I currently reside in Japan, albeit nearly a thousand miles from Tokyo, so the nuclear nightmare that is enveloping much of the land area on the Japanese mainland is very personal to me. I have friends who live on mainland Japan, friends who have been flown into the Tokyo area to help deal with the crisis, and relatives in the United States whose plans to visit Okinawa and Tokyo appear to have been put on an indefinite hold.
Hopefully a quick and complete response coupled with a healthy dose of pure blind luck will prevail, and a nuclear catastrophe will be avoided - this time - but none of us can currently know that will be the outcome. What we can do immediately, however, is to begin to review nuclear energy policies and facilities around the globe, and especially those within the United States.
As I pointed out yesterday, there are two nuclear reactors in Buchanan, New York, which are collectively known as Indian Point. The reactors are a scant 34 miles from downtown New York City, and within fifty miles of over 17 million living, breathing human beings. What I didn't mention yesterday is that Indian Point is just two miles from the Pampano fault line, meaning that it is entirely conceivable that an earthquake could rock the reactors at some point.
Two nuclear reactors - plus a fault in the earth's crust - plus 17 million people equals something more horrific than even Hollywood could fathom.
Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, is asking that Indian Point be shut down for the time being until its safety can be carefully assessed. That's a reasonable request, but not one that will sit well with the big energy companies who overcharge consumers so they can line every greedy politician's pocket with cash donations.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, himself a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, was asked on Fox News Sunday whether the reactors at Indian Point should be shut down. Chu's reply: "That is an issue."
It sure as hell is.
Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission went out on a limb earlier this week and told Congress that American nuclear reactors can survive natural disasters. Let's hope that he means that all 105 nuclear reactors in the United States can survive all natural disasters, no matter how intense. But somehow I doubt that a government bureaucrat, even one with a grand title, has the omniscience to know that for an absolute fact. And if Mr. Jaczko can't back that statement up with 100 percent absolute certainty, then he is, in effect lying to us.
Energy companies routinely lie to us, always have and always will. Our elected leaders and their appointees need to be brutally honest with us and let the people have a voice in the "future" of nuclear energy. It's not about campaign donations, it is about the survival of the planet.