By Jim Knight:
When you live only two miles as the crow flies from Indian Point, it’s hard to watch what’s happening in Japan without wondering what would happen if a similar meltdown occurred close to home. Would we promptly receive accurate information from Entergy and/or the government, or get the same obfuscation and delay the Japanese people received? Would the evacuation plans, famously rejected in the past by both Westchester and Rockland counties as unworkable, get us safely out of harm’s way? If they did, would we ever be able to return, or would our homes and possessions be locked up in a radioactive no man’s land for centuries?
It’s tempting to avoid the hard questions. There are no good answers. The chance of a real calamity is remote, but someday it may happen. There are two active reactors, one decommissioned reactor, and pools full of “spent” fuel. Will the folks on duty at the plants and in government be up to the challenges? Is the upside of nuclear power worth risking the potential damage, given the enormous population within a twenty mile radius: north to Beacon, south to Dobbs ferry, east to Pound Ridge, and west to Warwick or a fifty mile radius to Saugerties, Staten Island, Bridgeport, and Dingmans Ferry, PA?
Our nation has been talking about alternative energy sources at least since the oil crises of the 1970’s. During World War II it took us four years to go from equations on a blackboard to the first nuclear explosion at Los Alamos, yet in this wealthiest, most technologically advanced nation on the earth, we’ve made very little progress on new energy sources in the face of a growing emergency that just about everyone agrees will only get worse. We must wean ourselves away from both fossil fuels and nuclear fission. We can get this job done if we, as a nation, finally take it seriously.
Any gambler will bet when the odds favor him 5 to 1, also the odds of Russian roulette with a six-shot revolver. Very few will take 5 to 1 odds if life rather than money is at risk. Potential loss can be so overwhelming that the odds cease to matter. The ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan reminds us again, after Three Mile Island, after Chernobyl, that nuclear power is clean only until it isn’t. And when it isn’t, it’s not just dirty. It’s lethal.