October 27, 2012
Kewaunee, Nuke Watch, and McGovern
By David Giffey
Some human mistakes--including nuclear power plants--can’t really be corrected.
An announcement on October 22 that the 44-year-old nuclear reactor at Kewaunee will be shut down next year by Dominion, a Virginia corporation, must be viewed as another warning about the unending dangers that the plant and others like it pose to life on earth forever.
While the shutdown holds some positive hope for the environment and indicates a retreat from nuclear energy production, the prospects remain sobering for many reasons. Among them is the loss of about 650 jobs along the northeastern shoreline of Lake Michigan. Additionally, closing a nuclear plant doesn’t mean that the risks won’t persist.
“The place has become a permanent waste dump because a reactor was built there,” said John LaForge of Wisconsin’s Nuke Watch, an environmental and peace action group.
With perilous materials remaining, decommissioning the reactor will mean that radioactive wastes will be cooled for six or seven years in a pool of water before being robotically moved to a “dry cask” facility.
“The radioactive waste in these casks will be dangerous for a million years,” LaForge told listeners to the weekly Fighting Bob Radio show, online from 11 a.m. to noon CDT each Thursday, and hosted by Ed Garvey, founder of fightingbob.com, and Eric Schubring, of WOJB-FM radio, Hayward. The show is archived online, where you can listen to it in its entirety.
Also a guest on the October 25 radio show was Michael Florek, founder of Tellurian Inc. in 1971, and co-founder with the late Senator George McGovern of the Teresa McGovern Center in Madison, a place known for successfully bringing together treatment of mental illness and addictions.
Regarding reactors, in 1987, a Dairyland Power Cooperative nuclear plant near La Crosse was shut down for “economic reasons,” a statement similar to Dominion’s stated claims for closing the Kewaunee plant. For 25 years, LaForge noted, radioactive wastes have been stored in a cooling pool seven stories above ground along the bank of the Mississippi River. Those wastes are now being moved with robots – it’s too dangerous for humans to handle – to dry casks along the river.
“There is an enormous cost in taking machines off-line and mothballing them to the end of time,” warned LaForge. If ironies are necessary, the nuclear power and weapons industry received government subsidies and the preposterously costly process of decommissioning is likely to be passed along by the power companies to consumers. Added into the nuclear economy, LaForge said the Nuclear Energy Institute spent $650 million lobbying Congress with claims that nuclear power is a carbon free and safe source of energy.
A moratorium law on the books in Wisconsin prevents the construction of new reactors until radioactive waste disposal is resolved. Good luck with that. Remember the Yucca Mountain site that didn’t work out. Now Wisconsin and Minnesota “are in the crosshairs” as disposal sites, said LaForge.
Moving radioactive fuel, said the Nuke Watch staffer, “is arguably the most dangerous mechanical operation that occurs on earth.” He cited efforts in Japan following the Fukushima reactor disaster, which proved that energy conservation and efficiencies could replace all nuclear-generated electricity production in a short time. That could happen in the U.S. as well, said LaForge, “if there was any political movement to make that happen.”
If Wisconsin’s notorious Governor Scott Walker has anything to say about closing the Kewaunee plant, it’s government’s fault. Walker was quoted in a newspaper story as saying the Kewaunee closing simply means there are too many government regulations. A Dominion corporation spokesguy said, however, that cheap natural gas prices tied to hydraulic fracturing--another environmental disaster in the making--are the real economic reason for closing the reactor.
LaForge noted: “This is great news, one less reactor operating on the Great Lakes, one less reactor dumping a billion gallons of heated water back into a normally rather chilly lake. It’s terrible news for the workers there, but good news for the environment and another nail in the coffin of nuclear power in the United States.”
LaForge urged Fighting Bob Radio listeners to read Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy by Arjun Makhijani. Politicians are welcome readers as well.
Michael Florek, of Tellurian and the Teresa McGovern Center, described his admiration for George McGovern, who died October 21 at age 90. Working with Florek to build the McGovern center was part of the senator’s healing process after his daughter, Teresa, died in 1994 in a snow bank near Williamson Street after relapsing into alcoholism. McGovern, according to Florek, “lamented that no one treated Teresa’s depression during alcoholism treatment, and didn’t treat her alcoholism when treating depression.” The staff at the Madison center is trained to treat both, and success can be measured by the length of time clients remain in treatment.
“It was too late for Terry (McGovern),” said Florek, “but it’s not too late for other families.”
In a memorable anecdote, Florek described an incident at an Atlanta conference he attended with George McGovern after Teresa’s death. A psychiatrist approached McGovern, and criticized him for not showing “tough love” by cutting off financial help to his daughter and forcing her to bottom out and accept more treatment.
McGovern responded: “I’m a parent. You never stop loving your child and you never stop doing whatever it is that you think will help them.”
“So,” McGovern told his critic, “you’re talking about an ideology, and I’m talking about a relationship with my daughter.”
Information about the center and Tellurian is available on the websites for the Teresa McGovern Center and Tellurian.
Plan to listen to the November 1 Fighting Bob Radio show at 11 a.m. online, just a few days before the election. Live listeners can call in during the show and expand the conversation.
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Not to far from Kewaunee in southern Brown County, the folks there are fighting a major wind farm. They are using government creating government regulations to keep them out. But they are some of the very same people who are big Tea baggers who say government should stay out their lives and let business alone. Sorry people you can't have it both ways.
-WisconsinLiberal | Fox Valley, WI | October 27, 2012