Climate Change Is Real: Nuclear Is Not The Answer!

By Maggie Gundersen 

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This summer Arnie and I moved to the South Carolina “LOW COUNTRY” where our house is twelve feet above sea level. According to scientists, in 100 years our house will be permanently flooded from rising sea levels due to climate change. Many times, during the late summer and most of the fall, downtown Charleston was flooded at the same time that the newly reclaimed and restored Folly Beach shoreline was once again being pummeled by heavy winds, rain, and the tumultuous ocean waves. Yet according to some politicians, South Carolinian and those on the national stage, there is no climate change here in South Carolina or anywhere in the world.

Many South Carolina politicians are some of the ones yelling the most against environmental protections and claiming yet again that “climate change is fake news”. Yet today, here in Charleston, the temperature is an unseasonably warm 70º. While it’s important to remember the difference between climate and weather, there is an undeniable warming trend and days like this will soon become the new norm in place of the expected 40 to 50º. Already, during the last decade South Carolina has already warmed about 1-degree Fahrenheit. While this might not sound like too drastic of a change, when considering all the data points involved in the calculation and the implications it has for the state, the warming trend becomes alarming.   

Increased temperatures, storm activity, and rising sea levels are already having a negative impact on the housing market in South Carolina with even further depreciation expected in the coming decade. According to a first-of-its-kind study by the Brooklyn-based First Street Foundation, Charleston-area homes collectively declined in value by $266 million between 2005 and 2017 due to damage from tidal flooding. Depreciation by 2033 is pegged at $653 million based on estimates by the Army Corps of Engineers that sea levels will have risen 6 inches by then.

Charleston’s Daily newspaper The Post and Courier, founded in 1803 and a winner of The Pulitzer Prize, has not been silent about the impact of climate change on the city of Charleston and the neighboring Low Country communities. On October 12, 2018, in an article entitled Netherlands’ approach to flooding might pull Charleston out of ‘negative spiral’, The Post and Courier detailed a trip made by Charleston officials to the Netherlands to learn how the below sea-level nation fights climate change.

As Fairewinds Energy Education followers read this blog post, I imagine that many are asking why I would raise these issues, after all Fairewinds Energy Education is known for its assessment and analyses of nuclear power plant risks, failures, and regulatory lapses as well as our world-wide radioactive sampling and efforts to talk about decommissioning flaws and leaking atomic waste storage facilities. My purpose is three-fold:

  • First, relicensing old nuclear power plants and building new nukes will not resolve any climate change issues. View our well-researched film, Smokescreen, created with data from university analyses and independent international economic reports. Also, check out Arnie’s speech at McGill University where he discuses how building new nuclear power plants will actually exacerbate climate change as well as his Truthout article

  • Second, no amount of wishful thinking about climate change will erase the facts. Significant climate change has already caused rising seas, severe droughts as well as rapid flooding, and the overall warming of lakes, oceans, and rivers, which means that atomic power reactors will not be able to function properly and are simply disasters waiting to happen!

    • Tropical storm Sandy and Hurricane Florence showed that rising seas and increased storm intensity put all shoreline nukes at risk of flooding which could result in a loss of cooling and even a meltdown.

    • Excessive snow from climate change in the Rockies lead to spring flooding at the Fort Calhoun atomic reactor causing it to be jokingly referred to as Port Calhoun. It was shut down for years as a result. Arnie’s quote that “sandbags and nuclear power plants don’t belong in the same paragraph” summed up the problem! 

  • Finally, diminished river flow and increased water temperatures also mean that nukes must shut down because the cooling water is too warm or simply not present to provide adequate and vital cooling. Atomic power plants cannot operate at all if there is no water for cooling. This has happened several times in recent years at both US and European nuclear power plants.

Fairewinds links the dangers of global climate change to the dangers of atomic reactors!  During 2019, we will continue our work examining every aspect of nuclear power operation, mining, decommissioning, as well as the proven technologies to replace CONG (coal, oil, nuclear, and gas) electric generation that are now available for less cost and with considerably less impact on our fragile environment.

We will also continue our soil and dust sampling protocol near the old nuclear test facility at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory that recently burned during the Woolsey Fire in Southern California. Since the site was contaminated with radioactive isotopes from a meltdown, PSR-LA (Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles Chapter) and many community groups are legitimately concerned that the fire may have released dangerous radioactive particles into the surrounding communities and therefore have requested that Fairewinds and its colleagues conduct an independent analysis to determine the extent of the release. As the climate warms, forest fires will continue to play a larger and more-deadly role in many ecosystems. Already, Chernobyl and Fukushima have suffered unexpected wildfires, releasing unknown amounts of radiation into the atmosphere.

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With heartfelt thanks from the Fairewinds Crew: Arnie, Maggie, Grayson, Jacky, Sue, and Steve. And, with special thanks for and from the colleagues who partner with us to conduct real scientific research and to make that information open and accessible to all.