2011-04-28 / Letters to the Editor

URI reactor is too expensive, dangerous

I most strongly endorse the letter to the editor from William Harsch in last week’s Jamestown Press for the closing of the University of Rhode Island nuclear reactor.

This research reactor is a leftover remnant of an age when it was thought that nuclear power plants would be built all across the U.S. to power an all-electric future, and that the University of Rhode Island would help train a generation of nuclear engineers to design and operate them. Reality has proved different, as nuclear power has turned out to be expensive, dangerous and a source of proliferation of weapons in foreign lands.

Anyone associated with the URI reactor, especially those on its staff, will tell us that the reactor is too small to worry about, and “inherently safe” because its fuel is contained in a large urn with no outlet at the bottom. Similar safety claims were made for Fukushima, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Although earthquakes are rare in Rhode Island, who could doubt that the URI nuclear urn could be cracked by a quake to let the cooling water drain away?

After a meltdown, the prevailing gentle southwestern winds would carry the deadly radioactivity from the URI reactor across Helm Street, just 2.6 miles away. Narragansett Avenue begins just two miles away.

A very brief Google search about the URI reactor reveals that it is protected by thick concrete walls and is built on a foundation of a World War II concrete gun emplacement. Hello? Anyone seen the deteriorating curbs at the Newport Bridge exit ramp? The bridges in East Providence? Concrete naturally degrades back to sand with time, as any structural engineer can tell you. Can we be sure that even a minor shaking by a small earthquake wouldn’t collapse the URI reactor into a pile of rubble?

The people of Jamestown, and of all Rhode Island, should call for the decommissioning of this reactor and for spending the $1.5 million yearly budget on programs to lead our state into a Golden Solar Age.

Full disclosure: my home on Beavertail sits just 2.5 miles from the reactor site. I have opposed nuclear power plants for decades, spoken in public against them and participated in civil disobedience actions against nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons programs.

William W. Smith III

Hull Cove Farm Road


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