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Counting the Cost in the California Heat Wave

As the California heat wave continues, the state is beginning to count the cost in human lives:
Across the state, the death toll continued to climb, with more than 60 Californians believed to have died from the record heat wave. One of the hardest-hit counties was Fresno, where hospitals were filled to capacity and the morgue ran out of room.

"On a usual day, our doctors will probably autopsy three to four people at the most," said county Coroner Loralee Cervantes. "By noon today, we've already done three autopsies. We're working all hands on deck right now. This morning I was truly nervous about the capacity of our facility and our ability to keep up."

In some areas of the morgue, bodies were being doubled up on gurneys because of lack of space, she said. The morgue was holding 43 bodies Wednesday, 20 of which were suspected of being heat-related deaths.

They included Araxie Long, 82, and her son, Carl Long Jr., 53, found dead inside their two-bedroom Fresno home Tuesday morning by a relative who went to check on them. Neighbors said that, probably to prevent high electricity bills, the pair did not like to use their air conditioner, though it worked.
The next time anti-nuclear activists in California talk about closing San Onofre and Diablo Canyon, think about what life in the state would be like without those reactors. I think it's safe to say that reserve margins would be lower, electricity would be more expensive, and air quality would be that much worse.

While plenty of activists like to portray Americans wasting energy in order to live lives of convenience, the reality is that availability of affordable and reliable electricity is not a matter of mere convenience, it's a matter of life and death.

One last thought: According to a study released by the International Atomic Energy Agency in September 2005, less than 50 deaths were directly attributable to the Chernobyl disaster.

UPDATE: More sad news.

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