One Nuclear Meltdown Can Ruin a Plutocrat’s Whole Day

Out here in the Northwest, nuclear power has a long history of being dismissed as the kooky, plutocratic boondoggle it is, even while we have been spared the worst of the fears it understandably creates.  Back in the 70′s, when our local utility, Portland General Electric, built the Trojan nuclear power plant, its remote location in Rainier, Oregon, about 40 miles from Portland, perhaps contributed to the lack of significant opposition to its initial construction, so much so that by the time it went online, a consortium of public power utilities and the State of Washington decided to build five of their own, presciently dubbed WPPSS. Just as Trojan was soon discovered to have myriad design flaws large and small that caused constant shutdowns, and regional opposition to nuclear power began to flower, WPPSS had already spent billions, primarily benefitting Trojan’s contractor, Bechtel, and other corporate welfare queens building the plants when it was discovered that both revenue projections and costs estimates used to justify the plants had been startlingly manipulated, and I’m sure you can guess in which direction, respectively.

The Keystone Kops quality that plagued nuclear power in the Northwest was so much a part of the culture that it was mockingly parodied on the local rock FM station, KGON, which had a daily “Nukes in the News” segment (to which CHNN owes its “Nudes in the News” category..), and in it, from around the world and right here at home, tales of the perfidy, stupidity, and indifference to its inherent dangers fell like rain from the nuclear industry.  After WPPSS collapsed in an embarrassing heap, with only one of its five plants completed and the rest scaled back or mothballed, Three Mile Island put an end, one would have thought for good, to the ridiculous idea that it would be smart to mine and unleash the earth’s deadliest substances to, well, boil water.

For a time, anyway.  Like any professional freeloaders, the nuclear industry found that getting real jobs, that is, finding something to do that wouldn’t require permanent government subsidy, incur uninsurable and incalculable risks, and create waste that no one on earth knows what to do with, was just too taxing.  After expensively and deceptively fighting voter initiatives to close its unseemly white elephant at its own expense rather than ratepayers, PGE finally got tired of the whole thing and closed Trojan anyway, and not only charged ratepayers for its losses, but even for the expense of dynamiting the thing, like a cat charging its owner to bury its own poop.  That sort of coup was impressive enough that Enron came calling, and soon PGE was part of that fine example of Randian Producerism.

In spite of this pretty clear-cut history, the political establishment from the Obama Administration to the New York Times all decided recently that it was time to join the kleptocratic Republicans in supporting the one thing on which the Village can all agree, taxpayer handouts to the wealthy and unscrupulous, and nuclear power obviously fit the bill.  Where would the modern day John Galts go for their welfare checks if the war machine ran a little slow for a term or two?   A plutocrat’s gotta eat, you know, and their bar tabs can be astronomical, especially if John Boehner’s there, which he no doubt usually is.

The only fly in the ointment, of course, is as ever those liberally-biased facts.  The “Green Economy” that nuclear power advocates envision is only green because that’s what happens when you have to evacuate a couple hundred thousand people, perhaps for a week, perhaps for decades, from large areas of formerly habitable planet.  Plants flourish, especially in the streets.

I feel guilty, really; I live just a few dozen miles from Hanford, where the Manhattan Project devised the fiendish nuclear devices that vaporized thousands of Japanese were concocted, and the only impact on my life from that questionable endeavor was that a large stretch of the over-engineered Columbia River  was miraculously spared the salmon-destroying overdevelopment of its safer, non-quarantined parts.  Nuclear Power, I can safely say, is dead again here.   The Japanese, on the other hand, have once again been pressed into grisly service to remind the world of the idiocy of it all.

I hope someone’s listening this time.

19 Comments

  1. dirigo says:

    It is something that renders you speechless.

    The Japanese had the power of the atom dropped on them, with catastrophic results, although it contributed to the end of the “good war.” And now, having embraced the atom for “peaceful purposes” over some fifty years, it’s blown up in their faces – collateral damage due to natural causes.

    What was it that Gen. MacArthur said about leaders needing to have their heads examined?

    • cocktailhag says:

      Dang right. You do have to marvel at the powers on Benevolent Government selling nukes to the Japanese, though. Makes selling ice cubes to Eskimos look, in terms of venal shenanigans, like a fairly bush league effort.

  2. retzilian says:

    It seems that nuke-you-ler power plants are always a boondoggle. We have two of them in Ohio, both on Lake Erie, that have noticeably warmed the water in those areas to contribute to a myriad of problems. No meltdowns that we know of, but I’m far enough away from both of them to not worry too much. Meanwhile, we still burn coal, of course.

    I don’t know why anyone would want to build 100 more nuclear power plants in the US these days. Who has that kind of money when they are closing Head Start and cutting social programs? Seriously?

    We could create a lot of jobs just by starting infrastructure projects like the old WPA during the last depression. But nooooo. We have to give Wall Street and the union-busters bailouts and castrate the EPA.

    They’re all nuts.

    With regard to Japan, we have not heard the last of that mess. To build nuclear power plants on a fault line with scarce resources (like fresh water) is insane.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I keep running through my head one of the opening sequences of “China Syndrome,” wherein Jane Fonda, portraying a local news reporter, speaks for the cameras, breathlessly, about the “miraculous conversion of matter into energy” at her local power plant, which just must be a good thing, at least before she finds out otherwise. As with everything, it’s the plain old Golden Rule.
      I say, let’s put a nuke in, perhaps, Georgetown, River Oaks,and/ or the upper east side and see how it goes over.

