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Saturday, February 05, 2005

Bad Idea

An Alaskan vilage is considering a proposal by Toshiba Corp. to install a mini-nuclear reacter to provide power to the village.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Fed up with the hassles of importing expensive
diesel fuel, residents of one interior Alaska village are trying to install a miniature nuclear reactor that advocates say could be a model for clean energy production in remote sites. Officials in Galena, an Athabascan Indian village on the Yukon River, are pursuing an offer from Toshiba Corp. (6502.T) to install an experimental reactor that would heat and light the town. The 700 residents of the village, 275 miles west of Fairbanks, say they have to cope with electricity bills that are three times the national average. The reactor would be free and require no attendance, Toshiba says. Galena would pay for only the operating costs, according to news reports. Galena officials met with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. If the commission approves the plan, the reactor would be the first new one permitted in the United States since the early 1980s, according to an Alaska Public Radio Network report on Thursday. Energy to power electricity is important to Galena. Winter temperatures can dip below minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 51 Celsius). Daylight is scarce because of the short days during the winter. Galena is powered by generators burning diesel that is barged in during the Yukon River's ice-free months. That is costly and carries its own environmental risks because diesel can spill. Tribal officials from around the region and environmentalists say they are suspicious of the nuclear proposal. "Why is Toshiba doing this, giving it away for free, trying to foist this experimental technology on rural Alaska when they can't even license this in Japan?" said Pam Miller, program manager for Alaska Community Action on Toxics, an Anchorage-based environmental group.

A very good question. Why put an experimental nuclear reactor, even a small one, in a remote Alaskan village if it is so safe. Why not start with Tokyo? Hmm. Could it be that people are still getting cancer from the Chernobyl explosion. Wouldn't want that in Japan.

I have no problem with nuclear power in general and I don't buy the whole agenda of the environmental movement. In fact. having spent time in Alaska, which derives significant income from oil production, I would say most Alaskans are also skeptical about evironmentalists. I was told a lot a stories about the Exxon Valdez accident while I was there. The best story by far was about the crazy amount of cleanup money that was thrown at the state. People were paid tons of money to vaccum oil residue off the beaches, which was apparently unecessary. It just made the coastline look nicer. It was such a paydayfor everyone involved in the cleanup that there were a lot of people who thought the Exxon Valdez oil spill was one of the best things that ever happened in Alaska. For once, environmentalists weren't costing them money.

Call me crazy though, but I am still not so sure it's such a great idea to install a nuclear reactor, one that requires "NO ATTENDANCE" in a village with a native american population known for its particularly high suicide and alcoholism rates. Of course it could just be part of a secret plot by the wily Toshiba Corp. to pass off microwave ovens as nuclear reactors to drunk and depressed Indians.


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