Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member: Nuclear is not an option

January 2, 2007

Nuclear is not an option

Reading The Long Emergency by James H Kunstler I almost feel like there is no alternative to nuclear, but then I snap out of it.

Using nuclear to maintain our society as it is won't work.

I am most certainly anti-nuclear, and I am fully aware of the reality of this position and the consequences of not building nuclear power plants in the face of an imminent global oil shortage.

In the post fossil fuel world (yes, it will happen one day not far from now) there will be consequences to not attempting to replace our 'cheap' abundant fossil fuel with the stop-gap of nuclear energy. Canada should start setting up sustainable decentralized energy systems that are not reliant on the grid right away.

Without fossil fuels to build nuclear power plants, large scale wind farms, solar grids, etc, we will find ourselves unable to maintain a society that's anything like what we have now. Based on the information in the book The Long Emergency I'm not even sure that we have a choice. A few decades (50 years?) down the road we may find ourselves with a broken down energy grid, using mostly coal and wood for energy because solar and wind power systems have broken down. When my 3 year old son turns 50, and his children are making a life for themselves, we won't have the abundant energy to consume at an unnecessarily rapid pace like we do now.

Nuclear will prolong the scenario of fossil fuel depletion, societal & government inaction, and the economic pains that accompany it, with the addition of radioactive waste. In the end we will not be able to maintain or replace the nuclear power systems without fossil fuel energy anyways. I'm having trouble imagining nuclear power plants that exist just to provide the energy to build more nuclear power plants, in addition to the nuclear power plants needed to provide energy to an entire country that continues to become more energy hungry.

How many nuclear power plants would we need, how much fossil fuel is needed to build them, what will we do with the waste, who will pay the bill, how will we maintain them or build more when fossil fuels run out... these are the same old questions and the answers are obvious to me.
Too many.
Too much.
Unknown, and no sure answer yet proven.
Taxpayers, through current subsidies to nuclear energy.
We won't be able to.

The bright side is that we can work now towards localized sustainable energy systems, reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, reduce our consumption of energy and shift the economy away from the current growth model. For example if we slow down the oil sands destruction, we will employ those who would have been working in the tar sands in green technologies like solar, wind and geothermal instead. This is a shift that the Green Party has explored thoroughly. (<--pdf link)


There's still no way around the fact that there will be less readily available easily accessed energy to go around in the future (we're already seeing this with the profitability of the once shunned and now coveted tar sands), and if the old-line parties are suggesting sustainability under the current economic model of growth and consumption, they either don't get it or they're lying.

Using nuclear to reduce climate change will not work. Strangely, Patrick Moore, formerly of Green Peace and James Lovelock disagree. Some people are not fans of Patrick Moore, and although I find Lovelocks thoughts on a number of subjects interesting, I (and many others) disagree with him on this point. Nuclear energy won't solve the climate crisis.

First, there are considerable GHG emissions produced in the consumption of fossil fuels needed to create & ship the materials, mine the uranium ore and run the machines in the building of a nuclear power plant.

Second, who's to say that we wouldn't just continue to consume fossil fuels at the same rate, with electricity from nuclear power plants to fuel our increasing demand for energy? This seems to be a more likely scenario than having nuclear power stations everywhere, asking Canadians to start conserving energy and change their lives while pouring billions of tax dollars into subsidies for nuclear development, one of the most expensive forms of energy.

Third, the climate is changing, and even if we stopped all consumption of all fossil fuels right now the climate would still continue to warm. That statement is based on research that shows that there is a 'lag time' in the order of many years with regards to the effects of GHG's on climate change.

There are environmental and economic problems with this source of energy. We should be preparing to deal with the effects of climate change, while reducing our fossil fuel & general energy consumption levels. Building nuclear power plants is a short term stop-gap that will do nothing positive for humans or the planet in the long term.

14 comments:

The Anonymous Green said...

Cam,

To the list of prominent individuals promoting nuclear energy as PART of the energy mix, add Tim Flannery (author of The Weathermakers), and Joseph Romm (author of Hell and High Water - book review here ) where he states as one of the ten solutions:

Capture carbon dioxide gas from existing and future coal plants and store it underground, while relying more on nuclear power.

This point is relevant on two fronts for oilsands development in Alberta - nukes and carbon capture and sequestration.

I have seen a few postings on the Green Party of Canada blogsite suggesting stopping or seriously curtailing oilsands expolitation, a view that I believe is overly optimistic and naive - because its exploitation and environmental standards are largely the jurisdiction of Alberta.

You echo this view:

For example if we slow down the oil sands destruction, we will employ those who would have been working in the tar sands in green technologies like solar and wind instead.

I think this statement is very unrealistic. Oilsands exploitation and future growth is largely for the purposes of exporting fossil fuels. It is very labour intensive to build the equipment needed for the oilsands plants. In addition, there are many secondary and support industries that these types of investments support.

You have suggested that the Green Party has explored this thoroughly, providing a link to GP2. I don't agree. How many wind turbines and solar panels need to be built to support the same levels of employment over the next number of years? Are there macro-economic studies, or is this just pie-in-the-sky thinking?

If one comes to the pragmatic conclusion that oilsands exploitation will still occur, irrespective of the Federal government in power, what is the best way to offset or directly reduce its GHG footprint?

When some are suggesting an AGW tipping point in ten years, it would seem to me that nukes do provide a transitional role in its energy supply (as well as elsewhere).

While some within the Green Party of Canada appear to hold strong ant-nuke ideologies, it should be noted that this is not a position that is held universally. This recent Economist Magazine article entitled: Nuclear power, The ghostly flickers of a new dawn illustrates different levels of support exist for nuclear energy amongst greenies around the world.

I suspect this could be a limiting issue for a political party in Canada - no nukes - best left for NGOs.

Cheers

P.s. I personally find the Green Party website blog to be a bit of a joke. Far, far too much sensoring going on - therefore, discussion is limited to a few individuals who blog - chatting amongst themselves with no real debate. Same old. Same old. Someone in the party needs to change this drastically.

