Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Iowa – Nevada - Brunei

brunei-darussalam The Des Moines Register sees the nuclear energy facilities over in Nebraska surrounded by flood water and that people are fretting about them:

People worry because just the phrase "nuclear power plant" conjures thoughts of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. People worry because the world is still watching as Japan deals with the Fukushima nuclear power plant from both a human health and economic perspective.

Iowans worry because the Nebraska plants are separated from us by only a river rather than the Pacific Ocean.

Actually, I’d be surprised if people needed to project back 25 or more years to find fear buttons to push. Any such button, fairly or not, is now labeled Fukushima. (And remember: not downplaying the seriousness of the accident, of course, but the health and economic issues resulting from the earthquake and tsunami were fantastically large.)

Yet the public's concern should not be irrational or used to feed an anti-nuclear energy agenda or imply that the U.S. government is lying to Americans.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what is happening online where anything goes and supposed reporters aren't held accountable for blatant misinformation.

Just so. The editorial board reaches to Pakistan for its example, but it needn’t have gone so far afield. Nuclear energy facilities will live in a world for awhile where Fukushima informs everything – and while the floods in Nebraska are not comparable in kind to the tsunami in Japan, both involve water and that’s enough. Fearing a similar result is a natural response for some and it doesn’t have to be particularly rational. And rumor mongering to enflame those fears is – well – what some people like to do.

Still:

We cannot allow fears about nuclear energy -- unfounded fears, as of now in Nebraska -- [to] scare us away from this important power source.

There can be countervailing voices. That’s the service being provided by the Register.

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The Las Vegas Sun is a reliable opponent of the Yucca Mountain used fuel repository and enjoys any opportunity to say so. That’s fine – that’s its role if it wants it. But still, its glee over a court case regarding Yucca Mountain that was recently dismissed included this curious paragraph:

Instead of concentrating on litigation, the nuclear power industry and its friends in South Carolina and Washington [state, which brought the suit] should turn their attention to disposal alternatives being considered by the Obama administration’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. The commission, co-chaired by former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., and former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, is scheduled to issue its interim findings by the end of this month and final recommendations within the following six months.

Why curious? Because the alternative could, after all, involve Nevada. Good to know the Sun favors an alternative approach in Nevada if it is different than Yucca Mountain.

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Occasionally, we run into stories that promise to be about something, but turn out to be more of a tease. In this case, we were looking for some international news and thought our old friend Brunei might have something cooking.

Nuclear power will be discussed by energy ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their counterparts outside the region at an annual meeting scheduled for September in Brunei, according to Brunei's energy minister, Yasmin Umar.

So the action here, if any, will be in September. Brunei has talked a bit about nuclear energy here and there but not much more. It sounds as though it will be a topic at the conference, but most likely the discussion will concern nuclear developments in southeast Asia following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi.

So we’ll keep Brunei back-of-mind for now.

In case you didn’t know. Brunei is two pieces of land occupying the northern part of the island of Borneo. Malaysia and Indonesia have other parts, with Malaysia bordering Brunei on three sides. Brunei has about 400,000 people and is a constitutional sultanate.

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