STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – The unfolding disaster in Japan, with its grim repercussions for the renascent nuclear power industry, has prompted Borough President James Molinaro to renew his call for a wind farm at the former Fresh Kills landfill site.
“Wind energy at Fresh Kills would be safe, secure and would not hurt anyone,” Molinaro said in a press release, even as a radioactive plume from the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactors – their cores fatally compromised by last week’s monster earthquake and tsunami – reached Southern California.
“It [Fresh Kills] is the only location in New York City that can economically and technologically sustain a wind farm, and it is high time that this proposal be turned into reality,” Molinaro said.
News reports this week called into question the safety of two nuclear power plants near Staten Island.
The Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Forked River, N.J., about 60 miles south, is built on the same plan as the runaway Japanese plant.
And the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission rated Indian Point 3, 44 miles north in Westchester County, as most at risk among the nation’s 104 nuclear power plants in the event of a major earthquake.
“New York state relies on the Indian Point nuclear plant for a good portion of its power needs, but the safety of the plant and the effect that a failure would have on our population must be taken into consideration,” Molinaro said. “Indian Point is situated on a fault line. God forbid our region experiences a high-intensity earthquake, we could be facing some of the same trouble that Japan is dealing with now.”
The borough president cited a 2007 study which reported that seven turbines at Fresh Kills could produce 30 megawatts of energy – enough to meet 6 percent of the borough’s energy needs.
For the project to move forward, the state Department of Environmental Conservation must give its approval.
There is ample support for wind power on the federal level.
In his State of the Union speech this year, President Obama presented a goal of generating 80 percent of the country’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035. Citing support among different constituencies for wind, solar, nuclear, “clean coal” and natural gas, the president declared: “We will need them all.”
Nuclear power already accounts for 20 percent of overall electricity in the United States, and makes up the vast majority of carbon-free energy.
Obama, long a proponent of nuclear energy, told an interviewer from WVEC-TV in Norfolk, Va., this week: “I still think that nuclear power is an important part of our overall energy mix.” But, he said, “we’ve got to do it in a safe and sensible way.”
The government and the nuclear power industry have their work cut out for them, as the catastrophe in Japan has occasioned a bad case of atomic jitters among the U.S. populace.
Federal and state officials sought yesterday to dispel fears of a wider danger from radioactivity spewing from Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors, saying testing indicated there were no health threats along the West Coast of the U.S.
Driven by winds over the Pacific Ocean, the radioactive plume released from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant made landfall yesterday, heightening concerns that Japan’s nuclear disaster was assuming international proportions.
However, the results of testing reflected expectations by International Atomic Energy Agency officials that radiation had dissipated so much by the time it reached the U.S. coastline that it posed no health risk to residents.
The U.S. Department of Energy said minuscule amounts of the radioactive isotope xenon-133 – a gas produced during nuclear fission – had reached Sacramento in Northern California, but the readings were far below levels that could pose any health risks.
Initial readings from a monitoring station tied to the U.N.’s Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization were about “one-millionth of the dose rate that a person normally receives from rocks, bricks, the sun and other natural background sources,” the U.S. Department of Energy said in a prepared statement.
According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, typical annual background exposure to radiation shaves 18 days off the expected lifespan. Working in a nuclear plant under ordinary conditions – not in a crisis like the one unfolding in Japan – shortens life expectancy by 51 days. By comparison, being 15 percent overweight cuts two years, and smoking a pack of cigarettes a day costs six years of life.
Associated Press material was used in this report.
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