bakery and people, young and old, are stopping to chat with the folks manning the mobile headquarters, selling T-shirts and informing people about how they can help Bernie keep winning.

Recent polls indicate that among Democrats, Hillary’s largest support comes from frightened shortsighted people over sixty-five, rich people, and people easily duped by slick dishonest advertising. Bernie is supported by brave, optimistic, intelligent people of all ages with good senses of humor and a deep appreciation for the irony and majesty of life. Where do you fall among these demographics?

Yes, it’s a long season and the Giants’ stellar start is certainly not predictive of the final outcome, but we have reason to be hopeful. I know baseball is a distraction from the ongoing horrors, but I do not separate baseball from the rest of life. When Brandon Crawford comes to the plate, he is batting for me and Bernie and an equitable tax structure. When Angel Pagan makes a diving catch to rob the Dodgers of a run, he is taxing the super rich to pay for healthcare services for low-income folks and inspiring millions of people to send Bernie twenty dollars.

In the end, Bernie will either win or lose, the Giants will win the World Series or not, and life will go on. But as Bruce Bochy implies during every post-game interview: Yes we love to win, but more importantly we love to play the game with passion and joy and integrity.

(Todd Walton’s web site is UnderTheTableBooks.com.)

14 Responses to Nuclear Giants

  1. Fear Monger Reply

    April 20, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Great job Todd, another ignorant rambling from the uninformed fear mongers. It’s easy to criticize what you fear and don’t understand. How many people has Nuclear power killed in the US? None, zero, EVER! How much greenhouse gas has been emitted from nuclear plants in the US? Zero, none, EVER. How many people die EVERY YEAR from burning fossil fuels? Over 34,000 every year according to the US EPA. And you say Nuclear is bad? Nuclear waste is not a technical problem, it’s a political one. Give your ignorant heads a shake and wake up!

    • LouisBedrock Reply

      April 21, 2016 at 5:37 am

      There’s a strong whiff of ignorance in the air but it’s not coming from Todd.

      As someone who lived with the fear of annihilation during The Cuban Missile Crisis, who still shudders at the images and descriptions of John Hershey’s terrifying book, Hiroshima, and someone who knows the dangers of so-called peaceful uses of nuclear energy, I do not want nuclear power plants to proliferate.

      Leakage of toxins into the air and water by nuclear power plants is routine. Tritium, radioactive iodine, and cesium are three of the most common poisons that are emitted by plants. Strontium 90 also gets into the environment from fission.

      Strontium 90 resembles calcium and is absorbed into the skeletal system. Cesium affects the muscle system. Tritium and iodine affect the thyroid and can cause birth defects.

      More on the effects of these terrible chemicals can be easily researched.

      Plutonium, which has a half life of 40,000 years, is toxic for about half a million years. According to Helen Caldecott, it is the most toxic substance in the universe. A millionth of a gram can cause lung cancer. No solution has yet been found for its safe long term storage.

      Nuclear energy is not green energy. Every step in the process of operating a nuclear power plant from uranium mining to the storage of highly dangerous waste material is polluting and dangerous as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima have demonstrated.

      Your claim that no one has been killed in the U.S. by nuclear power is ludicrous.

      The problems in tracking the consequences of The Three Mile Island disaster and of “routine” leakage from ongoing disasters like the Hanover Washington plant and Indian Point–which I predict will be the next Fukushima, are firstly, the duration between exposure and the appearance of illness, and secondly, the difficulty in proving the connection between the illnesses and the exposures.

      “Dr. Steven Wing, associate professor of epidemiology at the UNC-CH School of Public Health, led a study of cancer cases within 10 miles of the facility from 1975 to 1985. He and colleagues conclude that following the March 28, 1979 accident, lung cancer and leukemia rates were two to 10 times higher downwind of the Three Mile Island reactor than upwind.”
      (http://www.unc.edu/news/archives/feb97/wing.html)

      Because NPR’s corporate sponsors are connected with nuclear power, “Public Radio” never reports anything negative about it. But there are books and articles by Steven Wing, Dr. Helen Caldicott, Karl Grossman, Bruce Smith, Harvey Wasserman, and Arnie Gunderson–to mention just a few. And there are several informative websites like
      http://fairewindsenergy.nationbuilder.com/?utm_campaign=tritium_expos&utm_medium=email&utm_source=fairewindsenergy

      Before calling people name, you should do a little goddamned homework.

