Unsafe at Any Price

If Terrorists Take Down Nuclear Plants, You Pay—By the Hundreds of Billions

And making that assault is tougher than ever, advocates say. Aiming a plane at a low-lying reactor is hard—the high profile people see is the cooling tower—and now fighter planes scramble when anything in the air looks suspicious. Small planes have been escorted down, and even a medevac helicopter was grounded when it suddenly changed course. Nor are airline passengers the patsies they once were, Nesbit notes. When word spread of the ongoing attacks, people on Flight 93 took on the terrorists and brought the plane down from within.

Not everyone in Washington is comforted. Public Citizen, a group founded by Ralph Nader, has wanted reactors shut long before September 11. "Nuclear power is dangerous and unsafe and unclean and uneconomical, and it was on September 10," asserts Hugh Jackson, a policy analyst with the group.

The worst may be yet to come, he fears, as spent fuel from decommissioned plants gets shipped to a central storage facility—Yucca Mountain in Nevada is the prime candidate. One of the state's senators, Harry Reid, is the powerful majority whip. Capitol Hill sources say Reid might run interference on Price-Anderson. He's been growling about the Yucca plan, noting the seismic activity in the area.

Illustration by Rich Borges

To say nothing of getting the material there safely. With the NRC admitting that highly radioactive spent fuel rods sometimes go missing, as at Connecticut's Millstone plant, that's a lot of time on the open road.

Related Article:
"I'll Cut the Fence, You Grab the Plutonium" by Geoffrey Gray

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