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14 January 2017

Why This Nuclear Engineer Says Every Nuke Plant in the US Should Be Shut Down Yesterday

In announcing the agreement on the closing of Indian Point in New York,
Governor Andrew Cuomo described it as a "ticking time bomb."  But
the real problem, writes Grossman, is this:  There are more of them.
(Photo:  Matt Champlin - Getty Image)
Why This Nuclear Engineer Says Every Nuke Plant in the US Should Be Shut Down Yesterday
by Karl Grossman, Common Dreams, 13 January 2017

"I’d like to see every nuclear plant shut down­ yesterday.”

The good—the very good—energy news is that the Indian Point nuclear power plants 26 miles north of New York City will be closed in the next few years under an agreement reached between New York State and the plants’ owner, Entergy.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has long been calling for the plants to be shut down because, as the New York Times related in its story on the pact, they pose “too great a risk to New York City.” Environmental and safe-energy organizations have been highly active for decades in working for the shutdown of the plants. Under the agreement, one Indian Point plant will shut down by April 2020, the second by April 2021.

This comes in the face of nuclear power plant accidents­—most recently and prominently the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan—­and competitive power being less expensive including renewable and safe solar and wind energy.

Last year, the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant in Nebraska closed following the shutdowns of Kewanee in Wisconsin, Vermont Yankee in Vermont, Crystal River 3 in Florida and both San Onofre 2 and 3 in California. Nuclear plant operators say they will close Palisades in Michigan next year; Oyster Creek in New Jersey and Pilgrim in Massachusetts in 2019; and the closure of California’s Diablo Canyon 1 in 2024 will be followed by Diablo Canyon 3 in 2025.

This will bring the number of nuclear plants down to a few more than 90­ — far cry from President Richard Nixon’s scheme to have 1,000 nuclear plants in the U.S. by the year 2000.

But the bad—the very bad—energy news is that there are still many promoters in industry and government still pushing nuclear power. Most importantly, the transition team of incoming President Donald Trump has been “asking for ways to keep nuclear power alive,” as Bloomberg reported last month.

As I was reading last week the first reports on the Indian Point agreement, I received a phone call from an engineer who has been in the nuclear industry for more than 30 years­ with his view of the situation.

The engineer, employed at nuclear plants and for a major nuclear plant manufacturer, wanted to relate that even with the Indian Point news—“and I’d keep my fingers crossed that there is no disaster involving those aged Indian Point plants in those next three or four years”­—nuclear power remains a “ticking time bomb.” Concerned about retaliation, he asked his name not be published.

Here is some of the information he relayed – a story of experiences of an engineer in the nuclear power industry for more than three decades and his warnings and expectations.

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