My mother entered her teens during WW2, and as a consequence she enthused her children to know about it. In my own meanderings around the subject of the war I could not reconcile the use of nuclear weapons (depite the plea for shortening the war), I was deeply moved by the photographic footage of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I still am (one photo the evokes the same response is the image of Phan Khi Kim Phuc Running while burned by napalm). The results of Chernobyl and Fukushima are horrifying.
But the story that really got me was the story of Karen Silkwood which I first encountered through the movie Silkwood starring Meeryl Streep, and thereafter through reading. The story of how she raised the issue of health and safety at the Kerr-Mcgee chemical factory, and how she mysteriously disappeared on her way to meet a journalist. In 1974 she testified before the Atomic Energy Commission about her concerns. Silkwood was also suffering from the inadequate safety of the chemical plant where she worked – she said she was suffering from plutonium contamination.
Silkwood’s story told me then that the nuclear industry could be easily compromised (but then, which industry can’t be compromised?) by sloppy safety practices and the lust for profits and market gain. And look at the results:-
Windscale, UK, 1957 – Windscale 1 caught fire, the radiation reached Europe (200 cancer related deaths documented).
Sodium Reactor Experiment, USA, 1959 – 13 fuel rods overheated, the gaseous material that resulted was discharged into the atmosphere.
SL – 1, USA, 1961 – power surge caused by single fuel rod extraction, the steam explosion killed the three workers on duty that day, they all received lethal doses of radiation.
Enrico Fermi Unit 1, USA, 1966 – the first and only fast breeder reactor that overheated.
Three Mile Island Unit 2, USA, 1978 – nuclear reactor coolant escaped.
Chernobyl, Ukraine, 1986 – massive release of radiation across the Soviet Union and Europe. Poor safety procedures during a scheduled maintenance operation resulted in the reactor suffering a series of explosions, followed by a fire which also accelerated the release of radiation.
Fukushima Daiichi, Japan, 2011 – and earthquake and subsequent tsunami damaged the nuclear plant, it overheated and suffered a series of explosions, and massive amounts of radiation were released.
Needless to say these are the big ones, there are myriads of small problems with radiation release due to reactor problems, but also from radioactive waste control problems. Currently the issue of nuclear waste rages as the state and federal govt. determine whether or not to place a nuclear dump at a small rural centre in South Australia, at Kimba (we stayed there last year, great little town). Of course, the community have been given all sorts of guarantees! But once you’ve understood Silkwood, once you’ve checked the serious nuclear disaster list and seen how most of them are human error issues, guarantees don’t mean much. In my view, nuclear reactors = radiation in our environment.
I don’t know that I can stop the whole thing, I stay informed, I write to politicians, I bring it up with others, short of chaining myself to a fence in South Australia, that’s about it, but if more of us wrote and lobbied it would at least, if nothing else, alert our local reps to our understanding and concern. Guarantees don’t cut it! Don’t be fooled.
For those interested: https://antinuclear.net