Cameron W said...

I hold the view that stopping or seriously curtailing oilsands exploitation should and could be done. It's both a realistic and well informed opinion. Being a largely provincial matter doesn't change the fact that we Canadians need to do something, and can do something.

There are a few flaws in your logic surrounding the reasons that you use to say I'm unrealistic in holding my views. Why does a focus on exports of fossil fuels make my position of slowing down the destruction a mistake? It certainly is labour intensive to build the equipment needed for the oilsands plants, and there are many secondary industries that these types of investments support. The ridiculously fast pace at which all of this is occurring is really messing up the normal day to day activities of people in Alberta. Interestingly, energy companies are looking to other provinces to base their operations, because there is an extreme shortage in the workforce in Alberta. Companies are exporting the raw bitumen for refining in the U.S. Some Alberta cities are under pressure, their infrastructure straining from the sudden growth in oilsands activity. Subsidies are even offered in the form of reduced royalties, making this lucrative industry even more profitable, and while Canadians make very little revenue from this industrial activity, companies rush to get in on the action before we come to our senses and tax this industry at the proper levels.

You ask three questions.

First, “How many wind turbines and solar panels need to be built to support the same levels of employment over the next number of years?”

This question is leading and plays into the false belief that environmental protection comes at the expense of the economy. This is not true, and in fact it is the opposite that is the case. Our natural resources are national treasures that should be carefully guarded to ensure prosperity in the future. Planing for at least seven generations seems prudent. To plunder and exploit our own natural resources in the name of jobs and the economy is a doomed choice. Remember the collapse of the Atlantic fish stocks? This is a boom, and there will be a bust, and it will bring with it extreme ecological destruction, and from that environmental pollution many people will continue to see their health worsened, then burdens on the health care system... believe me I have considered the implications and consequences of various different courses of action.

Another way to respond is to ask why isn't the government doing more studies in this area of how many wind turbines and solar panels will need to be built to support the same levels of employment. There are a number of studies done, but I don't know of all of them off hand. Shouldn't our government be studying this? I expect the answer would surprise most people. Investing in renewable technologies has proven to be an economic boom for the countries that have chosen this path. Alternately, countries like Canada have chosen to continue to be a mostly resource based economy, until... the future doesn't look bright.

Second, “Are there macro-economic studies, or is this just pie-in-the-sky thinking?”

I decided to some quick research and this is a bit of what I found (there are in fact a number of studies, but I still would like to see the government commit to this research more):
Pembina

Suzuki - economics

Suzuki - Kyoto

Suzuki - Renewables & Jobs

Apollo Alliance

According to the World Watch Institute's report Renewables 2005, more than 1.7 million direct jobs were created worldwide from renewable energy manufacturing, operations and maintenance in 2004. For example, the wind industry has created 45,000 jobs in Germany and 20,000 in the U.K. offshore wind industry.

Analysis by the Pembina Institute indicates that the "employment created from low-impact renewable electricity would be comparable to or greater than that created by an equivalent capacity of fossil-fuel based generation."

Third, “If one comes to the pragmatic conclusion that oilsands exploitation will still occur, irrespective of the Federal government in power, what is the best way to offset or directly reduce its GHG footprint?”

This is another leading question. All paths lead to the same result. The best of the worst is no choice at all. How does one qualify the 'best way'? The best for who? Least dangerous in the long term? Cheapest? Least likely to destroy the environment or give people cancer? Most profitable?

Reducing it's GHG footprint (which is immense) seems like asking what kind of paddles are the best ones to buy after you've already pushed the boat into the water. Or maybe asking what is the best way to heat a house while you are in the middle of a renovation that's taken out an entire outer wall. The point is that The new Alberta Premiere has an opportunity to listen to logic instead of continuing to shovel coal on the runaway train that is the oilsands.

The point of Kunstler's book – I implore you to read it – is that nuclear is a stop-gap that is not sustainable, will not necessarily allow for a reduction of GHG emissions, and will do nothing good for the world or for mankind in the long run. There are many other points to the book, which focuses on peak oil and the way we cope.

Based on the few posts I scanned on your blog I consider you an ally. I'm curious what you think of my reply here. In the end if we agree to disagree I will respect that.

The Anonymous Green said...

Ok, a quick response. I think the debate may have sidetracked from use of nukes, to eliminating oilsands development.

In the interim, note the recent response to this announcement at Lakeland College:

"We're wasting natural gas, and nuclear power's got to go on the list of energy sources to be considered to support the development of the oilsands," Dinning said, getting cheers from many in at Lakeland College's Vermilion campus theatre.

http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/features/passingthetorch/story.html?id=c4b2b119-01aa-4e52-9565-f20942862630

How do you propose, as a political party, to do a complete 180 degree turn in a reasonable time frame?

It ain't gonna happen. That's why a pragmatic interim strategy is required for a political party looking to exert influence. Sure, the Green Party can remain a protest party - I would suggest it will by default by adopting unrealistic SHORT term objectives.

I mentioned the fact that energy was for export because this implies economic activity beyond domestic requirements. Alternative strategies need to take this into consideration.

Transormation needs to be done in stages. This is why I suggest that nukes may be part of a transitional approach, as many other authors have suggested.

Leave the idealism of no nukes whatsoever to the ENGOs you cited.

Politics are different, and should be treated as such, involving pragmatism.

Nothing wrong with being a protest party. They have their role. They tend to peak, however, early in support if some non key but controversial policies are adopted and promoted.

Big risk of alienating non idealists.

Cameron W said...

You make very good points. My position is not one that implies that I support the idea of the GPC being a 'protest party', or 'single issue' party. The Green Party currently is neither of those, with a platform and policies that cover all issues.

Dinning didn't win the election, so the Greens wouldn't be making a 180 degree turn from any current policy. The public opinion will likely change when people better inform themselves of the realities of the non-option that is nuclear.