  2. Rick Weddle Reply

    April 21, 2016 at 7:08 am

    re: nuclear homework…

    If you do want to know something about nuclear power before making definite statements about it, go first to the man mandated by ‘our’ own federal government to study the medical implications of having ‘free, safe’ nuclear power working in our midst. John Goffmann, a Medical Doctor and long-time head of Lawrence Livermore radiological labs, was ordered to make such a study in the late ’60’s, early ’70’s. His findings of deaths and illnesses from ONE medium-size reactor, with NO accidents during its 20 year life-cycle were so starkly horrific, he was quickly relieved of his old job at Larry radlab, his work hushed up with the usual continental slabs of bureau-crap. Dr. Goffmann’s book, ‘An Irreverent, Illustrated View of Nuclear Power,’ is a must-read for anyone who wants up on their nuclear Back Feet. NO reactor operates without ‘accidents.’ NO means of safe disposal exists…and we’re accumulating radwastes Somewhere (in the pools designed for emergency reactor cooling water…HEATING it; up and down the roads and rails with endless bills of lading, ‘accidents’ not exactly waiting to happen; and Who Knows where else).

    The mining phase of uranium alone induces 400% more lung, bone and blood cancers among Navajo miners…

    I worked for Standard Oil of California for a year and a half or so as a member of Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers local out of Richmond, CA. The control technologies, the hardware and procedures (and Great Moving Forces) of petro-refining are identical to those same elements of control of nuclear reactions for boiling water.

    I’ve looked here and there since about 1984, when my 8 and 10 year old daughters asked me point-blank to describe nukes to them, for something the industries are doing RIGHT in the ‘nuclear power business,’…I’m still looking. That day in 1984, with a couple pairs of clear, blue, wide-open innocence-lasers boring at me, I was at a loss; like Fear Monger here, I didn’t know shit about nuclear power generation, except nada. Well, guess what: it’s not rocket science, after all. And after each little lesson, you say, ‘Oh, no, they wouldn’t!’ Then, ‘…oh, yes, they DO…’

    Go read a book or so…

    • LouisBedrock Reply

      April 21, 2016 at 7:59 am

      Thank you, Rick Weddle!

  3. Todd Walton Reply

    April 21, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Thank you Rick and Louis for your clear and helpful responses to the misguided fellow who believes nuclear power is safe and green. Unfortunately, the mass media continues to promote this nonsense. Fukushima, Chernobyl, Hanford…somehow these vast disasters resulting in hundreds of thousands dead and mutated and afflicted with cancers do not enter into the equation for nuclear apologists. Never mind that the Pacific Ocean is now irradiated and once fertile regions in Japan and Ukraine are now uninhabitable.

    Recently read an article on Truthdig about the staggering costs (trillions of dollars) confronting Europe and America to decommission these endlessly poisonous power plants that never paid for themselves and only exist through decades of massive government subsidies: our tax dollars down the drain.

  4. BB Grace Reply

    April 21, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    My problem with nuclear power is the inability to eliminate the waste.

    Today when I hear the word nuclear three things come to mind, one Fukashima. TAnother, Iran. It disturbs me to think that a country that has so much oil, needs nuclear power. How does Iran figure it NEEDS nuclear power? The third is Berkeley and it’s nuclear labs and the Bay area scattered with nuclear facilities of one type or another just waiting for the San Andres Fault to move.

  5. Jim Updegraff Reply

    April 22, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    Easy to complain about nucear power but what is the answer if we have run away climate change.

    • LouisBedrock Reply

      April 23, 2016 at 5:50 am

      Jim,

      I share your alarm on the destruction of the planet wrought by burning fossil fuels; however, I respectfully disagree about nuclear power being a viable alternative.

      My primary concerns are leakage of almost unimaginably toxic materials by power plants and the storage of highly danger by-products of fission like plutonium, which is highly toxic to life for half a million years. No human civilization has lasted more than about 6,000 years, so how do we guarantee the safe containment of this deadly material?

      “In reality, nuclear power is not emissions-free; the process of mining and enriching uranium fuel, along with constructing nuclear plants, operating backup generators during reactor downtime, disposal of nuclear waste and eventual decommissioning of plants all contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. According to an analysis published by the journal Nature (9/24/08), nuclear power does produce 14 times less in greenhouse gas emissions than coal, and seven times less than natural gas—but twice as much as solar cells and seven times as much as onshore wind farms. For halting climate change, in other words, there are more serious options than nuclear.”

      (http://fair.org/home/trampling-science-to-boost-nuclear-power/)

  6. Rick Weddle Reply

    April 23, 2016 at 8:30 am

    The debate is so over: Nuclear weapons and nuclear power are two sides of the same unsurvivable coin. This did once finally dawn on world ‘leaders’ after the persistent insistence of People (PEOPLE) the world over. Gorbachev and even that blockhead, Reagan stated that the ‘Arms Race’ had led us to actually accomplish the “…unthinkable…,” juggling nuclear means like they’re some ordinary fire-brands; they’re not. They are not a sane alternative for any positive purpose whatever. They have cursed us from Day One, and still do so, more with each passing day.

    Alternatives: There is now off-the-shelf tech and long-proven fuels to fill most domestic needs, and transitions can be mobilized by a determined public, incidentally putting People to work. Development of solar-stills for higher-end products will improve efficiencies and production volumes. While bio-diesel as a feedstock can be run into existing petro-plants to produce bio-gasoline, those plants are traditionally fired by petro products.

    Diesel and diesel/electric motors (most highway freight, air, rail, and sea transports) can convert with little or no modifications to carbon-neutral bio-fuels. The bio-fuel can be grown and harvested from crops sited other than in current food-crop lands.

    The point here seems to be that the presently available alternatives, taken in aggregate, put us very near set for Petro-cold-turkey switcheroo. Yes, it will take some doing, working at it together like we do not often do, changing our minds from petro-think…and ‘success’ will mean simply making it to another century as survivors aboard a functional Biosphere.

    To the list of Chernobyl, Hanford, Fukushima, Three Mile Island, never forget to add Novosibirsk, the one-time inhabited area of southwestern Siberia that blew up in the winter of ’57, ’58. The Soviets lied, and the U.S. authorities lied with them, saying it was an accident at a small reactor there. There was never any reactor there. What was there was a Soviet ‘state-of-the-art’ nuclear waste disposal/storage site, with the usual watertight guarantees by all the experts that it was Perfectly Safe and Would Always Be So. It blew and burned and poisoned a bunch of villages, lakes, streams, and countryside for miles around, forever. The Soviets and the U.S. creeps lied to keep it secret that just disposing of the wastes is The Big Problem, And Growing, even if everything else is Honky Dory.

    • LouisBedrock Reply

      April 23, 2016 at 9:13 am

      “The debate is so over: Nuclear weapons and nuclear power are two sides of the same unsurvivable coin.”

      A very important point which I omitted in my initial comment: the main reason nuclear powers continue to exist is that they produce weapon grade plutonium.

  7. Rick Weddle Reply

    April 23, 2016 at 8:42 am

    I’m thinkin’ regional solar stills, of wildly differing designs, producing small ‘local’ fuels, lubricants, etc., (as well as entertaining things to imbibe), from individual, farm-style applications to more group, urban co-op kinds of arrangements. They don’t need to be so efficient…they’re FREE…

    And internal combustion doesn’t have to be eternal, does it? I can feature a steam engine on my old motorcycle…

    • LouisBedrock Reply

      April 23, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Good public transportation, light rail, electric busses, and lots of bicycle trails.
      Bike racks outside of more businesses. Americans suffer from morbid obesity: bicycles would burn off a lot of lard.

  8. Rick Weddle Reply

    April 24, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Yep, mass transit (like N. America has proven for over 100 years) works nicely, even the rattle-trap antiques like New York’s. The new ones like BART, though, are so riddled by systemic corruption, they’re kind of iffy, sometimes going literally off the end of the rails…at speed…

    Yes, by All Prudent Means, we’ll be needing to do a quick techno-dos-a-dos if we intend to see Tomorrow. The light rail and even rubber wheeled metro could go entirely solar, I’m sure, since several linked cars could combine enough roof area for high-rent panels…sufficient with perhaps flash-booster charges at each stop.

    Also, the bicycle notion has avenues yet unexplored. You know those fitness centers where you see red-eye afficionados at 3:30 am, their eyes glazed, their i-pods plugged into their ears, running their asses off, or pedaling along briskly? Hook these eager patriots up to the Grid! Let’s see who can put out the Champion KwHr numbers! Out-Sexy that!

    • Rick Weddle Reply

      April 24, 2016 at 10:07 am

      *treadmill porn…he’p me, Cheeses!*

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