FACTorial: No nukes for Thailand! Lessons from Japan

March 14, 2011

Our planet’s most successful land animals, the dinosaurs, lived for around 160 million years. However, our ancestors, the first hominids appeared only two to three million years ago. Homo “sapiens”, ourselves, have only been around 50,000 years.

If we may consider religion a prime indicator of maturity (some might argue the opposite!), humans as we know them have only existed for around 5,000 years.

Let’s examine this timeline. Onkalo, meaning “hiding place”, is the world’s first “permanent” nuclear repository, expected to last 100,000 years. Onkalo is being dug half a kilometre into the Finnish bedrock over the next 20 years. Onkalo is the fascinating subject of the 2010 documentary film by Michael Madsen, Into Eternity.

Onkalo: The modern maw of hell

Review, The New York Times, February 1, 2011 http://movies.nytimes.com/2011/02/02/movies/02into.html

Trailer, YouTube, October 20, 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoyKe-HxmFk

100,000 years is 20 times the length of all human history. In 20 years’ time Finland’s nuclear waste from only four reactors will be sealed in Onkalo. What about the other 30 countries with nuclear reactors?

[Matt Groening]

So far, no safe, reliable method has been found for reprocessing / recycling / disposing of nuclear waste in its first 60 years. In fact, nuclear waste becomes even more problematic over time because safeguards must be in place to prevent its being used to build a nuclear weapon, from crude and dirty to sophisticated and ka-blooey.

Tsar Bomba, 50 megatons, 1400 times Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, 8 km fireball

Shooting nuclear waste into the giant nuclear reactor of the sun was considered until the distinct possibility was discussed of such a rocket exploding on the launch pad, in Earth’s atmosphere or even in orbit, which would unquestionably wipe all life off the planet.

Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace in 1971, is the world’s principal lobbyist and apologist for nuclear power.

I have know Patrick Moore personally for nearly 40 years. He comes from a family which clearcut-logged old-growth—1,600 year old trees—to systematically decimate the mountains surrounding Winter Harbour on the west coast of Vancouver Island in Canada’s province of British Columbia. When those trees were gone, the family company, the W.D. Moore Logging Company, joined the rape of Vancouver Island, where 89% of old-growth has now been clearcut.

932 people were arrested for defence of the forests in the largest single act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. I myself was arrested by RCMP helicopter defending Clayoquot Sound’s Sulphur Passage. I served 37 days in gaol for civil contempt of court for flouting an injunction against protest, much of it in solitary confinement in British Columbia’s infamous Oakalla Prison built in 1912.

“Sulphur Passage”, Bob Bossin, YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxGjtMk7CNY

Following his expulsion from Greenpeace in 1986, Moore became a salmon farmer until he realised there was more money to be made by using his environmentalist credentials to become a lobbyist and apologist for the salmon farming industry now threatening five native salmon species and creating extensive dead zones along the Pacific coast.

It was a natural progression for someone whose family logging wiped out the local salmon population by clogging every salmon stream on Vancouver Island with logging debris. Moore made even more money by becoming an apologist not only for the British Columbia logging industry but clearcut loggers in such far places as the Amazon and Indonesia and supporting such noble causes as China’s Three Gorges Dam, genetically-modified foods, refuting the carcinogenic effects of dioxins in plastics production, even famously celebrating global warming before the European Union and promoting nuclear power before the U.S. Congress.

“Eco-Traitor”, Wired Magazine, March 2004 http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.03/moore.html

However, there was far more money to be milked from the nuclear industry and Canada is famously an exporter of CANDU nuclear reactors. Most of us would shout “CAN-DON’T!” but not Pat Moore.

Waddya bet Moore tries to spin Japan’s nuclear meltdowns?

