Date: Mon, 05 Sep 2005 09:51:52 -0700
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: "At least it's not nuclear..."
At Least Katrina Wasn't Nuclear by Russell D. Hoffman
September 5th, 2005
"AT LEAST IT'S NOT NUCLEAR"
by Russell D. Hoffman, Concerned Citizen, Carlsbad, CA
Across the swath of the hurricane, hundreds had died. It was, after all, a Category 5 bruiser. Soon, it would be time to bury the dead and start to rebuild. But, New Orleans had survived the storm.
Then the levees gave out, and the water poured in, and a tragedy unfolded.
Why did this happen? If about $40 Million in planned repairs to the levee system had been implemented, this probably wouldn't have occurred. With better emergency preparation in the days before Katrina struck or a quicker response, it wouldn't have developed into the horror it has become.
We are told that this is about as bad as it can get -- chemical fires, floating bodies and animal carcasses, people unable to flee. It's bad, but it could be much worse. This doesn't come close to what a nuclear bomb -- OR a meltdown at your local nuclear power plant -- can do in an instant -- and without ANY PRIOR WARNING.
After a nuclear catastrophe, hundreds of thousands of people would die, either immediately (within minutes or hours), or excruciatingly slowly (days or weeks), or after a period of seemingly-good health, perhaps even lasting several decades. Many of their children would be born deformed, if they could bear children at all.
For a long time (days or weeks), rescue workers could not go into the area because they too would become contaminated. Even with a so-called "moon suit," one false step could tear the suit and kill you. Some people inevitably would try to help, but undoubtedly, many more first responders than in New Orleans would choose instead to try to save themselves or their families.
Everyone still alive will surround anyone who goes into the dead zone, hauntingly similar to the way people -- who are dying, begging for their lives -- surround reporters and anyone else who ventures into New Orleans by boat or high-water vehicle as I write this. The people of New Orleans are frustrated. They are shocked AT US for not helping more, sooner. They are scared, they are dying, and they are sometimes armed and angry.
But at least they are not radioactive. Their bodies are not in the painful process of decaying from within, being broken down by the strong atomic forces of radioactive decay, destroying the relatively weak forces of their bodies' internal chemical bonds.
The survivors in New Orleans are disease-ridden, but their bodies are not, for the most part, turning to mush before their very eyes. Get them out, get them cleaned up, give them some shots, some lotions, and some bandages, and most of them WILL survive. But we would not be able to do much, if anything, for radiation victims. It would be truly hopeless.
As we sit in shame, watching what unfolds, do not make the mistake of thinking this is even one part in one hundred as bad as it can get.
Twenty miles west of New Orleans is the Waterford, Louisiana nuclear power plant. As a precaution, it was shut down as Katrina came ashore. A week later, it has yet to be restarted. To avoid a meltdown, nuclear power plants require power at all times. Waterford is currently being cooled using power supplied by its emergency diesel generators (which, in a nationwide scandal, are prone to failure and especially vulnerable to terrorist attacks).
After a meltdown at Waterford, or at any other nuclear reactor, or worse, a meltdown followed by a spent fuel pool fire, or -- worse still -- a series of cascading "rapid disassemblies" (meltdowns of multiple nuclear power plants), an area at least as large as the area that was destroyed TEMPORARILY by Katrina would have to be PERMANENTLY abandoned.
We had plenty of warning that Katrina was coming. There will probably be NO warning of a nuclear disaster whether it's an "accident" or a terrorist act. We are totally unprepared.
The Waterford nuclear power plant should never be restarted. It should never have been built. Nuclear power is an unnecessary risk.
Russell D. Hoffman
The writer has studied nuclear issues for more than three decades. Please read his more extensive essay on the effects of a nuclear bomb here: