Indiana rethinking nuclear energy plans
By Diane Krieger Spivak 648-3076 firstname.lastname@example.org March 15, 2011 6:04PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Indiana could be backing off on its push to promote nuclear energy, following the nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan.
Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, called for the state to step back and take a critical look at Senate Bill 251, the state’s alternative energy bill authored by Long that includes promotion of nuclear energy, among others.
The Senate passed the bill Feb. 22 and moved it to the House, where it waits with other bills for Democrats to return from their walkout.
“Given what happened in Japan in the past few days this certainly gives us great pause, and we need to take a step back, try to understand how this happened,” Long said, referring to Friday’s earthquake and tsunami that has caused partial meltdown in Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.
“Was it human error, was it all caused by the natural disaster, if so what part of it — was it the tsunami, was it the earthquake?” Long said.
“We’ll take a deep breath and take a look into whether nuclear power should be an option for Indiana or not,” he said. “We need to get some facts from Japan before we go any further.”
Indiana has no nuclear power plants. Neighboring Illinois has 11 reactors at six sites. Northern Indiana Public Service Co. abandoned the Bailly nuclear plant in the 1980s because of opposition and rising costs.
Indiana, which is located along a fault line, experienced its worst recorded earthquake in 2008, at 5.4, said Bharath Ganesh Babu, assistant professor of geography at Valparaiso University.
“We have a different situation here,” Ganesh Babu said. “We have a fault. In Japan they have an ocean plate subducting under a land plate.”
Ganesh Babu said there is no way of knowing if a larger, more destructive earthquake could occur in Northwest Indiana. “We simply don’t have that data,” he said.
“Notwithstanding earthquakes you still have the problem of disposal of nuclear waste,” he said. “France ships theirs to Russia. The United States ships ours to the Marshall Islands and the people in the Marshall Islands are going through all kinds of problems because of it.
“I don’t mean to be political, but we have to be aware that it’s not just nuclear meltdowns, but also ongoing nuclear waste,” Ganesh Babu said.
“You hear they are built better now, and that’s true, but on an unprecedented scale, like in Japan, we are not prepared for it. Even Japanese building codes are among the best in the world as far as earthquake resistance, but what do you do when an even bigger catastrophe occurs. We do things by trial and error and base it on the last biggest catastrophe.”
Herb Read, the Chesterton-based architectural engineer who co-founded the Bailly Alliance to fight the Bailly project, said during the 1970s and 1980s there was almost unanimous opinion that nuclear energy was clean and nonpolluting.
“That depends on what type of pollution you’re talking about,” Read said. “Remember Three Mile Island. Japan made me think, ‘Here we go again.’
“The thing that disturbs me is that the lessons of history apparently have to be relearned over and over and over again,” Read said. “There isn’t anything that can be designed and built by man that is totally safe. You have to know what degree of risk you have. That’s a hard lesson to learn.”
“The question is where do we go from here,” Long said. “Germany shut down several reactors even though there were no problems because of the situation in Japan. We’re not abandoning ship, but we’re looking at it. We’re looking at it really hard. We’ll talk to members of the House about their feelings. We assume some day they will come back and we’ll make a joint decision.”