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Commentary: The Problem with Nuclear Power

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, April 28, 2011
By Bruce Maiman
Every time a utility company suffers an industrial accident, it's the same old story: They circle the wagons, blame somebody else and find ways to thwart investigations or compromise regulations.
The BP oil disaster in the Gulf should've been a wake-up call. Instead, spills of crude oil and toxic chemicals last year alone were three times that of the Exxon Valdez, and that's not counting the BP accident. Yet, a CBS News investigation found that federal officials have no idea how big the problem has become.
PG&E has fought tooth and nail nearly every regulatory request that would help investigators get to the bottom of the San Bruno pipeline explosion. Why? Were they worried we'd find out they were negligent?
In Japan, owners of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant admitted they delayed upgrading the crisis rating from 5 to 7, leaving Japanese citizens to wonder what else the company isn't saying about the extent of the catastrophe.
Right now, a nuclear plant in Ohio has a football-sized hole in its reactor vessel with only a thin sheet of steel preventing a radioactive leak. Operators knew they had serious corrosion problems a year ago and yet, as a Pro Publica investigation revealed, regulators held off on inspecting the facility, in part to protect the plant's profits.
The problem isn't energy; it's the people running the companies that provide it: Billion dollar industries all too cozy with regulators because the regulators are either coming from or going to the private sector. And really, what does it take for a billion-dollar industry to buy off a regulator, or even a politician, either with cash or the promise of a future job?
Put all this together and the bottom line is simple: We flat out don't trust the utilities. The nuclear industry could develop an absolutely safe and foolproof delivery system and we'd still be uneasy. It's a total lack of integrity, and the CYA that follows these industrial accidents is the reason why.
Yet we have lawmakers who'd like nothing better than to simply do away with government regulation and let the industry "regulate" itself. Does this sound like an industry that can regulate itself?
I don't think so.

0414 Maiman


   Bruce Maiman is a former radio host who lives in Rocklin.


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