If Canadians want a green government, they will elect one, and being made up of mostly moderate political center types, this Party seems the most in line with the majority of Canadian values and interests. That said, if Canadians WANT to build nuclear power stations, how does an elected government ignore that? This is where I have a question because of my 'green' political experience. If Green Party MP's are elected, having a platform that is not pro-nuclear, and there is a vote on building some nuclear power stations, I expect the Green MP's would vote no, unless they polled their riding and there was overwhelming support for this sort of project. If Green Party MP's made up the official opposition I expect they would block nuclear development. If the GPC formed the government, minority or majority, I think there should be forums, consultations, and a vote by Canadians. Does that sound reasonable?

In B.C., the provincial government has a moratorium on offshore drilling. This is the will of the people. The different provincial governments in power have all supported this position, without being seen as single issue parties.

The Anonymous Green said...

My statement about going 180 degrees was poorly written. I meant how do you change the apparent support for nukes from the audience that supports nukes (not Dinning as it turns out).

The Fed Green Party could support non subsidies to AECL - something within its jurisdiction. And it could support non Fed subsidies for any of its projects through AECL - or no loan guarantees to overseas projects. I happen to agree with some NGOs that AECL should be sold off/privatized and let it stand on its own.

But the choice to go nuke is a provincial decision - hence Fed MPs would have no role if a province wants to go nuke. Green MPs could have a role in ensuring that Fed environmental assessments are completed, and input from NGOs are adequately heard - but the decision still has to be left to the provincial officials.

The trouble I see is confusion in the electorate - yes listen to Tim Flannery, James Lovelock etc. on the part about AGW tipping point - just ignore the part about nukes that they recommend as a solution.

If provincial Green parties wish to run on a platform of non-nuke for Ontario or Alberta as per your BC example, I don't have any problem with that.

It's the Green Party Fed policy I take issue with. The priorities on a host of Federal issues as you point out(Kyoto being the most obvious) risk being derailed by a few controversial issues that are not really within Fed jurisdiction, and not accepted universally by greens in other countries.

Cameron W said...

Great comments. Thank you!

The Anonymous Green said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cameron W said...

The blog site is useful for some things, but as you can see I spend most of my blog time here on my own blog. There may be an option for feeds set up at the GPC blog site in the future, and I'm aware of another party members' request for some changes. We'll see how that goes.

The GPC has a members forum section hosted on the website, a public policy forum (greenplus), a number of other organizational membership data websites (some under construction and others to migrate and be joined, as far as I understand) and there's the Living Platform as well. Lot's of projects.

The GPC blog site has been useful for communications between gpc members, and as far as discussion of outside subjects, many members have blogs listed on Green Bloggers. Also a great forum for all things small and big 'G' green is http://www.greenerpolitics.com/

As far as the GPC blog site goes, the purpose as stated on the site is, "to familiarize GPC members with the practice of blogging." It's a neat site, I think some changes could be made, but I don't think it's meant to be the pride and joy of GPC communication right now. The intro also states that it "is temporary until we launch our new website" so I'm thinking there's a new site on the way sometime. This one's been running for about four months, so maybe it's just growing pains. There could also be liability issues I'm not aware of.

Thanks for the feedback.

The Anonymous Green said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cameron W said...

Back on topic...

The Ecologist (<--click text for link to website) has an interesting exploration of nuclear energy and it's inherent problems.

Cameron W said...

This is a great letter.

The Star.com opinion
Canadians need clear answers on nuclear power

Jan 25, 2007 04:30 AM
Hugh Wilkins
Mark Winfield

"...Federal Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn has become an increasingly vocal promoter of nuclear power, most recently in a speech to the Economic Club in Toronto earlier this week. Lunn has backed his proposals with statements that nuclear energy is "emission-free," produces "no greenhouse gases" and "there's no pollutants going out (with) the energy."

Unfortunately, none of these claims is true. So much so, in fact, that late last year Sierra Legal, acting on behalf of a coalition of environmental, public health, church and community groups and renewable energy developers, including the Pembina Institute, filed a false advertising complaint against the Canadian Nuclear Association under the federal Competition Act for a high-profile advertising campaign making similar claims. The nuclear association's ads have stated that nuclear power is "clean," "affordable" and "reliable."

With Lunn suggesting nuclear reactors as an energy source for Alberta's oil sands, and the McGuinty government in Ontario poised to commit to the first new nuclear power project in North America in more than 30 years, Canadians are looking for clear answers on nuclear power.

Is nuclear energy clean? Contrary to Lunn's claims, nuclear power, like other non-renewable energy sources, is associated with severe environmental impacts. Each stage of the nuclear energy production process, from uranium mining to power plant operation, generates large amounts of radioactive and otherwise hazardous wastes that will require care, in some cases for hundreds of thousands of years, for safety, security and environmental reasons.

The process also pollutes surface water and groundwater with radioactive and hazardous pollutants. Water pollution from uranium mines and mills has been found by Health Canada and Environment Canada to meet the definition of a toxic substance for the purposes of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Canadian nuclear power plants have had routine and accidental releases to surface and groundwater of radionuclides, particularly tritium.

Significant releases of hazardous air pollutants, radionuclides and smog and acid rain-causing pollutants occur throughout the process of mining and producing uranium fuel for nuclear power stations. Greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, are produced at each stage of the nuclear energy cycle. Greenhouse gas emissions occur during the construction of reactors, as a result of the operation of equipment in the uranium mining process, the milling of uranium ore, mill tailings management activities and refining and conversion operations. Greenhouse gas emissions also result from the transportation of uranium between milling, refining and conversion facilities and transportation required in the management of waste nuclear fuel and other radioactive wastes.

Is nuclear energy affordable? Ask Ontario electricity consumers, who are greeted with a "debt retirement charge" on their electricity bills every month to pay off $20 billion in "stranded" debt, mostly left behind by Ontario Hydro's perpetually over-budget and underperforming nuclear plants. That's to say nothing of the financial guarantees that would have to be provided by taxpayers for waste fuel management, decommissioning costs and, in the event of a serious accident, any damage to the environment, public health or the economy over $75 million. It has been estimated that the economic damages from a major accident at the Darlington nuclear plant east of Toronto would be in the range of $1 trillion..."

