Long Live Three Mile Island (Part Two)

In the first installment of this series, I lamented the closure of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generation Station outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, not too far up the road from my home.

I’m sad about it because the “disaster” that happened there needlessly changed the trajectory of global energy, to the great detriment of both our country and our planet.

This is especially true if we are indeed scarcely more than a decade away from a scorching carbo-geddon — like that bartender socialist congresswoman with the crazy eyes says, and like the greedy-eyed Al Gore wrongly told us back in 2006, on his way to the bank…

But it’s also true for a shallow, bourgeois Neanderthal like me.

I’m selfish enough to want cheap, clean electricity for all the people of the world, no matter how unworthy they may be in the eyes of more evolved beings like Leo DiCaprio — whose impressive ecological achievements include narrating not one, but TWO crock-umentaries on global warming.

I’m getting off track, though.

My opening point here — before I get to what I believe could solve both the climate change crisis that may not exist and the global electricity crisis that definitely does exist — was to answer the question…

Why did Three Mile Island stop American nuclear energy in its tracks?

Was it because of all the civilian deaths?

No — not one person died in the TMI accident.

Was it because of all the people who were horribly injured and disfigured by radiation?

Nope. Because on average, those who were exposed got a dose of radiation roughly as weak and harmless as a typical chest X-ray.

Must’ve been because of all the people who got sick and died later from thyroid and other forms of cancer caused by the accident, right?

Not so much. Multiple epidemiological studies have shown no statistically valid causal connection between the release of radiation at TMI and long-term rates of cancer in the area.

Well then it had to be from all the environmental devastation to the flora and fauna, yes?

Uh, negative. The EPA found no evidence of radiation contamination of water, soil, plants or sediment that could be attributed to the accident…

Nor was there any increase in iodine-131 or cesium-137 in cow and goat milk samples from the TMI region — which would’ve been expected in the event of high radiation exposure.

To be clear: I’m not trying to minimize the Three Mile Island accident. It was indeed a partial reactor meltdown, and a very big deal. It temporarily displaced tens of thousands of people from their homes, and thoroughly terrified them, I’m sure…

But nobody died, nobody was hurt, and so far, nobody is proven to have been sickened by it.

Yet to hear the mainstream media tell it — both at the time, and ever since — the TMI accident was practically like Hiroshima. I’m telling you, if Photoshop had been around in 1979, the Time and Newsweek magazine covers would’ve shown the plant emitting an eerie green glow, with maybe some bloated bodies of cows and horses floating in the river around it.

I’m exaggerating to be funny, of course. But also to point out that the mainstream media has traditionally bashed nuclear energy at pretty much every turn, TMI being no exception…


Two reasons.

One, because just like with mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and other extreme events, Big Media lives and dies by sensationalism. Their primary goal is higher ratings and readership, and the subsequent advertising revenue those metrics command. Truth and objectivity are secondary objectives for them — outrageous and terrifying headlines are Priority One…

And what better story to milk for months’ worth of fear and ratings than a poorly understood nuclear accident involving the word “meltdown” in close proximity to several major American population centers?

The second reason, as I touched on in part one of this series, is that liberals hate nuke power…

And ever since the mid-1960s, the mainstream media in the U.S. has been increasingly liberal. Vietnam and Watergate kicked this bias into ever-higher gears. The Three Mile Island story hit when the leftist media was pretty much at the pinnacle of its power and influence over public opinion. They’d become overwhelmingly liberal by that point, yet more than 70% of Americans still viewed them as objective and trustworthy.

To put this bias into some sort of rough context, approximately 25% of journalists identified as Republican in 1971. That number has steadily declined since then, down to only around 7% these days. Recent surveys of political contributions paint an even more striking picture of this lopsided bias…

In one survey, over 96% of journalists’ dollars went to Clinton in the last presidential election, versus Trump. And at least three other recent studies have also shown overwhelming financial support for Democrat candidates among journalists, as opposed to Republicans.

Again, my point is that in large part, America’s left-leaning mainstream media is responsible for our flat-lined nuclear energy expansion since the 1980s — not any lasting real-world effects of the Three Mile Island “disaster.” In fact, no less than 51 planned U.S. nuclear energy reactors were cancelled in the five years following the accident…

We’re paying the price for that today, with over 63% of our electricity still coming from fossil fuels. But if it hadn’t been crucified after TMI by liberals in the media and Washington, nuclear energy could easily be providing over 70% of our grid power right now, just like in France.

