No Nukes! by Gia Machlin, March 25 2011, 0 Comments

I haven't really thought about nuclear power for a while. Aside from the occasional goof about how President Bush would pronounce it "NUKE-ULAR" - the past couple of decades have been somewhat free of any thoughts about "Nukes". I can't say the same about the couple of decades that preceded those. I was obsessed with and terrified of nuclear power. Yes, I am from the generation that had Duck and Cover drills at school, as if hiding our heads under our desks could protect us from an atomic bomb. But more frightening was the fact that I grew up a few miles away from the Indian Point Nuclear Power plant in New York. I remember one dark night when my family was driving home from dinner, the sky lit up a glowing blue and radiated for a couple of seconds before turning black again. My dad, then a professor of engineering at Columbia University, said that he was not comfortable with what he saw, and decided to take us all to sleep at my aunt's house in New Jersey for the night. I have no idea if that glow had anything to do with Indian Point, although a few weeks later Con Edison (then the operator of Indian Point) did confirm that there had been a minor radiation leak. All I know is that nuclear power scared the living daylights out of me.

Years later, with the ominous domes of Indian Point much further up the Hudson river from me, I try to think about things more rationally. We need alternative energy sources, and no energy production is truly green (even wind and solar have their externalities) so why not nuclear? Because we have no place to put the radioactive waste, that's why! There are about 138 million pounds of nuclear waste piling up from power plants across the U.S. At one point in time, the Yucca Mountain repository was supposed to contain all this waste, but that project went down in flames after its proposed neighbors in Nevada said OH NO YOU DON'T - NOT HERE! Well I can't think of too many states that will welcome the next Yucca-like project. So where do we plan to put all this stuff??

Then add the recent events in Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. How awful that a country suffering in the wake of powerful natural disasters would have to face this terrifying nuclear fallout threat. Here in NY, Governor Cuomo has been calling for an immediate shut down of Indian Point for years due to the safety issues associated with the very real threat of an earthquake or terrorist attack at the site. Yet the push for nuclear power marches on. As does the drilling in the gulf coast, as does the mountaintop coal mining, as does the fracking for natural gas. When will we ever learn?