Cameron W said...

Nuclear power no quick fix for greenhouse gas emissions, says May

Ottawa (24 January 2007) - Federal climate change policies should encourage the most efficient and effective measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions – and that means saying no to nuclear power, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said today.

Commenting on yesterday’s statement by Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn supporting “clean” nuclear power as a way of reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, Ms. May said: “The minister is wrong. Replacing one dirty fuel with another is not the way forward; it is a huge step backward.”

"If dealing with high-level nuclear waste isn’t enough discouragement, studies show there are far less expensive ways to fight climate change," said Green Party natural resources critic Andrew Lewis.

One such analysis found that a dollar spent on energy efficiency measures displaced seven times as much carbon dioxide emissions as the same dollar invested in nuclear power. Scientists also predict that the expansion of nuclear power will deplete existing high-grade uranium deposits, resulting in higher carbon emissions as low quality ores have to be refined.

Radioactive emissions routinely leaking from nuclear power plants in Ontario have a half-life of over 5,000 years. Spent fuel has over 200 cancer-causing elements – plutonium, for example, with a half-life of 24,400 years. Other harmful substances persist in our environment for millions of years with no safe method of disposal.

"We cannot afford to waste precious time and money developing nuclear power, trying to solve one environmental and energy problem by creating another," said Lewis.

The Green Party of Canada supports the recommendations of the 2001 Standing Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) conduct comprehensive and independent environmental reviews of all nuclear projects.

Elected Green Party MPs will ensure that the operations of CNSC and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) are transparent and at arm’s length from government, and will work with the provinces to phase out nuclear power and prevent the continuing build-up of nuclear waste.

- 30 -

Anonymous said...

Nuclear Power Kills; here's how. (Dirty nuclear truths.)
June 24th, 2007

Dear Readers,

Below are answers to common questions about nuclear power. The questions are:

1) Isn't France almost entirely dependent on nuclear power?

2) Don't nuclear submarines prove the technology works?

3) Nukes are getting safer all the time, aren't they?

4) Can't nuclear power solve the problem of Global Warming?

5) What exactly IS radiation and how does it harm us?

6) Won't Yucca Mountain solve the nuclear waste problem?

7) Science will surely cure cancer some day, and isn't that the main
danger from radiation?

8) Doesn't the nuclear industry protect humans from all its waste?

9) Isn't our other choice coal, and isn't that even worse?

10) Don't some people say that a little radiation might actually be GOOD for you?

11) Aren't we desperate for energy?

12) What about reprocessing? Can't we just "recycle" the radioactive waste?

13) Are nuclear power plants responsible for nuclear weapons proliferation?

14) Why does the industry keep going, if it's so bad?

15) Is the threat from terrorism real?

16) Are people who oppose nuclear power simply opposed to ALL technology?

Answers below.

Yours,

Ace

------------------------------

1) Isn't France almost entirely dependent on nuclear power?

Sure, they have something between 70% and 80% nuke-generated electricity (the exact figure depends on who you ask). It's NOT particularly CHEAP for the French, by the way, and THAT should tell you something. But more to the point, COULD they have gone with renewables and still achieved their electricity goals (and their rates would now be vastly cheaper)? Certainly!

From wave power off the coast of Brittany to in-stream and small-scale hydro in the French Alps and the Pyrennes (and five other mountain regions in France), and bio-fuels, sunshine, and wind everywhere, and lousy conservation standards to begin with, there is no question France could get along without nukes entirely, as could anyone else. France has used extraordinary measures to stop the
so-called "anti-nuclear" (I call it the Pro-DNA) viewpoint from being heard. And one more point: AREVA, France's nuke power company, is even more secretive than our nuke mega-corporations, and their nukes have had serious problems which could have, with a little different luck, resulted in meltdowns. And AREVA buys up wind power and other clean energy companies all over the world, yet remain focused on nuclear!


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2) Don't nuclear submarines prove the technology works?

Even if every nuclear submarine worked perfectly (they don't), the spent fuel from nuclear subs and other military nuclear vessels adds about 30% to the world's nuclear waste stream. The United States has launched nearly 200 nuclear submarines, but the reactors actually charge batteries, which power electrical motors, the same as on the old diesel subs. Staying submerged for months at a time, while theoretically possible, is seldom done and of little practical value in today's military threat scenarios.

Whenever we lose a nuke-powered sub (and it's happened twice to us, and about half a dozen times to the Russians) we lose the reactors and their radioactive fuel, to be dispersed into the waters. The Kursk's reactors were reportedly recovered (though undoubtedly, the highly radioactive cooling fluid was dispersed), but I don't think ANY other lost sub reactors have been recovered. Plus, Russia has hundreds of rusting subs that are releasing radioactive and other poisons into the oceans and will do so at ever-increasing rates unless WE somehow force the Russians to clean them up and remove them from the water. Russia's already proven they won't do it themselves.

Plus, at least in America, ex-nuke-submariners think they are ENTITLED to a job in a civilian nuke plant when they quit the service after securing a pension and life-time health benefits (such as they are) from the Navy. And there is good reason to believe the scuttlebutt that is rampant about ex-nuke-submariners dying of brain tumors and the like at MUCH higher rates than the rest of the population. THAT is their true sacrifice, but their promotion of nuclear power is by far the most damaging thing they have done (considering, for example, that they have never launched a single nuclear weapon at an enemy (thank goodness)).


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3) Nukes are getting safer all the time, aren't they?