“Going Nuclear”, Washington Post, April 16, 2006

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/14/AR2006041401209.html

Patrick Moore is a Big Fat Liar http://www.fanweb.org/patrick-moore/

“Nuclear Experts Explain Worst-Case Scenario at Fukushima Power Plant”, Scientific American, March 12, 2011

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fukushima-core&page=2

I don’t think you need to know a microSievert from a milliamp to know in your gut when something’s just plain wrong!

Forget about the environment for a minute and the fact that the contaminated, radioactive seawater cooling—330,000 gallons every minute–will be released back into the ocean and live on in all those lovely fish we’ll be eating (remember mercury? remember Minamata disease? anybody out there give up fish?).

Forget the fact that Dr. John W. Gofman, former director of the US Atomic Energy Commission’s Biomedical Research Division at Livermore Laboratories has proven conclusively that no human exposure to radiation, including medical procedures, is safe.

The longest thread ever on Thai Visa—”Meltdown Likely Under Way at Japan Nuclear Reactor”– on Japan’s nuclear meltdown provides some perspective in more than 2000 posts:

http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/450765-meltdown-likely-under-way-at-japan-nuclear-reactor/

“Japan’s nuclear power operator has checkered past”, Reuters, March 12, 2011

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/12/us-japan-nuclear-operator-idUSTRE72B1B420110312 and

“Nuclear apocalypse in Japan”, Keith Harmon Snow, Conscious Being Alliance, March 17, 2011

http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23764 and

“Fukushima Engineer Says He Helped Cover Up Flaw in Dai-Ichi Reactor No. 4”, Jason Klenfield, Bloomberg News, March 23, 2011

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-23/fukushima-engineer-says-he-covered-up-flaw-at-shut-reactor.html

Let’s just talk about the money, the real reason behind nuclear power, however well-intentioned.

How much does a reactor cost? Five billion dollars maybe? Now let’s look at the number of kilowatt/hours generated and how much electric consumers paid for them. How many years does it take these plants to make a profit? Now, add the cost of ‘decommissioning’ and clean-up (clearly impossible). And all this nuclear waste will be sealed in place, sitting on exactly the same fault-line.

Decommissioning ‘containment’ for Chernobyl cost $140 million dollars in 1992 (the meltdown occurred in 1986) and $1.4 billion for its more recent replacement begun in 2004 (which will not be complete until 2013) which itself will need replacement in only ten more years…10,000 more times for the next 100,000 years. And these are costs for just one reactor.

Such fixed costs remain the same every single time a reactor is decommissioned. Tell me nuclear power makes any kind of sense.

Losses from Japan’s nuclear accident are estimated at $235 billion by the World Bank and $700-800 billion by Switzerland, the most expensive accident in history, and will probably rise. The US Hurricane Katrina (2009) only cost $45 billion. During Katrina, the Waterford nuclear plant lost all power, a near-miss nuclear accident which went all but unreported.

Bear in mind Japan is a first-world, highly-industrialised, high-technology nation with experts and infrastructure—imagine a similar disaster in Thailand. However, it may shock readers to learn that Japan is actually the world’s greatest debtor nation, at 200% of GDP, surpassing even Zimbabwe.

Five kilos of uranium are burned in a coal generating plant in a year. I was not able to find uranium consumption figures for the comparable oil- or natural gas-burners used in Thailand. How many tons of uranium and plutonium did the Japanese plants consume? How many tons of waste were left over?

On the International Nuclear and Radiological  “Event” Scale of 7, Japan’s Tepco reactors scored 5-6 as rated by France’s Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire. Chernobyl (1986) was a seven (major accident), releasing 400 times the amount of radioactive fallout as the 20-kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima; Kyshtym (1957) a six (serious accident), Three Mile Island (1979) was a five (accident with wider consequences). In simple terms, Japan’s nuclear ‘event’ has become a genuine disaster. Japanese are now being exposed to 24,500 times the radiation as before the accident, three years’ worth natural radiation with a single hour.

Keiji Nakazawa wrote a ten-volume manga series called Barefoot Gen, translated into English, Thai and many other languages, about his boyhood after the bomb in Hiroshima.