With clean-burning natural gas taking up the bulk of the remainder — plus wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and other “green” sources chipping in — nobody would be bitching about our role in global climate change if zero-emission nuclear power was America’s primary source of grid electricity. It would be a total non-issue, whether global warming is real or not.

The thing is, this clean, reliable, ultra-low-carbon approach to large-scale grid power could still happen here in the U.S. of A. Here’s how…

Deep-space nuclear waste disposal: A solution whose time has come

I could easily burn through another article proving how nuclear energy is actually a safer alternative to just about anything else out there.

For instance, I could elaborate on the fact that in the 62-year history of civilian nuclear energy in the U.S., not one person has ever been killed by radiation from power generation. And only a handful have died by electrocution and other industrial accidents related to nuke power…

Now compare that to the over 80,000 Americans who’ve died from coal mining accidents and side-effects (like deadly black lung) over this same time period.

I could also inform you that the total number of people who have died — or are projected to die in the future — because of the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters is less than 200

Contrast that to the 170,000 people who perished in a single hydroelectric dam failure in China in the mid-70s. Or to the approximately 4.2 million people around the world who die every year from air pollution, a sizeable percentage of which comes from coal-fired power plants.

And I’ve just shown you how the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history resulted in virtually no damage to the surrounding environment…

But I’m sure you already know about the shocking environmental destruction that comes from open-pit and mountaintop coal mining in this country — and their “blackwater” by-products, which can seep out of containment lakes and destroy entire river systems.

The Achilles Heel of nuclear energy, of course, is the high-level radioactive waste that comes from the fission process. This is indeed fearful and horrible stuff. And since Obama killed the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage repository that was 24 years (not to mention $15 billion) in development, it’s all basically just being sealed in special casks and piled up in on-site storage facilities at the various nuclear power plants across the country.

Right now, we’re sitting on about 90,000 metric tons of the stuff at approximately 80 sites…

So my question is: Why don’t we just blow it out into space?

I’ve been talking about this for more than two decades. In fact, I’m on record saying it eleven years ago in the original incarnation of this very forum…

The thing is, we’ve made enormous strides in economical space flight since then — and I think the time has come for us to give this solution a serious look.

Now that private companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and others are starting to bypass the lethargic and cumbersome U.S. government, launching a rocket into space isn’t proving to be all that hard. And the price isn’t all that high, either.

For instance, a single flight of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket can take up to 63 metric tons of cargo into low Earth orbit at a cost of right around $1,000 a pound under ideal conditions. At that rate, it would be a ridiculous bargain (around $200 billion), to get rid of all our high-level nuclear waste forever.

Of course, I realize that there would be a lot more to space disposal of nuclear waste than simply loading the stuff up and lighting the fuse on a couple of cheap, expendable rockets.

We’ve got to design and build containment casks that can withstand the stresses of liftoff and flight, the conditions in space, and every conceivable accident during launch…

We’ve got to figure out exactly where to shoot the stuff to ensure that it reaches interstellar space — and never intrudes on our solar system again…

And I’m sure we’ll have to design highly specialized rockets that are properly suited for the task.

But these things just don’t seem so far out to me, no pun intended.

I think America’s best and brightest — from both government and the private sector — could figure this stuff out pretty easily. I’ll bet it’s a lot simpler than designing a reactor capable of safely and reliably generating electricity from nuclear fission!

The problem is galvanizing the political will to do it…

And drumming up public support for it.

But with both the nuke-hating media and liberal Democrats actively sabotaging atomic power in the U.S. for the last 40 years, with no sign of letting up (much less allowing it to expand)…

I just don’t see that happening anytime soon. The last thing they seem to want is a solution.

Too bad, because I really want a cleaner planet — and cheap, abundant power for all.

Don’t you?

Always “fission” for sense and reason,

Jim Amrhein

Jim Amrhein
Freedoms Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder

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Jim Amrhein

Just like he was 15 years ago, when first he sullied the pages of the original Whiskey & Gunpowder e-Letter and various other forums, Jim is still ornery, opinionated, politically incorrect, and shamelessly patriotic. He’s also more convinced than ever before that government can’t do much of anything right — except expand in scope and...

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