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Michigan's nuclear future

In the article “Avoiding Meltdown: Michigan’s nuclear future” (July/Downtown), Stacy Gittleman says that we “conjure-up” the three biggest nuclear accidents, but then doesn’t say what they are.

Three Mile Island (TMI) gets “credit” for being the worst U.S. nuclear accident. Not so. The 1979 nuclear spill at Church Rock New Mexico is the biggest nuclear accident in the U.S. The 1957 accident at Kyshtym in the then-Soviet Union is officially in the second worst category to Chernobyl and Fukushima. My top four worst nuclear accidents are Church Rock, Kyshtym, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. But there have been so many very sobering accidents it’s hard to pick which ones to “honor.”

But the errors in the article about TMI show a heavy bias against those who can talk about their experience of that accident, namely Libbe HaLevy (, and research done by people not connected with government or the nuclear industry.

For Gittleman to say TMI emitted “a small radioactive release” is simply mistaken. Gittleman goes on to quote T.R. Wentworth that nuclear reactors produce electricity with “zero carbon emissions”. But, when the nuclear fuel cycle from the mine, to the mill, to the steps in fabrication of nuclear fuel are taken into consideration, nuclear reactors are far from carbon free. Add the near-fabulous amount of carbon emitted in construction and the incalculable carbon cost of handling the waste from nuclear plants. To cherry-pick the small part of the cycle where electricity is actually being generated is deceptive.

Wentworth also seems proud of the emergency preparedness routines at NPPs in Michigan. But an essential and very cheap emergency measure should be in the medicine cabinet of every household within a 10-mile radius of Michigan’s nukes: potassium-Iodide tablets. However, to fill this need would draw attention to the actual danger posed by nuclear power, so it is sidestepped in favor of emergency drills the public is unaware of.

One can only admire Wentworth’s bravado in mentioning the Vogtle expansion in Georgia, which has not produced one watt of electricity, whose cost has ballooned to $25 billion from the original estimate of $14 billion, has been under construction more than eight years, and, along with the $9 billion construction-abandoned and scandal-ridden V.C. Summer NPP in South Carolina, caused Westinghouse to go into bankruptcy and Japan’s Toshiba to break up.

In short, Gittleman needs to take a look at research done by organizations that are not invested of nuclear power. The work of Lazard, The World Nuclear Industry Status Report and Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford come to mind.

Jan Bodart


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