      • retzilian says:

        Funny you mention that. Perry, Ohio, home of the closest nuke plant to me, has to bribe people to live there, like no/low property tax, the highest per-student spending in the state, etc. It’s a sleepy little town with a really high standard of living, but whenever I drive to or past it, I always get the creeps.

        • cocktailhag says:

          There was this little town, Kalama, right across the river from Trojan, which looked kind of cute but who the hell would want to live there? Now that Trojan’s gone, it has rebranded itself Port of Kalama, open for business.

  3. Ché Pasa says:

    Reminds me of all the sturm und drang that led up to the closure of the Rancho Seco nuke plant in California’s Central Valley. Public utility was bamboozled into building and operating a mirror plant of the Three Mile Island boondoggle.

    Billions upon billions of dollars later, the damb thing just could not be operated safely and reliably. It was constantly shutting down, on the preliminary verge of meltdown, and it was just insane. It was costing more and more to fix, but it couldn’t really be fixed, and voted to shut it down. The cooling towers and the containment vessel are still there. As is the pool in which the spent nuclear rods are stored — awaiting some permanent facility perhaps for nuclear waste storage.

    Nuclear power is a nice idea. I remember when there was all this propaganda about Atoms For Peace, in contrast to the constant civil defense drills over nuclear annihilation and instant incineration. Nobody really thought it through, though, did they?

    But then, they never do.

    • cocktailhag says:

      From the plutocrat’s perspective, though, it’s always a win-win. Cash on the barrelhead for the soon-to-be sunk costs of the plant, free (hypothetical) disposal from the feds (not to mention insurance), and heck, in the worst case scenario, more money for the cleanup later. What’s not to love? It’s only a dumb idea if nobody gets rich.

  4. dirigo says:

    PASSING GAS: A TAKE ON THE CHANGE IN THE ENERGY MARKET AFTER THE JAPANESE BLOW-UP

    “The bigger medium and long-term impact will come in Europe and America, where definitions of energy security are more focused on safety and environmental integrity. Any delay in new nuclear construction and any acceleration in the closure of old stations will encourage power generators to invest in natural gas as the safe and readily available source of primary energy. Gas prices have been gradually decoupling from oil as the market responds to different dynamics – led by the rapid transition to newly developed supplies of unconventional shale gas reserves in the US.”

    … from “Nuclear Power Halted in its Tracks”
    … By Nick Butler
    ….The Financial Times, 3/15/11

    ~~~

    Hey, Boone Pickens’ time has come. Get ‘im on the frackin’ phone! Now !!!

    • cocktailhag says:

      As ever, out of the frying pan and into the fire (which may come out of your faucet…)

      • dirigo says:

        I was loitering earlier today in one of the news stores at Grand Central in Nooo Yawk, where there’s all-Fox-News-all-the-time on every box, and some on-air clown mentioned natural gas several times as I walked in, glanced at some mags, and walked out. Took about a minute. A couple of other on-air nitwits nodded their heads, sagely, at the apparent new buzz word while fretting over today’s sell-off on Wall Street.

        I of course was impressed but had to catch the 1:34 to New Haven.

        I’m trying to reach Boone. See if he can comment for CHNN’s evening business round-up. But he’s a tough get. Since the noose on Silvio is tightening, maybe it’s time to call Harlan, service the flying boat, and send him down to Texas. Of course, covering natural gas will never be as sexy as the bunga bunga slant we’ve beaten to a pulp here.

        • cocktailhag says:

          I’d really like to see “Gasland.” Seems the bitter fruits of Cheney’s infamous Energy Panel are still plopping off the tree with this fracking stuff.

          • dirigo says:

            Silvio knew how to frack in his own way, but it’s finally caught up to him.

            Boone and Cheney always frack in the missionary position. No deviation.

          • dirigo says:

            OT but remotely related: Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, in an apparent preemptive defense against prostitution charges, said today he’s not capable of fracking to the extent prosecutors have alleged.

          • cocktailhag says:

            Even in the age of Viagra? I hope this was met with the guffaws and snorts it deserved.

  5. meremark says:

    -

    I say send in the flying repair-robot drones.

    What’s that you say? They didn’t build those first!?

    -

    • cocktailhag says:

      No, but they do have water cannons, “usually used to suppress riots,” which are coming in handy. Funny how interchangeable are the tools of oppression, in a pinch.

  6. mikeinportc says:

    “Where would the modern day John Galts go for their welfare checks if the war machine ran a little slow for a term or two? “

    Selling weapons to our good friends in Bahrain, Saudia Arabia,Qatar, etc. ( Actually giving them away, or giving them cash, so they can buy them , i.e. making us pay to arm them.)

    http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175367/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_the_pentagon_and_murder_in_bahrain/

    Did somebody say ” Bechtel” ? ;)
    http://takomagardener.typepad.com/tg/2008/01/where-its-illeg.html

    “As ever, out of the frying pan and into the fire (which may come out of your faucet…”

    A constant worry, along with a lot of other stuff ( what’s a few hundred gallons of HCL between friends?) in Pennsyltuckey , yet there still a sizable contingent ( those with leases ;) clamoring for the same here.

    When Nine Mile TNine

    • cocktailhag says:

      Ah, Security, National and Homeland; like a soup kitchen but with a much better menu and swankier decor. The clientele, needless to say, is also better dressed.
      I think Bechtel was only formed to make money on the dam-building binge; never has a non-taxpayer dollar stuffed its “private” accounts. But now they love them some “free market.”
      How righty heads don’t explode daily I could never fathom, but I think we can thank the Liberal Media.