This is the most recent version of this editorial as of 2016-July-13, Wednesday. I welcome comments. So far, no one has offered a rebuttal challenging the editorials premise.
I have seen many people over the last few years talking about a collapse of society or crash of the dollar as being a survivable event. Likewise, there has been discussion that a “limited” nuclear war was a survivable event. After all, civilizations have risen and fallen throughout our recorded history.
Unfortunately, there are things which would make this unlike any collapse of civilization in the past. Things like nuclear reactors and their spent fuel pools, many with 30+ years of old fuel assemblies; 50 or so years worth of nuclear lab and reactor waste; nuclear weapons; and failing nuclear waste repositories, such as Hanford and WIPP.
I’m sorry, but there’s no returning to the idyllic world of the days of yore. Let’s just consider the 440+ “Poison Pills” in the form of nuclear power plants that the Nuclear Power Industry has scattered around the world.
Nuclear power plants are fragile things. Nuclear reactors need to be provided with maintenance supplies, electricity, and staff 24/7 to keep the cooling systems running. Even reactors that are “shut down”.
There is no “off” switch for reactors (or for their spent fuel pools). The only way to turn them off is to decommission them, and even then you have the spent fuel to cool for decades. Any significant disruption of society that threatens to interrupt delivery of maintenance supplies for more than a month, or grid power for more than a week, or staff for more than a day, will have grave consequences.
Without regular deliveries, staff will be limited to what’s on hand, maybe a months worth of supplies, for routine maintenance or emergency repairs. Without maintenance and repairs, the cooling systems will fail.
Since the reactors aren’t able to generate electricity for their own operation each plant has backup diesel generators to provide emergency power for cooling. Getting a steady supply of fuel for all of these generators if society is falling apart would be unlikely. On average, nuclear plants have enough diesel onsite for one week. After it runs out, the cooling system will fail.
All of these plants of course require staff to run them 24/7. If the dollar collapses and the economy falls apart how many people are going to show up for work? If a pandemic starts, or if there is a “limited” nuclear war, or there is any other serious disruption which keeps people from showing up to work, the cooling system will fail.
Once the cooling system on a reactor fails, within a day it will either blow up, spewing Uranium and Plutonium into the atmosphere, or it will melt out and it’s Uranium and Plutonium will get washed into the ocean, or it will melt down and inject it’s Uranium and Plutonium deep into the Earth’s crust.
As more and more plants progressively fail, the cumulative radiation in the air, land, and sea, will destroy all complex life on Earth.
Hopefully, TPTB are aware of these facts, and are not thinking that they can escape the results of societies collapse in underground bunkers or cities. If they retreat down into their D.U.M.B.’s, they’ll never come back out.
This has never happened before. Civilizations have come and gone, but even if there were periods in humanities past where we had high technology, we never build nuclear reactors and scattered them across the globe.
If we had this planet would already be a dead ball of radioactive land, buffeted by lifeless radioactive winds, with empty radioactive oceans lapping at the shores. For hundreds of thousands of years.
With 440+ nuclear “poison pills” ready to fail along with society, that is the fate that now awaits us. So are we going to meet the challenge and pursue our destiny to survive our species adolescence, save the planet, and become galactic explorers? Or will we settle for our fate, and go extinct as we turn this blue jewel of a planet into a barren wasteland.
It all depends on us keeping society functioning long enough for us to find a way out of this mess.
A version of this article was first published at http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message2786088/pg4#48728946 on 2015-02-05.
Everyone is encouraged to copy and share this article in it’s entirety, provided it is unedited and includes attribution and a link back to here. It’s critical to make people aware of how little it would take to push complex life on planet Earth into extinction, the hardware is already in place.