Nuclear safety engineer for the Union of Concerned Scientists, David Lochbaum, discussed the status and safety of the 103 nuclear plants in America. A lot of safety features were built into the plants, he noted. But at a number of the now aging facilities the "weakest link" is "too close to the surface," and complacency and neglect have become common place, he said.
The U.S. currently derives around 20% of its energy from nuclear power. Though this technology generates less global warming and pollution than carbon based systems such as coal burning, nuclear costs may not have been fully realized yet, Lochbaum pointed out. For instance, the storage of nuclear waste can lead to hazardous environmental situations that would be expensive or difficult to clean-up if something went wrong.
Lochbaum also touched on the issue of nuclear plants as terrorist targets. He detailed that the plants are surrounded by high barbed wire fences and that the reactors are protected by a heavy encasement. However, he noted that in one study, it was found that if a traffic helicopter crashed into a control room, it could potentially lead to a meltdown.
First half-hour guest, Dr. John Abramson, presented an update on the Celebrex cover-up and other medical topics. The studies on Celebrex neglected to mention that it was no more effective than older drugs, he said, though "the jury's still out" on whether the medication causes heart disease. The anti-cholesterol statin drugs may be the next to face scrutiny, he added, as they have not been found to reduce serious illness and the current cholesterol guidelines were funded by the statin makers.