Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Written by Stephen Pizzo

Virus can Produce Safe Energy, Utility Cos Say

Los Angeles, Ca. SP-News: Millions of residents living in the vicinity of San Diego to Los Angeles, were relieved this week to learn that federal officials had ordered the aging San Onofre nuclear plant closed. The plant, nestled on the coastline between the two major west coast cities was commissioned in 1982 was ranked #2 among America’s top ten most dangerous nuclear plants.

But that relief was short lived when they learned the old nuclear plant would be replaced by a newly designed plant that employees bold new energy producing technology. The power industry has dubbed it, “ViroEnergy” since the power the proposed plant will pump out is produced by a micro-organism reacting with a brew of chemicals.

But the main ingredient will not be just any micro-organism. The plant at San Onofre, the first of hundreds planned worldwide, will get its power from the deadly Ebola virus as it interacts with volatile chemicals. And that is what has opponents up in arms.

Industry spokesperson, Harold Lyes, addressed those concerns at a news conference today.

“I understand why people would be concerned about the importation and use of a potentially problematic virus into their communities,” said Lyes. “But those concerns are completely unfounded. The engineering behind these new plants is state-of-the-art. Redundant safety features have been built atop redundancies through the system The chances of a leak from one of these plants is so close to zero it might as well be zero.”

The Ebola virus, when spread in a populated area, causes death within days from a combination of diarrhea coupled with uncontrollable internal and external bleeding. Like radiation, the Ebola virus spreads easily through the air and person to person, is airborne, odorless and colorless.

But, unlike tracking a radiation leak, there are no widely available tools, like Geiger counters, to detect it. The first clue to its presence is when people become ill. By then it’s usually too late to help them as they tend to bleed out faster than blood transfusions can replace what’s lost.

Nevertheless the utility and it’s contractor, General Electric, remain convinced ViroEnergy plants are “completely safe.”

Mr. Lyes supplemented his reassuring remarks with a slide presentation showing how the plant is designed to contain the virus during both normal operations and in the “unlikely” case of an emergency, such as an earthquake, fire or tsunami.

“As you can see from this slide,” Lyes said pointing to a schematic projected on the screen, “the Ebola reaction chamber is encased in sold concrete lined on both the inside and outer surfaces by a stainless steel cladding. A breach of that chamber is deemed highly unlikely. But, should a breach occur, which is unlikely, as I said, the entire chamber is surrounded by high-pressure spraying unites that, in the unlikely event of a breach, would spray pure high grade chlorine on anything that come out. So, there is simply no way a live virus is getting out of one of these plants alive.”

Community activists were unconvinced, pointing out that, as unlikely as it might be, should the virus escape, it would put over 12 million citizens living within a 100 miles around the plant at risk of infection.

Beyond that, critics warn, live Ebola virus, once loose in within the nation’s most populous state, would allow the deadly virus to spread out of control nationally. While early treatment can save a small percentage of those infected, there is no known cure.

Energy producers, hard-pressed to find a replacement for polluting and politically problematic fossil fuels, voiced concern, even anger, at what they dubbed “alarmist” statements by those opposed to BioEnergy.

Mr. Lyes, showing growing annoyance with persistent comments from those opposing the plant, shot back.

“Energy independence should be the goal of every American,” said Mr. Lyes. “Nothing in life is completely risk free, and we make those kind of trade offs everyday. Otherwise we would never get anything done. But the risk of an accident at one of these newly designed ViroEnergy reactors is so low only the most unreasonable — dare I say unpatriotic — of individuals would put the entire nation’s energy security at risk standing in the way of such a promising new technology.”

The actual building of the proposed Viro plant won’t begin until the site, which currently houses the old nuclear plant, is decontaminated.

One of industry’s selling points for the new Viro process is that, unlike nuclear plants, there is no radioactive waste to store. “Not having those old radioactive rods laying around is a big plus that everyone should appreciate about this new technology,” Mr. Lyes said. “Once the Ebola virus releases its energy into the reactor, it’s dead. All that’s left is the chemical stew which, while toxic in its own right, is easier to dispose of than radioactive uranium rods.”

But critics were quick to point out that all the new scheme does is move the danger from the end to the beginning of the process. “They need industrial-size labs to culture enough Ebola virus to fuel each reactor,” said ViroEnergy opponent who gave her name as “Sandy Beach.”

“Ebola hemorrhagic fever is potentially lethal and encompasses a range of symptoms including fever, vomiting, diarrhea, generalized pain or malaise, and sometimes internal and external bleeding. . Mortality rates are typically high, with the human case-fatality rate up to 89%, depending on the species or viral strain. The cause of death is usually due to hypovolemic shock or organ failure. (Wikipedia)

Mr. Lyes conceded that they would be culturing the virus at a separate “secure” facility. He said the Ebola culture lab will be at least temporarily housed on the nearby Camp Pendleton, US Marine Corps base which, the utility said is uniquely suited to the job. “A remote part of the base has empty bunkers once used to store America’s own chemical/biological weapons before such weapons were banned.

Asked how he and his family would feel about living near an ViroEnergy plant, Mr. Lyes, said he would not hesitate. “And I wouldn’t lose a single nights sleep over it either,” the New Jersey native said, before rushing off to catch a late flight home.

Meanwhile, in Washington President Obama said he was studying the new technology. He issued a statement saying that, while he is cautiously optimistic about the potential for ViroEnergy he wants to approach the whole subject with thoughtful caution.

“As always we have to balance our need for balance and even handedness when we consider issues that press deeply into areas of national security and energy policy. I will always err on the side of caution when caution is called for, while not becoming so cautious that caution itself comes a pressing need for to be cautious about being cautious,.” Obama said.

Sources close to the President say he is also consulting on the issue with longtime friend and adviser, Oprah Winfrey.


About author Stephen Pizzo is the author of numerous books, including “Inside Job: The Looting of America’s Savings and Loans,” which was nominated for a Pulitzer. His web site is News For Real.


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