the talking dog

August 5, 2004, Welcome to my nightmare (part cinq of an open-ended series)

If I don't have that third martini, the terrorists will have won. This seems to be the logic of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's sudden decision to stop publishing nuclear plant safety and security deficiencies, because "it might help the terrorists".

Well, no-- what it actually does is allow the nation's (103?) active nuclear plants to operate under an even greater veil of secrecy than they do now. It is interesting to note, for example, that the Indian Point nuclear plant at Buchanan, New York, around 60 miles North of Manhattan, owned by the Entergy Corporation (which ominously has recently been advertising its safety and reliability... as if any of us have a choice about where our electricity comes from) is often touted for the benefits it provides to its local economy, i.e. virtually no property taxes for around 1,000 or 2,000 residents of Buchanan. New York, and a few jobs in the region (and the electricity of course, which otherwise would have to be acquired on the regional power grid, or supplied by other means, or worst of all, perhaps force reasonable conservation measures).

No one ever looks at the other side of the cost-benefit equation: pretend Mohammed Atta decided to go for broke and crash a 757 into Indian Point, instead of the WTC (the terrorists did fly right over it, after all). Suppose Entergy's claims are wrong, and the reactor would have been breached by a huge airliner hitting it at over 500 m.p.h. My guess is that the death toll-- from the initial explosions, fires, and radioactive leaks-- would, believe it or not-- be comparable to the World Trade Center attacks-- probably a couple of thousand people-- though many more would probably be sickened from radiation exposure.

Ah, but the economic damage, not to mention psychological. It is unclear to me how wide an area would have to be evacuated, or for how long. But keep this in mind: after the WTC, most of lower Manhattan was evacuated completely for a few days, and residents nearby, for months-- maybe a half-mile radius. Economic damage estimates are usually put in the $100 billion range.

Pretend instead we're talking evacuating a radius of 50 or 60 miles from a nuclear catastrophe. That's not only millions of people, but potentially the entire New York area-- not merely our largest population center, but the nation's (and probably the world's) leading business center. In short, it would make $100 billion seem like a bargain, compared to the probable economic devastation equivalent to a signfiicant part of our GDP-- especially if the area is uninhabitable for a significant amount of time.

And that's just one nuclear plant: we have over 100 of them up and running.

Pretty much the only safeguard the public has that safety and security deficiencies even might be addressed by plant owners is that they are made public-- so that perhaps public shareholders, or local officials, might press the plant owners to do their jobs. Instead, under the guise of "keeping information from terrorists", we are cutting off the only real means of accountability over these potentially devastating facilities.

Personally, the terrorists will get whatever information they want anyway. (Some things shouldn't be published anyway for a variety of reasons; I understand that schedules of freight trains carrying toxic chemicals used to be routinely posted on the internet!)

But this nuclear plant information is designed to spur the plants into correcting them: simple safeguards, such as an established lag time (10 days? 20 days?) to allow the plants an opportunity to correct them might be an appropriate safeguard against "the terrorists". If the plants still haven't taken steps to correct the problems by then, they would present a clear danger to the public, and public officials should force the N.R.C. to do its job and shut the plant down.

But the Bush-Cheney Imperium, as always, prefers to allow its friends in the energy industry to have absolutely no accountability.

Well, I say no. Not this time. This is too freaking important. Open government is a necessary component to our way of life.

If we take that away, then the terrorists really have won.

TrackBack (0)


If I read that "then the terrorists really have won" one more time, I'm going to start my own jihad!

Posted by They Call Me Mr. Crabcake at August 5, 2004 12:06 PM

Allahu akbar, Crabby.

Posted by the talking dog at August 5, 2004 02:24 PM

How clever of you TD. Yes, it's all true. But what you would not have imagined is that there will be no more information to the public whatsoever for things such as agricultural reports to the hours of your local national park. Freedom of information laws be damned (and repealed), unless you are a member of a security-cleared commercial organization. All in the name of fighting terrorism.

Posted by Hassan Bar Sinister at August 5, 2004 03:08 PM

Aloha Don Ho to you, TD.

Posted by They Call Me Mr. Crabcake at August 5, 2004 10:41 PM

Very interesting!Thanks!

Posted by weird stories at August 7, 2004 09:09 AM

Post a comment

Remember personal info?