Lately it’s difficult to think about anything except the recent horrific events in Japan. My heart goes out to everyone involved. Disasters like the earthquake and tsunami are mostly unavoidable; they are a natural part of our planet’s evolution. The ongoing nuclear disaster is another story.
The world would be quite a different place without modern technology and I enjoy most of it as much as the next guy. But when a technology holds so much potential for severe, long-term damage, we must know when to alter our course. Even without accidents like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima, many have known intuitively that nuclear energy is just too risky.
Often wrongly touted as a carbon-free source of energy, it is actually far from it. The life-cycle of nuclear energy production produces tremendous amounts of carbon emissions from plant construction, mining, fuel processing, plant decommissioning and waste handling, including transportation and storage (over both the short-term of decades and long-term of thousands of years). Renewable energy is orders-of-magnitude cleaner and infinitely safer.
Nuclear power technology generates thousands of tons of waste and some of the deadliest substances known to man. It leads to the production and proliferation of nuclear weapons, a dark cloud under which most people have now spent their entire lives. Incredibly, some countries actually use nuclear waste to manufacture depleted uranium shells for use on the battlefield. We’ve distributed thousands of tons of radioactive dust around the globe using these by-products of so-called “safe” nuclear technology and the practice continues. Oh and by the way, it has a half-life of 3.5 billion years.
Dr. Helen Caldicott is one of the world’s leading experts on the dangers of nuclear technology:
Now, as the unknown and unpredictable events at Fukushima unfold, the world faces yet another nuclear disaster. We missed the turn decades ago, but we can still alter course and head for greener pastures.
“Nuclear power, once claimed to be too cheap to meter, is now too costly to matter.”
– The Economist
So what’s a rant about the dangers of nuclear technology doing in the Home section of the newspaper? You and I have the power to change course. So many of us take our energy use for granted with nary a thought about how it is produced or what the real or potential consequences may be. We must take responsibility for the mind-set that has led to Fukushima. It’s time to shift. Whether you can afford a huge power bill is no longer the question. Conspicuous energy consumption is not a right, but a liability. Let us mend our wasteful ways.
Renewable energy and efficiency are common topics in this space. Personal responsibility gets an occasional nod as well. I write about these things because I think it makes a difference. I think we are smart enough and determined enough to do something when the need arises. The effects of climate change are “soft” in the sense that their causes are difficult to pin down. Some find it easy to ignore. Based on what I’m seeing on television, no one ignores the meltdown of a nuclear facility.
So why do otherwise well-informed people still consider nuclear power a key element of a sound climate strategy? Not because that belief can withstand analytic scrutiny. Rather, it seems, because of a superficially attractive story, an immensely powerful and effective lobby, a new generation who forgot or never knew why nuclear power failed previously (almost nothing has changed), sympathetic leaders of nearly all main governments simultaneously, deeply rooted habits and rules that favor giant power plants over distributed solutions and enlarged supply over efficient use, the market winners’ absence from many official databases (which often count only big plants owned by utilities), and lazy reporting by an unduly credulous press.
Isn’t it time we forgot about nuclear power? Informed capitalists have. Politicians and pundits should too.
Nuclear Power: Climate Fix or Folly?
Amory B. Lovins, Imran Sheikh, and Alex Markevich
So here’s the bottom line. We do not need nuclear energy – plain and simple. Nor do we need to replace it by burning more fossils. Making our homes and businesses more efficient has become good business. Using more locally-produced renewable energy, especially on existing rooftops, has become good business. Have you ever heard of people fleeing a green building? Ever seen a solar panel meltdown or a wind turbine spill? Doesn’t happen.
Some politicians, perhaps misinformed or simply indebted to the industry, are still promoting “safer” nuclear energy even as people in Japan risk dying from it. Huge corporations make insane profits (yes, insane is appropriate here) by designing and building nuclear facilities and then figuring out how to fix them when things go wrong. The ultimate cost is born by you and me, taxpayers who subsidize an industry so dangerous that it is uninsurable.
Every single one of us can do something today to permanently reduce our use of electricity. It will not reduce the quality our lives, but if enough people make a concerted, consistent effort, nuclear energy will simply become unnecessary. I would like to give that gift to the children. It’s my green dream.
- Learning From Japan’s Nuclear Disaster – Amory Lovins
- Japan’s crisis is another reason to look at energy use – David Suzuki
- How Nuclear Power’s “Peaceful Atom” Became a Serial Killer – The nuclear industry is a snake-oil culture of habitual misrepresentation, pervasive wishful thinking, deep denial, and occasional outright deception. – by Chip Ward
- Nuclear Radiation ‘The Greatest Public Health Hazard’ -Helen Caldicott says it is impossible to have a safe nuclear power plant.
- Still No Escape from Killer Chernobyl by Peter Custers
- Chernobyl: distorted reality, and unanswered questions – GreenPeace blogpost by Iris Cheng
- Nuclear Power Can Never Be Made Safe by Karl Grossman
- Fears of Depleted Uranium Use in Libya by Peter Custers