Actually, they are getting LESS safe. They are getting older, and the crews that run them didn't build them and haven't looked at the original plans even once in their lives. Any specific nuclear power plant is way too complex for any one person to understand, and their training is too specific, anyway. So one "expert" really just knows a piece of the puzzle, and leans on other experts to "solve" the whole puzzle for humanity, and excuse their own dirty part of the whole dirty job. Thus they convince themselves that nukes are safe and low levels of radiation might even be (in their opinion) GOOD FOR YOU. The old nuke power plants are rusting, becoming more and more embrittled, and parts that have lasted for 30+ years (and were designed to last only 20) are failing left and right. The companies all have a "replace on failure" policy for most components, since it would be impossible to guess what's going to break next. And as for future possible generations of new reactors, they have their own
problems INCLUDING unexpectedly rapid embrittlement of the cladding for the radioactive fuel pellets, which could lead to the very catastrophic failures they CLAIM can't happen. AND the new reactors are no better protected from terrorism than the old ones -- a fact of life, but then, so are TSUNAMIS and they are IGNORED, as well (yes, some coastal reactors have sea walls, but they are pitifully small).


----------------------------

4) Can't nuclear power solve the problem of Global Warming?

No. First of all, nuclear power doesn't produce MUCH of our energy mix. Only about 7% of America's energy usage is from nukes, if even that (it depends, of course, on how you measure it). The "20%" figure you might often hear is the percentage of ELECTRICITY nuclear produces, but electricity is a relatively small portion of our total energy usage.

Second of all, the global warming problem is (finally) considered IMMINENT. But no workable plan for building new nuclear power plants can possibly contribute more than a small percentage of the needed energy. The plants are too big, the lead time too long, the difficulties of siting them away from population centers and then running high-power lines, all doom the technology even if numerous OTHER important reasons are IGNORED!

Third, and most damaging, is that when you take into account: Caring for the nuclear waste afterwards; Caring for cancer victims; The energy needed to mine the uranium; The energy needed to clean up after an accident; All the other costs; Nuclear simply doesn't produce ANY net energy for the country! Not one watt!

So how can it solve the global warming problem?


-----------------------------

5) What exactly IS radiation and how does it harm us?

Every element in the universe is made of atoms, and every atom is
made of protons and neutrons in the core, then lots of empty space,
with the tiny little electrons spinning around the outer edges. The number of protons determines what element something is. Except for hydrogen, which has a lone proton and can have zero neutrons, there are one or more neutrons in the core of each atom. Every element can have several different numbers of neutrons (called different isotopes of an element), but as long as the number of protons stays the same, it's the same element -- with the same chemical and biological behavior as any other atom of that element. All elements above and including element 86 have NO possible stable number of neutrons in their core, meaning, all isotopes of these elements are radioactive. Element 43, which doesn't exist naturally on Earth, also has no stable isotopes.

Unstable atoms decay, which means they break down into a stable
isotope of some element, or into another unstable isotope of some
element. For any particular atom, there is no way to predict WHEN it
will decay, but for large aggregates of the same isotope of the same element, the decay rates of the whole group are approximately predictable. The "half-life" is defined as the amount of time it takes for half the atoms to decay, in repeated tests of carefully measured, pure samples of an isotope. It is important to understand that the OTHER half of the sample will then take the SAME amount of time for HALF of THOSE atoms to decay. Thus, after about 20 half-lives, still about a millionth of the radioactive isotope will remain, along with a dirty little rainbow of daughter products, each decaying their way around the periodic table, in big and small leaps, stopping only when they become stable elements such as lead.

The moment of decay is of particular interest, because various particles and / or rays shoot out from the decaying atom, damaging other atoms. For example, a NEW electron can be ejected from the core of an atom, simultaneously changing one of the core's neutrons
into a proton and converting the atom into the next element UP in the Periodic Table of the Elements. (For example, converting an
radioactive isotope of hydrogen (element 1) that has two neutrons and one proton, into a stable isotope of helium (element 2) with one neutron and two protons.) The ejected NEW electron may be traveling as much as ~95% the speed of light when it is ejected. It is called a beta particle (sometimes it's called a beta ray). Another type of radioactive decay shoots off TWO protons and TWO neutrons in one clump -- which is called an alpha particle (sometimes it's called an alpha ray) and is ejected with as much as ~5% the speed of
light. Still other types of radioactive decays shoot off high energy photons, which are called gamma rays or x-rays. Some radioactive decays shoot off gamma rays along with beta particles or alpha particles.

It is mainly the shooting particles or energy rays that do the damage
to biological systems. Your body is made of highly complex molecules
-- in fact, the truest wonder of life is that it is so very, very
complex. The most complex molecule known, the biggest, most intricate, most amazing molecule of all (a triple crown of molecular development) is YOUR DNA, and you have trillions of copies of it, and
EACH ONE needs to remain exactly the same as all the others. No easy trick with RADIATION around! But it's not just your DNA that needs to be protected. Each of the 50,000+ DIFFERENT kinds of molecules your body manufactures for its own use all need to be protected, too. Many of the molecules your body makes are thousands of individual atoms in size, and if any ONE of those atoms is damaged, the molecule is ruined. Information -- perhaps vital information -- is
lost.

Radioactive decays are thousands of times STRONGER than the CHEMICAL
and ELECTRICAL BONDS which hold your body's various molecular
structures together. When a radioactive decay occurs it can destroy thousands of proteins your body carefully created, or it can damage the RNA -- the creators of those proteins -- or it can damage a copy of the DNA chain itself.

It is now absolutely certain and well-known that radiation causes
cancer, leukemia, heart disease, birth defects, and thousands of
other ailments. Recently, even some official regulatory bodies have accepted the theory that there is NO THRESHOLD below which radiation is not damaging and CANNOT cause "health effects."

But the RATE of health effects in the population, and the degree to
which a general degradation of YOUR body should be considered a
problem (even if it doesn't kill you outright) is the subject of
cover-ups, lies, debates, pseudo-debates, and a thousand other tricks, trials, and tribulations.


------------------------------

6) Won't Yucca Mountain solve the nuclear waste problem?