[Keiji Nakazawa]

“Barefoot Gen”, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barefoot_Gen

Keiji Nakazawa, Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Keiji+Nakazawa&x=0&y=0

These books should be required reading for every schoolchild in every country so we never make, at least, that mistake again.

There are 112 nuclear reactors in Asia, 37 more under construction, a further 84 planned and 80 additional serious proposals. Thailand has had a “small” research reactor since 1977 and was planning to build a larger one as of early 2010.

Thailand also has plans to build at least two nuclear power plants with four reactors unilaterally approved in 2007 by the military coup d’etat junta at a cost estimate of eight billion dollars, over THB 242,000,000,000, with four more proposed over a period of 15 years. Proposals for construction have been submitted by Areva (France, government-owned), and the publicly-traded General Electric (USA), Mitsubishi and Toshiba (Japan).

GE and Toshiba constructed the damaged reactors at Fukushima with further investment by Hitachi and Mitsubishi. CANDU (Canada) and a Russian developer have also expressed into building Thai reactors.

To quote from  “Thailand’s Nuclear Power Program”: “Nuclear power plants should be located adjacent to beaches.” Did they really never hear of global warming and a significant rise in sea levels?

Ao Phai in Chonburi province on the Eastern seaboard is the first location under consideration. Along Thailand’s Southern Gulf coast—Ban Bangberd, Ban Lamthaen and Ban Lamyang in Prachuab Khiri Khan; Ban Thongching in Chumpon; and on the Southern Andaman coast, Ban Klongmuang in Phuket were being considered, along with sites in Ranong (Andaman) and Surat Thani (Gulf) as of 2007.

In 2010, the Central region’s Chai Nat, adjacent to the Chao Phraya River, and Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Gulf coast had been added to potential sites and resulted in considerable public protest. Trat (Eastern seaboard), Ubon Ratchathani  (Northeast, Mekong River), Khon Kaen and Kalasin (Northeast) are also being considered as possible locations. In Kalasin, more than 2,000 demonstrated against nuclear power on March 16. Thais will not accept nuclear power quietly. I have heard it said that, well, Thailand doesn’t have earthquakes. But we certainly had a major tsunami recently from earthquakes elsewhere, precisely the same situation as in Japan.

Dozens of pink dolphin-shaped windsocks installed at Thong Ching Beach in Nakhon Si Thammarat, to protest against the plan to set up a nuclear power plant. [Bangkok Post]

Readers will find the paper, “EGAT’s Thaitanic: Why Thailand Should Not Go Nuclear” by Ken Albertson in 2009 highly instructive. The government-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand has already spent THB 1,038,000,000 ($45 million) merely to conduct feasibility studies, primarily blatant public marketing to promote nuclear to Thai citizens. Even the World Bank recommended against nuclear power in Thailand. EGAT’s governor, Kraisi Kanasuta, has stated: “Building a nuclear power plant is unavoidable for Thailand.” It’s only ‘unavoidable’ because the fatcats are counting their money in advance.

In 2009 The former general manager of China’s largest nuclear-power company, the state-owned China National Nuclear Corp., was sentenced to life in prison. Kang Rixin accepted bribes worth nearly $1 million, embezzled $265 million and interfered with bids for nuclear power plant construction schemes, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

It takes at least 13 years of construction for a nuclear plant to come online. Greenpeace notes that nuclear plant construction always goes over budget, frequently by over 300 per cent. All uranium fuel must be imported, primarily from Australia, which fixes world prices. In order to encourage nuclear power construction, prices have been kept below the costs of production; this is obviously unsustainable.

Antinuclear protest in Ubon Ratchathani [Bangkok Post]

The world uses 67,000 tons of uranium per year, leaving about 70 years of supply at the current demand. At highs of $138 a pound, the annual costs are 9.25 billion dollars to supply around 1000 reactors worldwide. Nuclear industry analysts predict highs of $576 a pound; that equals 38.5 billion dollars a year. Lobbyists for corporate interests have no scruples about driving nuclear nations into crippling debt for building nukes.

