In today’s On the News segment: Recently released documents show that since Fukushima, our nuclear regulators have been playing down the risk of a similar incident happening in the US; homeowners want energy choices – and for once, that’s not just a Republican talking point; four new man-made gases are destroying our ozone layer and intensifying the effects of climate change; and more.
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You need to know this. Last week marked the third anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. And, recently released documents show that since then, our nuclear regulators have been playing down the risk of a similar incident happening in the U.S. Emails obtained via a Freedom of Information Request show that the higher-ups at the Nuclear Regulatory Agency told staff to hide information from reporters, to keep quiet about NRC scientists studying risk at US plants, and to change the subject when media asked what a worst-case scenario in our country could look like. At the very same time they were down-playing the risk to Americans, experts at the agency were questioning U.S. safety standards and feverishly working to determine if the NRC needed to implement new rules for nuclear plants in our nation. According to nuclear experts, rules aren’t enough to prevent a disaster like Fukushima from happening in the U.S. Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear pointed out that there are 23 nuclear plants in our nation that have exact replicas of the nuclear reactor at Fukushima Daiichi, and eight other reactors are similarly designed. These plants, and many others, won’t suddenly be safe if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission institutes a few weak regulations. Our regulators and lawmakers seemed to have learned nothing from Fukushima except how to hide the risk of a similar disaster. It’s time that regulators own up to the real dangers of nuclear energy, and it’s time that Americans stand up and say “No Nukes.”
U.S. homeowners want energy choices – and for once, that’s not just a Republican talking point. A new poll of more than 1,400 homeowners found that people want options when it comes to how they power their homes, and they don’t want utility monopolies dictating how they get their energy. In fact, 62 percent of those surveyed are interested in solar power for their homes, and 88 percent support renewable energy in general. Even 80 percent of the Republicans in that poll say that utility companies shouldn’t block or interfere with a homeowner’s desire to make the switch to solar. However, that’s exactly what some energy companies around our country are doing. Half of the homeowners questioned are interested in backup power for their homes, but utilities are standing in the way. Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity, said, “It’s interesting to see what utilities are doing to slow down that deployment from long inter-connection times to outrageous connection fees.” That’s because utility companies don’t want consumers switching to solar. It’s no longer a partisan issue, Americans want the choice to go green, and they’re demanding that utility companies don’t stand in their way.
Four new man-made gases are destroying our ozone layer and intensifying the effects of climate change. According to a new report from the journal Nature Geoscience, these new gases never appeared in our atmosphere before the 1960s, and they’re made up of chemicals commonly found in air-conditioning, aerosol cans, and other refrigerants. In recent years, scientists have said that the hole in our ozone layer was finally stabilizing, although it may take another six decades for it to fully recover. The researchers in this latest study say, “The identification of these four new gases is very worrying as they will contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer.” These gases can be up to six-times more potent than greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and their discovery reminds us that the ozone layer is sill important news. It can take decades for dangerous gases like this to breakdown in our atmosphere, and we must do more to control emissions.
The natural gas industry wants to exploit the crisis in Ukraine. Not only is it impractical to export tons of this toxic substance around the world, it’s a really bad idea for our environment. As the situation in Ukraine began to unfold, industry-friendly lawmakers in the US almost immediately began calling for more natural gas drilling, but they don’t accept – or choose to ignore – the facts. According to Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations, “decisions about whom to export to and import from are made by commercial entities, not by governments.” In addition, the natural gas infrastructure in that region isn’t even set up to handle a surge of new gas. This idea just doesn’t make sense, and multiple studies make it clear that increasing natural gas production is the exact opposite of what we should be doing to fight climate change. Natural gas is mostly methane, which is way more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And, there is already a ton of it leaking into our environment. More fracking won’t help us – and it won’t help the people of Ukraine. That’s a gas-industry talking point, and we have to make sure that our lawmakers don’t buy it.
And finally… Over the weekend, thousands of people came out to say “no” to fracking in California. The rally was organized by the group Californians Against Fracking, and it’s being called the largest rally of its kind in state history. More than 80 environmental and health organizations took part in the protest, and call on Governor Jerry Brown to ban natural gas drilling in his state. In the days before the protest, environmental groups released a report linking California earthquakes to increases in natural gas drilling, and others pointed to health concerns and climate change. In addition, as that state continues to suffer from one of their worst droughts in history, many anti-fracking groups argue that limited water resources should be off limits to the natural gas industry. From earthquakes to health to the environment to drinking water, there are numerous reasons to put an end to this dangerous process. Thousands of people came out to express their concerns, and it’s time that Governor Jerry Brown and all the California lawmakers start listening.
And that’s the way it is for the week of March 17, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.