Or couldn't we just rocket it to the sun? No, neither solution is
adequate. Yucca Mountain is a scientific boondoggle AND at least 15 to 20 years away if it ever opens. The problem is simple to state, but very hard to solve: How can you build a device which will
successfully contain something for millions of years, when the thing
you wish to contain can destroy any container you build to contain
it? Radioactive decays destroy steel, diamond, gold, glass, every
alloy known or conceived by physicists and chemists, and -- of course -- radioactive decays destroy all biological systems.

The rocket solution is STILL brought up TIME AND AGAIN by
otherwise-sane "rocket scientists" and their promoters. But it's a
lousy idea because rockets fail WAY too often, including because of
prior rocket failure's high-speed, microscopic, deadly SPACE DEBRIS
in Near Earth Orbit, which the waste would have to successfully pass through. Also, there is WAY too much nuclear waste to expect much of it to get "up there" safely before a truly catastrophic accident occurs, not "vaporizing" (as in "rendering harmless through the process of incineration") but "particle-izing" the waste ("going
particulate" is the actual technical expression). Why does such a lousy idea keep coming up then? Because rationally, all OTHER choices have ALSO failed to pass scientific muster.

Besides, Yucca Mountain, even if built would not be nearly big enough for all the waste we will generate in the coming decades, it's barely going to be big enough to hold the current amount we already have!


--------------------------------

7) Science will surely cure cancer some day, and isn't that the main
danger from radiation?

First of all: DON'T bet YOUR life that science will cure cancer any
time soon! Most "progress" has been in identifying cancers early,
and identifying environmental risks you CAN individually address. Many laws, in fact, which PURPORT to protect us from CARCINOGENS specifically exclude the regulation of RADIOACTIVE carcinogenic substances!

There are thousands of different kinds of cancers that have been
identified and further sub-categories are being discovered all the time. Cancer research is alive and well (and needs more
funding). But its successes have been few.

Second of all, cancer ISN'T the only disease radiation CAUSES or
ENHANCES, because radiation causes the random destruction of your
body's sub-cellular structure, and the creation of thousands -- or
even hundreds of thousands -- of "free radicals" with EVERY atomic
breakdown. Understanding how radiation impacts cells is closer to the root of the problem than merely declaring that radiation causes specific cancers, such as "thyroid cancer" and then handing out KI (Potassium Iodide) after an accident. Science isn't anywhere near solving any of the THOUSANDS of diseases associated with free radical creation in your body.

DNA damage to multiple (future) generations is a bigger threat to
civilization than the combined radiation-induced threats from cancer, heart disease, leukemia, and every other radiation-induced ailment combined! And there is no pill that protects your fetus. Mothers and fathers of the world MUST understand this: Radiation sickens, weakens, and kills YOUR babies! It makes them less like you, and it makes them like you less.


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8) Doesn't the nuclear industry protect humans from all its radioactive waste?

NO THEY DON'T! Tritium, for instance, is routinely released from ALL operating nuclear power plants. Some kinds of nuke plants release 20 times (or more) more than other types. Is it ALL okay? Not at all. Tritium standards are absurdly lax. For example, in America the Environmental Protection Agency standard for drinking water is 20,000 picoCuries of tritium per liter. But if you drank water at this level consistently (and you might be doing so right now and not even know it), the water portion of YOUR body would also reach this level, and your body will silently experience tens of thousands of
ADDITIONAL radioactive decays every second of your life, above and
beyond all your OTHER EXPOSURES. These additional radioactive decays
will EACH create thousands of "free-radicals" (which can damage your DNA) or they might damage your DNA directly. Sounds bad? Of course it is -- but the EPA basically feels that it's bad ONLY above 20,000 picoCuries per liter and PERFECTLY OKAY below that! A more realistic figure, that would probably merely bring the protection standard in
line with that of other chemical assaults we must invariably put up
with (engine fumes, coal power plant fumes (see below) etc.), might be 50 picoCuries per liter -- or maybe 5.

But 20,000 picoCuries per liter of drinking water is just ABSURDLY
HIGH and allows U.S. nuclear power plants to release about 1,000
Curies of tritium each year, on average. Any year they release more is forgiven and averaged into prior years, if possible, or future
years, if prior releases exceeded even the standard "forgiveness"
rate. Get it? No matter what they release, it's simply duly noted
(but the information is seldom released to the public) and the
regulatory toadies forgive the nuclear industry for their trespass
into YOUR life.


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9) Isn't our other choice coal, and isn't that even worse?

Coal is pretty bad stuff -- and there's 500 years' worth in the
earth, laying around the planet waiting to be mined, whereas there
is probably less than FIFTY years' worth of uranium!

Coal plants emit Uranium and Thorium -- radioactive heavy metals --
into the atmosphere in quantities MUCH greater than a properly
operating nuclear power plant does. BUT -- and this is a BIG, BIG, BUT -- they DON'T create or release FISSION PRODUCTS in comparable quantities. Fission products -- the daughter elements of atomic decay -- include cesium, strontium, and a deadly rainbow of other radioactive elements, which are created when the radioactive fuel is "burned" in the reactor. These elements get into biological systems in a way that heavy metals generally don't do (although heavy metals are very bad). Fission products BIOACCUMULATE in plants and animals which we then eat. Many fission products are chemically similar to elements that are essential for life. Therefore our bodies readily absorb fission products at specific sites such as our thyroids, gonads, bone marrow, and other organs.

Additionally, a coal-fired power plant will never be the target of a
serious terrorist who is intent on doing the most harm for his or her
"investment." A coal-fired plant will not leave extremely toxic
waste -- the word "extremely" being key here. A coal-fired plant
creates waste, and it is unhealthy -- both the part which is released
into the atmosphere AND the part that isn't. BUT these waste streams pale in comparison to a nuclear power plant's. As proof, just consider what the major fear is from coal, according to all the
politicians in Washington these days, and everyone else besides: CARBON DIOXIDE! NOT the heavy metals or even the URANIUM
that is also released by coal-fired power plants! In truth, it
would be GOOD to reduce ALL emissions from coal plants. But hasn't CARBON SEQUESTRATION been proven to work -- its ONLY REAL PROBLEM is that it REDUCES THE EFFICIENCY of the coal plant -- so you burn MORE coal to get the SAME POWER OUTPUT?