John Rowe, CEO of Exelon, the largest nuclear operator in the US, states, “At the present time, new reactors are not economical anyway. Natural gas-fired generation is now the economic way to produce low carbon electricity, and that will be true for about a decade.” Discovery and advanced extraction of deep shale gas reserves has led to prices plummeting independently of oil.

Some pundits consider nuclear energy to produce the cleanest, greenest electricity available. However, they have failed to realistically examine the costs of uranium exploration, extraction, milling, enrichment, fuel fabrication and shipping to international markets and balanced by both worker and planetary safety. When one takes these added factors into consideration, the carbon footprint for nuclear power balances equally with coal and oil generation; in fact, uranium may have an even greater carbon footprint.

“Carbon footprint of the Olympic Dam uranium mine expansion”, Barry Brook, Brave New Climate

http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/04/05/carbon-footprint-of-the-olympic-dam-uranium-mine-expansion/

Open-pit uranium mining in Australia [AFP]

If we continue to rely on nuclear power and build more reactors, we will not only see the end of nuclear fuel in our lifetimes but be faced with hundreds of dead, radioactive reactors and millions of tons of nuclear waste with no realistic means of containment. In other words, we’re digging a radioactive grave. Is this the burden we want to impose our future generations?

Thailand currently generates its electricity using natural gas imported from neighbouring Myanmar, and hydroelectric power. Current costs of electricity production are estimated to be two baht per kilowatt hour for nuclear, 5.5 for wind, 10.5 for solar, and 4.5 for biogas. A report by the Nautilus Institute has produced a chart demonstrating that nuclear power has only been considered in Thailand during the periods of the Thai military’s greatest ascendance.

Thailand has a well-documented history of bribery, corruption and kickbacks, from an estimated 90% of the cost of Bangkok’s new international airport to a million-dollar bribe for the Bangkok international Film Festival. Can we really think the Thai military’s recurrent interest in nuclear power has to do with anything other than personal enrichment?

[Nautilus Institute]

Thailand Goes Nuclear? Considerations and Costs http://www.palangthai.org/docs/ThailandGoesNuclearEng.ppt

My guess is that many readers are too young to remember a 1979 film called The China Syndrome. The China Syndrome predicated a nuclear meltdown to the centre of the Earth. Have we all become too brainwashed by greed to think such dangers are an acceptable risk for our own comfort?

If you still think nuclear power is safe, watch the 2006 documentary, The Battle for Chernobyl:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiCXb1Nhd1o

His Majesty King Bhumibol has already expressed his concern over nuclear power in Thailand. It’s not sustainable and does not fit the model of sufficiency economics the King has promoted for over 50 years. “Nuclear energy—a proven technology”—right! Proven fatal.

In 1987, 1,600 people were arrested at the nuclear test site in the Nevada desert near Las Vegas. I was arrested with a group of Quakers on the day of planned underground testing. On March 12, over 120,000 Germans formed a human chain 120 kilometres long between nuclear power plants at Brunsbuettel and Kruemmeover,  stretching across the northern city of Hamburg;  in Stuttgart, 60,000 Germans formed a second human chain stretching 45 kilometres to protest government plans to expand nuclear power. They are demanding Germany shut down all nuke plants by 2021.

Making the nuclear danger even more clear and present, 30,000 active nuclear missiles still stud the Earth, 96% of them belonging to the United States and Russia, targeting each other.

Approval for nuclear energy in Thailand is the only issue for which I would consider nonviolent civil disobedience in my adopted country. All of us have a responsibility to Thailand’s future to stop nuclear before they start.

CJ Hinke

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)

A different version of this article appears at Asia Sentinel:

http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3061&Itemid=594

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