Monday, March 14, 2011

834 Japan's Chernobyl

834 Japan’s Chernobyl

We live about 100 miles northwest of Middletown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. This location is relatively unimportant in the greater scheme of things. But in late March of 1979, 32 years ago, it took on national significance. Middletown is the home of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. We all know what happened there.

Previously, we lived 60 miles southwest of the Shoreham Nuclear power plant on New York’s Long Island. Shoreham never got fully on line. Probably a good thing, given the bad plumbing and the ineptness of the Long Island Lighting Company and its successor, the Long Island Power Authority.

Now, there’s a huge earthquake in Japan. And pressure in the country’s nuke plants was rising precipitously at recent report. Two or more reported explosions with “low level” nuclear leaks. Once again, it is the low tech, old school stuff and not the new high tech stuff that makes for bad situations.

One of Shoreham’s many problems was lousy pipe connections for the cooling system. One of Three Mile Island’s big problems was pressure valves... things we’ve been mass producing for a century.

In Japan, who knows what’ll happen. But the nuke plants there are teetering on the edge. People within a short distance from them have been ordered out of their homes. And whether they’ll ever be able to return has to do with... plumbing.

The Japanese have more experience with nuclear problems than anyone else. You’d figure this would bring caution to this densely packed country. Apparently not. Nuclear power is generally clean, except when it isn’t.

LILCO hired nuclear physicists to teach reporters why the Shoreham plant could not explode. Most of us went away as skeptics, but had too little knowledge or education to contradict what we’d been told. Later we found out they were right or close to it. Shoreham wouldn’t explode. But it might simply release poisoned gas into the atmosphere if too much went wrong at the same time.

None of these nuke plant accidents has resulted in an explosive catastrophe. Explosions, yes. Atomic catastrophes, no. So far. There’s strong evidence that a nuclear explosion can’t happen. Evidence is not proof.

But please also remember that no hydroelectric plant ever killed anyone who didn’t dive in. And no coal fired or oil fired electric plant ever killed anyone except people who climbed the stacks and inhaled.

Already, the appeals for helping northern Japan are circulating on the internet and in the mail. Good. Help our far east friends, those who lost their homes to tidal waves and earthquakes. Late reports say as many as 10-thousand people may have died and countless thousands of others left injured and/or homeless. These figures will go up and down for awhile until there’s a final count. But they’ll remain staggeringly large.

At least it’s not Chernobyl, Hiroshima or Nagasaki. So far.

Shrapnel:

--Danny Stiles, 87, rest in peace. Danny was the radio guy everyone knew and everyone loved. He played old time music on heaven knows how many stations, keeping the great American Song Book alive in the ears and hearts of New York.

--This leaves only one big name radio nostalgia guy among us, and that’s Joe Fortgang. You know him as Joe Franklin. And while Joe still is on the air, there’s no one letting him play those “old Phonograph Records.”

--The semi-annual rant, 2011 version, part one. It’s daylight SAVING time, not daylight savingS time. Part two arrives at the next clock change.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com.
© WJR 2011

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