Or is there ANOTHER CHOICE? You bet there is! Solar energy
works. Wind power WORKS. Wave energy, tide energy, in-stream river power (no dams) -- these ALL work. Yes, I would rather see a hundred coal plants be built than the 30 or so nukes that could produce the same electrical output, BUT those are NOT the real choices.


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10) Don't some people say that a little radiation might actually be
GOOD for you?

Hmmm... WHO have you been picking this stuff up from? Ask yourself
that. The only people I've ever found who actually believe that the
debris from, for example, a 1963 NASA nuclear space probe, which
dispersed plutonium all over the world, is like a VITAMIN to our
bodies are invariably directly associated with USING RADIOACTIVE
SUBSTANCES IN THEIR WORK. In other words, their jobs depend on the
public believing that low levels of radiation is probably HARMLESS,
and may even actually be GOOD for you.

In reality, NO level of radiation is beneficial and all medical
radiation is given after a supposedly careful cost-benefit analysis has been done for the patient. In other words, the risk of getting cancer from a USELESS and UNNECESSARY CT scan is utterly
unfair: That same risk from a CT SCAN that resulted from a proper
initial diagnosis, is fair, regardless of whether a tumor is actually found in any individual case.

When your regular dentist uses their x-ray equipment as part of your regular check-up, that's considered a "fair use." (I would argue that the equipment is much more ionizing than it needs to be.) But when the dentist sends you to another expert, and that expert takes NEW x-rays of the same tooth, from the same angle, rather than using your dentist's original x-rays, that's an UNFAIR use, but it happens ALL THE TIME.

Some people get cancer because of dental x-rays, but it's considered
okay, not because dentists pretend it doesn't happen (though some do,
in fact, do that), but because the dentists believe that, for the
population at large, the benefits outweigh the dangers.

But what if low-level radiation (LLR) is significantly WORSE than
calculated by the "experts," who, invariably, base their guestimates
of the danger on faulty HIROSHIMA and NAGASAKI bomb studies of people
who have been called the "healthy survivors" by more realistic observers?

(Note: Males in the northern hemisphere are said to piss out about a million atoms of plutonium every DAY of their LIVES, mostly Pu-238 (with a half-life of about 87.75 years), just from that one 1963 NASA space probe accident (let alone all the other poisons we must
ingest). The chance of getting bladder cancer is about one in 30 for American men (it's about one in 90 for American women). Some portion of that is undoubtedly due to radioactive poisons.)


--------------------------------

11) Aren't we desperate for energy?

Yes, we ABSOLUTELY are desperate for energy. CLEAN energy.

Every study ever done has shown that as populations get more and
cheaper, CLEANER energy, they achieve an improvement in living
standards "across the board." Death rates go down, disease rates go down, birth rates even go down -- as babies live to age five and
beyond, families tend to have LESS children, not MORE! Cheap, clean
energy allows the FREE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS via the Internet and cheap
exchange of goods via every other transportation method. As living
standards go up, the environmental degradation that occurs per human
life goes DOWN because people don't, for example, have to burn down trees for cooking or for heat when electric stoves and heaters
powered by renewable energy are available instead. The environmental benefits continue to increase as the available cheap, clean energy increases, until / unless the society reaches a certain "critical" level of affluence and misbehavior, and does not properly REGULATE itself (such as by having gas-powered lawn trimming devices, when electric, renewable-energy-powered devices could be used instead.)

PROPER energy regulation IS the key to success! But you can't have
proper regulation if government dishonestly, ignorantly, and
stubbornly supports nuclear power, against all logic and reason.


------------------------------------

12) What about reprocessing? Can't we just "recycle" the waste?

Reprocessing is nothing like recycling aluminum cans!! It's a filthy process that Jimmy Carter banned when he was president, and it should STAY banned. It involves grinding up hot, poisonous nuclear reactor cores and spilling a little at every step. The process gobbles up enormous amounts of energy, and uses up enormous amounts of chemicals that are spilled into the environment along with many of the "fission products" which "poison" the reactor cores. What they want is the mainly unspent U-235, and a few other isotopes of Uranium and Plutonium, especially Pu-239. What they DON'T want is a rainbow of radioactive isotopes of every element in the Periodic Table -- but it's what they've got. So, France, which currently reprocesses reactor cores, pours enormous amounts of radioactive and chemical waste into the North Sea (as do several other countries) and that waste is then spread throughout the planet. THAT's their idea of "reprocessing" nuclear waste, and they want to bring this awful concept to America in the form of something called GNEP, which stands for Global Nuclear Energy Partnership because America will be the cesspool of the planet, accepting nuclear waste from anywhere. (Transported, usually, by boats, which will sometimes be lost at sea -- guaranteed.)

But the WORST thing about reprocessing the "waste" from nuclear reactors is that you can ALSO separate out some isotopes which can be used in DIRTY BOMBS, and in -- you guessed it -- ATOMIC BOMBS.


------------------------------------

13) Are nuclear power plants responsible for nuclear weapons proliferation?

One can start with the simple fact that WITHOUT NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS, THERE WOULD BE NO NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Hydrogen bombs all use tritium in addition to plutonium and / or uranium, and both the plutonium and the tritium always come from nuclear power plants. Tritium has a half-life of about 12.3 years. You need to keep making more tritium or, after a batch has decayed to too low a grade to be useful, you have to remove it from your nuclear warhead and re-isolate the tritium isotopes you have left over. But you won't be able to refuel as many warheads as before, if you aren't making more tritium.

The main plutonium isotope needed for nuclear bombs is Pu-239, which is ONLY created in nuclear reactors. If you don't isolate it from other plutonium isotopes, it's pretty much USELESS as bomb-making material. If you let it decay for a few years, it ALSO becomes useless as bomb-making material until it has been reprocessed.

