Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's 10:20 a.m., do you know where your power comes from?

After reading the headlines about nuclear meltdowns in Japan, I thought to myself, I wonder if I live near a nuclear power plant, here in disaster prone Southern Louisiana. A link from Greenpeace informed me about Waterford 3, a nuclear power plant about twenty miles up the Mississippi River in St. Charles Parish. Greenpeace offered the following risk assessment in the event of a serious accident:
Government data estimates that an accident at Waterford 3 would lead to 96,000 deaths and 279,000 injuries within a year, as well as 9,000 cancer deaths over the lifetime of the exposed population. The cost of such an accident was predicted to be $131 billion in 1980.
The crisis in Japan is the world's second (and far biggest) environmental disaster to strike the world, greedy for power, in the past year. When we were facing the BP spill last year here in Louisiana, I was reminded of Moby Dick, and the lengths that we have gone to historically to keep the lights on. (An op-ed in the New York Times beat me to the punch in employing the metaphor.)

The power from Waterford 3 keeps my air conditioning on all summer long in my drafty, inefficient New Orleans home. Realistically, I do not expect that my concerns about where my energy comes from, or its consequences, will change my thermostat. And if we are unwilling, I can be pretty sure that others, less concerned, will not change there behaviors. But clearly with consumption of energy growing these energy related disasters will continue until we identify energy sources that don't spoil the seas, rape the earth, and rise the tides.

I expect, or at least hope, that these past few days have tipped the scales on the cost benefit analysis that keeps us dependent on dangerous means of energy production.

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