OKLAHOMA CITY – Thirty years ago, on their politically-charged Red Sails in the Sunset album, Australian rock band Midnight Oil featured a song – “Harrisburg” - about the partial nuclear meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear-power plant in Pennsylvania in March 1979, a widely-covered health and ecological disaster that featured panicked news coverage forever seared into my brain.
“Harrisburg, oh Harrisburg
The plant is melting down
The people out in Harrisburg
Are getting out of town
And when the stuff gets in
You cannot get it out”
That remains true today. If you inhale radioactive particles, they will affect your body for years to come.
And with the news from the Department of Energy that the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico had a “lack of nuclear expertise and an eroded safety culture” leading up to the radiation leak that took place there in February, the public should be asking more questions about how these critical repositories, storing deadly nuclear waste, are being managed.
Red Dirt Report helped break the story about WIPP’s multiple releases of plutonium and americium in mid-February. The subsequent cloud of radioactive particles likely was carried on the winds, heading east, into areas of rural New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. That story was one of the most-widely read stories in the seven-year history of Red Dirt Report. Clearly the public wants answers about what their government, in collusion with the nuclear industry, is doing and if they are doing things safely.
Clearly, the mismanaged WIPP facility has been a disaster for some time and now people are paying the price with their health. As many as 21 WIPP employees inhaled or ingested radioactive particles following the leak.
The recently-released accident report, put together by the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, “cited poor management, ineffective maintenance and a lack of proper training and oversight at WIPP, according to the Associated Press. The report also found that much of the operation failed to meet standards for a nuclear facility.”
And we are only now learning of the eerie "reddish-brown vapors" that came from deep within the salt caverns where the nuclear waste is stored 2,000 feet below the surface. Filters capturing radioactive particles reportedly had a sickening "orange tint" about them.
Kind of gives you a cold chill, doesn’t it?
And yet this sort of thing is far more common than we realize. Up in North Dakota, the radioactive waste that comes from oil drilling, in the form of oil "filter socks" are being discovered across North Dakota, a state that has seen a boom in drilling in recent years.
Around the world, more and more people - usually those of modest means - are standing up to Big Nuke and the power it wields. The Calcutta Telegraph reports this past week that "Tiger" women in Tamil Nadu state are protesting a nuclear power plant in that area of southern India.
"There are alternative, non-conventional sources from which electricity can be generated,” said a female protester, pointing to the windmills that dot the landscape. “We survive because our husbands go into the sea to fish. But radioactive discharge from the nuclear plant will kill sea life and deprive us of our livelihood.”
And closer to the area of the world where the Fukushima nightmare was hatched, folks in Taiwan don't want anymore nuclear power on their crowded island.
Between beatings and being sprayed with water cannons, tens of thousands of protesters in Taipei, Taiwan did their best to stand their ground Sunday to demand their government end plans to construct a fourth nuclear power plant in the area around the capital.
As Revolution News reported this week, the peaceful protesters represent as much as 77-percent of the nation and yet police “used shockingly aggressive force to clear the street in front of Taipei main train station.”
And while the government would later admit that engineering of the new nuke plant was halted for now, plans for construction are still scheduled to move forward – even with the outpouring of protests and anger in the streets of Taipei.
And then we see New York Times reporter Martin Fackler admitting in an interview that the Japanese government that there is a sense they could be jailed for reporting the truth about the spread of Fukushima radiation, due to secrecy laws, or that “somehow its unpatriotic to talk about radiation.”
Here in the U.S., the media at large follows the Japanese in their self-censorship on this serious issue. Fukushima radiation has crossed the Pacific since 2011 and is washing up on the Pacific coast of North America. The Japanese are reluctantly seeking internation help in removing nuclear fuel at the ailing, crippled plant.
Will we ever learn from these disasters as we have seen at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima? And what of the ongoing issues facing the Marshall Islands, a small, Pacific chain of islands that has boldly stood up to the nine powerful nuclear nations of the world and demanded that they follow the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, as five of those nations agreed to many years ago.
Nuclear power and nuclear weaponry is not clean. It's not safe. It is damaging the ecological balance of the planet and hurting countless numbers of people. The brave Taiwanese don't want more nuclear power. More needs to be done to find other sources of energy that can truly help the planet and bring us all to a safer, greener future.