I have always been against nuclear power generation..that is, until I wasn’t.
In college, I watched and cheered as Helen Caldicott traveled the world on an anti-nuclear power and anti-nuclear weapons mission. I read her book “Nuclear Power is not the Answer” and wondered where and how our nuclear waste was being disposed of and how this could ever been done in a safe and secure manner. I applauded as a moratorium on building new nuclear power plants was established in the US after the Three-Mile Island accident.
And then I began to read, learn and listen, as scientists told us and showed us how our carbon based economy, through the burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – was destroying our world. Steward Brand, in his “Whole Earth Discipline – An Ecopragmatist Manifesto” discusses the economics of nuclear, the rational for nuclear and the need for nuclear power. He quotes many environmentalists and scientists, who have come to the conclusion that if we are to fight climate change, nuclear power needs to be in the solutions mix.
In 2009, Stephen Tindal, the Director of Green Peace UK stated, “It was kind of like a religious conversion. Being Anti-Nuclear was an essential part of being an environmentalist for a long time but now that I’m talking to a number of environmentalists about this, its actually quite widespread – this view that nuclear power is not ideal but its better than climate change.” Brand quotes Bill McKibben: ”Nuclear power is a potential safety threat, if something goes wrong. Coal-fired power is guaranteed destruction, filling the atmosphere with planet-heating carbon when it operates the way it’s supposed to.”
So here we are, something has gone wrong. Horribly wrong. People are being exposed to radiation from nuclear power plants, they are being poisoned, and may die. Horrible, a front page story that must be told, the “icing” on a nightmare cake. But there are many stories that aren’t being told about the poisoning of people every day here in the USA, in places like Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Texas. “Fracking for natural gas” is producing toxic by-products that are making their way into our waterways and aquifers, silently poisoning us too. Coal ash from power plants are poisoning people all over the country. Tar sands production in Alberta, Canada is poisoning rivers and waterways and scaring the earth in ways seen clearly from outer space. What about the Gulf spill, where did all that oil go? What poisons exist waiting to infiltrate the seafood we eat, and the air we breath. Why has the media gone quiet on these stories? Not nightmarish enough?
The media, and our collective psyche have vilified nuclear anything..mushroom clouds exist in our worst nightmares, waiting to blow poisons in our face. We are on the edge of our seats, sure that Nevil Shute’s, “On the Beach” is about to come true before our eyes in Japan. And yes, the US Navy and Air Force have been told to “stay clear” of the radiation clouds.
Yet everyday, poisons come out of our exhaust pipes as we drive to school, heat our offices, and manufacture our “must haves products.” Cumulatively poisoning our world. Which is worse? Our addiction and need for fossil fuels is here to stay. There is no easy way out. But nuclear maybe part of our answer and MUST be on the table, as a possible part of the solution equation. Nuclear power is a carbon free, pollution free source of energy, and will keep the “lights on” until we can figure out a better solution. The current mix, coal oil and gas…will kill us, guaranteed. Can we see our way though this nightmare, to a good dream where nuclear helps move us beyond our carbon addiction? This disaster in Japan however, may already have foretold the end to this story. Comments? Thoughts?