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Opinion

January 30, 2014

Letters to the Editor: Jan. 30, 2014

Radioactive waste

TO THE EDITOR: It would be impossible to overstate the gravity of the Fukushima situation — and not just because 400 tons of radioactive waste are being dumped into the ocean every day.

If another earthquake hits Reactor No. 4 and two of its 1,400 fuel rods come into contact, it will be apocalyptic disaster. Radioactive geysers would spew out death for years. In that scenario, scientists are talking seriously about the evacuation of Japan and the entire northern hemisphere.

On Dec. 28, TRN issued an “urgent news flash” warning that the situation in Reactor No. 3 could quickly “attain criticality.” Increasing amounts of radioactive steam are being emitted, and TEPCO doesn’t know why.

How did we get into this mess? The laws of probability predicted all of this long ago, so at least some of the blame should be given to the accountants and financial money managers.

It was known all along that nuclear power carried with it the possibility, for all practical purposes, of infinite future costs from these types of accidents. In one study, the U.S. government stated that we could expect a meltdown every 112 years. Even the processes involved in “normal” radioactive-waste storage were predicted to last for thousands of years, with each storage site being another potential disaster.

But the financial logic went like this: If you deposited $5 in a savings account at an interest rate of 3 percent, in 1,000 years how much would you have? About $34 trillion.

Therefore, applying the same logic in reverse, if future costs were also $34 trillion, their “present value” would be just $5. By that logic, infinite costs in the future amount to nothing today.

Such shady financial accounting is what made nuclear energy appear to be profitable. In the process, the possibility of destroying the planet was thereby justified.

NEAL DUFFY

Department of Economics and Finance

SUNY Plattsburgh

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