There aren’t many songs about nuclear power, but a very fine one by Gil Scott-Heron shows us things never change.
As we’ve discussed many times on the Nuclear Reaction blog, one of the defining characteristics of the nuclear industry is its inability to learn lessons.
Scott-Heron was recalling, on his 1977 album Bridges, the partial fuel meltdown in 1966 at the Fermi 1 nuclear reactor about 50 kilometres from Detroit, in the US. The fuel melted because of a blockage that stopped coolant from reaching the reactor. Fermi 1 is now in what the US regulator calls a “deferred dismantling” mode and will at some point be “dismantled and the property decontaminated.”
More than ten years after this chilling near miss, Scott-Heron wrote…
And what would Karen Silkwood say if she was still alive? That when it comes to people’s safety money wins out every time.
Nearly 50 years later, that has been a defining feature of the nuclear industry’s reaction to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It’s all about the bottom line. Don’t frighten investors and shareholders. Fight measures that might reduce the risk to people but threaten profits. Profits before people.
The nuclear industry will tell you it is adapting and evolving, but in reality it never changes. Gil Scott-Heron knew that and we know that.
Sadly, Gil Scott-Heron died in May 2011, a mere three months after the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster began.
We don’t need to imagine what he would have thought about the catastrophe and the betrayal of the people who lost their homes and everything they held dear in the aftermath. His words ring down the years.
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