My first anti-nuclear demonstration was at Diablo Canyon in 1981. i did not identify as an anti-nuclear activist at the time, and it would take almost a decade for me to realize that this was my calling. But Diablo still holds a special place in my heart.
When the president of the utility that built this reactor was being interviewed after he had left the job, he was asked if the protests at Diablo Canyon had mattered to his company and his response was unusually candid.
“At the time Diablo Canyon was completed, we were planning 10 more reactors in California, we did not build any of them”.
So as is so often the case, the people who were protesting did not see the effect of their work. Diablo went online not long after the protest despite thousands of arrests and proof that systems had been installed improperly.
So we lost the battle at Diablo, but we won the war agaisnt reactor construction nation wide. And as is so often the case with both technology and politics, as goes California, so goes the world. New reactor construction in the US had already dropped off to nearly nothing after the Three Mile Island accident, which resulted in over 100 in-construction reactors to be stopped.
Now California is possibly leading the way again. Voters will likely get a chance in November to keep all of the reactors in California off line, should they choose. The two San Onofre reactors have been closed for over a year now, awaiting very expensvie repairs. Similarly, Diablo Canyon has no place to put its radioactive waste and this initiative requires that a long term waste repository be established before these reactors can be trusted to dispose of their waste responsibly. With the canceling of the Yucca Mountain project, this will be years if not decades away.
We can only hope, as goes California so goes the world.
A blog commenter of mine recently pointed me to a comic story about Iran’s nuclear power plants being hit with by a malware attack that resulted in their computers play AC/DC music at full blast. The Iranian’s have no shortage of enemies and this is not the first cyber attack on their systems.
The worry here is that the same people who are assuring US Americans that these types of attacks are impossible in this country are the people who assured us that the Three Mile Island partial meltdown was impossible and we could never have a reactor compromised by flooding (as we saw with Fort Calhoun last summer). These are people who are paid to lie to you and they are people the mainstream media turn to every time they need an opinion about the safety of nuclear power.
Let’s assume you are a cash strapped terrorist. Your country or region or family has been destroyed by the US’s persistent attacks around the globe. You want to strike back at the US and you want to hit hard, maximizing the damage for the smallest investment. 9/11 has made the use of commercial jet liners as weapons basically impossible. Security is way too tight to repeat that trick. So where do you turn?
“Pre-deployed nuclear weapons” is what many critics of nuclear reactors call these facilities. What if you could get your hacker friend to break into the reactors computer and turn off some key component would cause an accident. A big enough accident at Indian Point (outside NYC) or Calvert Cliffs (outside Death City) would be a huge win for you and some type of justice for your people.
To be clear, i dont want these things to happen. And my analysis is the US foreign policy is an enemy making machine and this is part of the threat we look at for continuing these policies. 9/11 changed this country (mostly in bad ways), but it ended the notion that big high visibility attacks on civilians sparked by foreign nationals cant happen here. The question is what will the next one look like?
I spent erratic and significant energy for about 5 years trying to stop the construction of 2 nuclear reactors in Bohemia. We lost at Temelin and two of the worst investments in the countries history were put online*. The Czech Republic has the last great western nuclear expansion program. Until today there had always been elaborate plans to expand the nuclear fleet in the country (which is currently at 6 reactors total), the most recent of these was that 18 additional reactors would be built by 2030 in this country of about 10 million people and which is a bit smaller than Kansas.
Those plans died today. And the still hopeful Czechs technocrats have scaled down to a new plan of life extension at 4 existing reactors and the construction of two new reactors. This is certainly a win and contributes to the long list of bad news stories for nuclear expansion world wide. For me as a long time campaigner, there is quite some emotional charge around these last two possible Temelin blocks. We split the government in the final decision on Temelin’s first two blocks. Hopefully the will of the Czechs will prevail over these (thankfully much smaller) dangerous technophilic fantasies.
And i must also say that having fought for over a decade against the proposed third block at the North Anna reactor complex, 12 miles from where i live, it looks like our chances to stop it are better than 50%/50% which is certainly the first time the odds have been that good since we started.
*A couple of years after the Temelin second block went online the Czech utility CEZ was trying to sell itself to the French nuclear construction giant and utility EdF. In the evaluation of the CEZ by EdF the value of these brand new reactors was negative, because so many billions of dollars had been spent on them and had to be repaid.