Today's Highlights | April 29, 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP A woman puts flowers at the new memorial to victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion at Mitino cemetery 27 April 1993. (Getty)

Highlights From Today's Show

Begins at 20:48: More than three decades after the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown, is the country’s nuclear technology any safer—and any less scary? The Retro Report team investigated that question. Weighing in with their findings is Kit Roane, a Retro Report producer. 

Begins at 25:15: By 2017, if all goes according to plan, a 32,000-ton arch built to contain remaining radioactive dust at the Chernobyl reactor will be completed at a cost of $1.5 billion. Will the crisis in Ukraine get in the way? Laurin Dodd, who spent eight years as the managing director of the project before returning from Ukraine to the U.S. a few weeks ago, explains what's at stake. 

Check out Retro Report's findings below.

Guests:

Laurin Dodd and Kit Roane

Editors:

T.J. Raphael

Comments [4]

I am very alarmed at what I heard as just short of open hostility to nuclear power from the commentator. The story opened giving the now watered down anti-nuclear viewpoint, then followed with the non-story that Chernobyl, a power plant with an inherently unstable design not built by anyone anymore and should never have been built when it was, will in fact be covered in concrete on schedule in spite of the other news in the Ukraine.

The reality is that the Navy builds new nuclear reactors every year. Each new model is safer and more efficient than the one that came before. If you want a real story, you might consider asking how the Navy gets it done so effectively? Having Naval Reactors Investigators provide oversight to civilian plants would be a good start...

Far more people die through the lifecycle of coal mining, distribution, burning, and chemical rain, and air particulate pollution each year than died from the nuclear power lifecycle. Look at the snow in the East two days after it falls and you can see the yellowing crust from pollution.

If you took all the long term nuclear waste from every commercial nuclear facility in the US to this day it would barely fill an NFL stadium. Yet you could fill a few stadiums with particulate waste from fossil fuels used commercially in those same 50 years. Even when you filter the coal exhaust, you are left with large volumes of waste that has to go somewhere.

By focusing on the accidents in the past, and often inflating the impact both then and now, you give up on the true potential nuclear power can offer. By locking out construction of new nuclear plants, you force companies to keep older plants operating. This means you get more stories about old plants failing. It is a vicious cycle and the media, sadly, are part of the problem.

I look to NPR for balanced reporting, but this seamed like a cheap shot at nuclear power taken at the expense of the real news in the Ukraine.

Apr. 30 2014 11:09 AM
norman h gaffin from Cinnaminson NJ

eqating the Cernoble accident with all nuclrear reactors is a major error. The chernoble reactor was a graphite moderated reactor with no safeguard systems or a containment building. A similar graphite reactor in England, Windscale,had a similar accident earlier. The consequent radioactive cloud traveled as far as Denmark. Many light water reactors are built inside of a containment building with engineered safeguard systems. They are designed & built based on historical weather & ground data eg tarnados, huricanes & earthquakes. Fukushima was hit with a tsunami ecseding historical magnitude. The desiel driven generators were kocked out- the electric motor drive safeguard pumps could not operate. And the consequent disaster followed.

Apr. 29 2014 01:22 PM

Two points on today's conversation:

(1) The reactors at 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima Diichi were all very old Generation II reactor types (e.g. designed in the 1950s, built in the 1960s or 1970s). In the case of both Fukushima and Chernobyl, design flaws were called out well in advance of the disasters. Modern Generation III reactors are significantly safer with reduced waste production. Even more promising are thorium reactors, which can be designed as low-maintenance units and which are impossible to melt down due to the nature of thorium reactions.

(2) While renewable energy is a laudable goal, it's not there yet. Continue investing in green energy and try to advance the technology to the point that it becomes a more feasible goal (perhaps tidal may be the answer). However, we need reliable and consistent power generation that is not based upon fossil fuels - advanced nuclear technology could be a stopgap solution.

Apr. 29 2014 01:02 PM
Stephan Vertal from Portland,Or

There are real possibilities of nuclear power generation becoming much safer. The major issue which remains unanswered is waste disposal and the lifespan of such waste. Living only miles from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation on the Columbia River I am very aware of the nightmare of nuclear waste. Even optimistic estimates put supposedly "safe" disposal of the waste, which dates back to WWII, willl take decades. This does not even address a quantity of waste of uninventoried waste in open trenches over 50 miles long. Today it is shocking such a business would be allowed to go forward without accounting for recycling and waste disposal to such a questionable standard currently imposed on the nuclear industry.

Apr. 29 2014 12:32 PM

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