Japan’s one remaining operating reactor (of 54) went dark Saturday. Japan is nuke-free for the first time in a half-century.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was desperately trying to get Osaka’s Mayor to allow the Ohi nuke to stay open. But Japanese law gives local officials far more power over the reactor industry than in the US or China. And the 42-year-old Toru Hashimoto, the son of a Yakuza gangster, is holding firm. Now probably Japan’s most popular politician, Hoshimoto has harshly criticized its nuclear industry for lying to the public and for causing the Fukushima catastrophe and then covering up its true impacts.
Japan has long been at the core of the global reactor business. It manufactures pressure vessels, steam generators and much more of the serious hardware that comprises the world’s atomic infrastructure. Should it go totally post-nuclear, the symbolic as well as tangible impact would be huge. Even Germany, which has announced its intent to go green, has a number of nukes still going.
The last US nuke will not be shutting tomorrow, but the industry’s death knell seems to be approaching faster every day.
Two reactors proposed for Florida will now, say its would-be builders, cost $24 billion or more . . . up from their original maximum guess of $4 billion each . . . far beyond comparable renewables and efficiency. Two Georgia nukes still wanting tax-funded loan guarantees have been caught pouring faulty concrete and using non-design rebar steel.
Currently licensed reactors from California to Vermont, from Texas to Ohio to Florida are leaking radiation, shut for faulty steam generator tubes, closed for failed repairs running over $1 billion and being fought tooth and nail by local downwinders who are tired of rate hikes and want them shut forever.
Nonetheless. . . . whatever the developments in the US or Japan . . . the fate of the Earth may ultimately rest on which China emerges after Fukushima: the green one pushing solar, or the dictatorship pushing nukes that threaten us all.
What we Americans can do about it remains problematic. But shutting down our own industry begins with killing proposed federal loan guarantees for two new nukes , and stopping the rate rape being perpetrated to build two more at South Carolina’s V.C. Summer.
Throughout the US, wannabe nuke builders are pushing regulators and legislatures to force ratepayers to foot the bill for new reactors while they’re being built. In Iowa, Missouri and Florida an angry public is pushing back—hard
Progress Energy’s staggering new cost estimate for Levy County is a game changer. The idea of paying $12 billion each for reactors that can’t even begin construction for at least three years is beyond scale. Progress has blown at least $1 billion on its botched repair and expansion job at Central Florida’s Crystal River, which may now never reopen.
Failed steam generator tubes at California’s San Onofre may also keep two reactors there forever shut. In Vermont, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and virtually every other home to geezer nukes, grassroots opposition has seriously escalated. Sooner or later, they will win. We must all pray that happens before yet another nukes blows. It will be a close call.
In part because fracking (another environmental disaster) has made natural gas so cheap, and in part because the price of wind and solar continues to plummet, 2011 was the first year since deep in the GW Bush administration that the executive branch did not ask for new reactor loan guarantees. If the money can be nixed for Vogtle, and the rate hikes for Summer defeated, the whole “nuclear renaissance” could definitively disappear.
Small modular nukes must still be fought. But the numbers on this imperfected technology do not work without massive taxpayer subsidies or public liability insurance.
Europe’s one-time “nuclear poster child” is about to lose its pro-nuke Sarkozy to the Socialist Francois Hollande, who may or may not begin shutting the nation’s reactors. But the French public has moved strongly toward renewables and probably won’t tolerate new ones.
Led by Germany, Europe’s nuclear future is past. Proposed reactors in Great Britain and elsewhere are stalled. Bulgaria has cancelled two.
Resistance is also fierce in India, where massive demonstrations and hunger strikes have erupted against the Koodankulam project. South Korea and Taiwan still want new reactors. Korea may sell at least one to the United Arab Emirates. The Saudis and Jordan may soon start construction.
But the global key now rests with China. Despite its campaign to corner the world market in wind and solar hardware, China has been poised to bring on line close to 100 reactors. It may claim the largest number of new proposals—more than 30.
But Fukushima prompted a suspension of new approvals and a move toward a national energy plan. A final rejection could blow the floor out of any global nuclear future.
With a rising tide of grassroots environmentalism in China, any No Nukes movement there must be embraced worldwide. In its hands may lie the future of the Earth.
Reactor backers desperately hype potential orders from China and India, and from small nations like Turkey and Taiwan. But who will protect us—or even tell us—when they explode?
This weekend the Sierra Club hosted a packed national gathering of grassroots No Nukers to plan the US nuclear industry’s final demise. There’s much to celebrate. The campaign for a green-powered Earth has become one of her most successful non-violent social movements.
But the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima are far from over. The radiation they still spew threatens our survival.
Without a truly global Solartopian uprising, the ultimate China Syndrome may yet come in China . . . and spread worldwide.
In economy and ecology, we have no future without finally cleansing from every corner on Earth the lingering plague of the failed atom.
Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, is at http://solartopia.org, along with THE LAST ENERGY WAR. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at http://prn.fm. In 1973 he helped coin the phrase “No Nukes.” Originally published by The Free Press.