So if you want to remove nuclear weapons from the face of the earth, you MUST shut down the reprocessing plants, which are enormous and dirty death-machines which specialize in Weapons of Mass Destruction, AND the nuclear power plants, where many of the raw materials that can be turned into nuclear weapons are made.


---------------------------------

14) Why does the industry keep going, if it's SO bad?

I dunno. Why DOES murder-for-hire keep happening, since it's SO bad? Why does war keep happening?

The nuclear industry relies on lies and obfuscations to hide its true effect on humanity from curious or prying eyes. ANYONE who begins to understand the truth is immediately labeled an "activist" even if they base every comment they ever make on scientific principles which the pro-nukers cannot and WILL NOT ANSWER. People who are labeled "activists" are soon kicked out of their jobs, so that they can no longer be considered experts who are current in the field. They are ridiculed, and destroyed financially.

The "debate" over nuclear power -- the one a democratic people SHOULD have had -- NEVER HAPPENED, and next thing we knew, there were more than 100 operating nuclear power plants in America alone. One that was gutted by fire more than 30 years ago, on March 22, 1975 (and nearly melted down, but didn't, or you would know its name) was reconstructed and restarted recently (June 2007). How? Because the Tennessee Valley Authority, which owns the Browns Ferry site, is as corrupt an organization as you will find on the face of the earth.

What keeps the industry going is government contracts, government subsidies, government insurance, and tax breaks. The government feeds BILLIONS into the industry, financing the "research and development" of new reactor designs, and the training the commercial reactor operators through the military reactor program. Research reactor institutes are often controlled jointly by the industry and by the government. It's self-perpetuating.

But the biggest break the industry gets is, of course, the fact that if you or your children or loved ones get cancer or leukemia, it COULD be due to anything, NO MATTER HOW CLOSE you live to a reactor, and no matter how many people around you SEEM to be dying as well. To make matters worse, after a meltdown, most people with reactor-caused illnesses will never be paid a red cent by any insurance company, the reactor owners or operators, or any local, state or federal entity. Check your homeowner's insurance policy if you have one. Reactor accidents are specifically excluded! And you need look no further than the nuclear industry's under-funded, federally-mandated minimalist insurance policy known as The Price-Anderson Act to KNOW that no citizen will be paid their due if they survive after an accident. You'll get fractions of a penny on the dollar if you live to collect anything at all. You'll be called stupid for living so close to a reactor, or paranoid for thinking that accident "X" miles away caused YOUR cancer. "X" could be a little as 11 miles or less!


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15) Is the threat from terrorism real?

YES, IT'S REAL. There have been NUMEROUS threats from terrorists against OUR nuclear power plants. Books by scientists, written more than 30 years ago, which were ignored then and are ignored now, warned America of the threat. The threat is worse now: The militants are at least as determined as ever, the targets contain MORE radioactive materials than ever, the populations around the reactors are vastly greater, and the explosive power and penetrating power of the weapons that might be used are both SIGNIFICANTLY greater. But the reactors are the same, only older!

A half-dozen armed guards per reactor won't stop ANY determined foe. Similarly, the Transportation Security Administration is incapable of guarding the skies completely, especially from RENTED BUSINESS JETS which could be easily hijacked and flown into a reactor or its spent fuel, with devastating results.

The Pentagon does NOT patrol the airspace above each reactor and even if it did, they couldn't stop the wide variety of incoming flying
objects that can exist -- missiles, small and large planes, etc.. They can't stop boat-launched small nuclear weapons attacks against our coastal reactors. They couldn't stop 9-11; not even close.

The military has NOT built anti-aircraft missile embankments around the nuclear power plants or even established permanent "no-fly" zones around the plants. And even if they did, it probably wouldn't help against a determined, 9-11 "inspired" foe.

Shutting the reactors down permanently improves the survivability significantly. Nothing else makes any sense at all.


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16) Are people who oppose nuclear power simply opposed to ALL technology?

No usually, and not in this case. Most of them are just like everyone else. They like baseball, they want their car to be first off the line at the light, they like rock and roll music.

But there is ONE big difference: They've studied up on some of the issues presented here. So they've decided -- on their own -- that nuclear power is a silent killer, and that its corporate and government proponents are liars, cheats, scoundrels, and -- yes -- murderers.

But that is no reason to hate "technology." Nuclear technology is generally 50-year old, has-been stuff anyway. Renewable energy is where all the exciting, great work is being done these days. In
fact, most people who oppose nuclear technology think that GOOD technology can and MUST enrich and lengthen our lives.

The author of THIS document has been a computer programmer for more than 25 years. He has programmed everything from lasers to classroom lessons, robots, mice, and joysticks. It's easy to label someone "anti-" and figure they just have an ax to grind. But the reality can be quite different. The author considers himself not only "pro-technology" but "pro-DNA," instead of the more common phraseology: "anti-nuclear." The term pro-DNA is correct because the damage to our DNA is the most dangerous thing we have to deal with regarding radioactive poisons in our midst. DNA damage is also among the hardest problems to detect. This essay is a demand for scientific, humanitarian, democratic and financial JUSTICE, nothing more, nothing less.

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Summary:

Turn off the nukes, turn on the sun. Please pass this around and
send a copy to your Congressperson!

Thank you for reading. Please address comments directly to the author.

Russell "Ace" Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA
rhoffman@animatedsoftware.com

Cameron W said...

Reasons Not to Glow
On not jumping out of the frying pan into the eternal fires


by Rebecca Solnit
Published in the July/August 2007 issue of Orion magazine

Chances are good, gentle reader, that you are going to have to sit next to someone in the coming year who will assert that nuclear power is the solution to climate change. What will you tell them? There’s so much to say. You could be sitting next to someone who hasn’t really considered the evidence yet. Or you could be sitting next to scientist and Gaia theorist James Lovelock, a supporter of Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy™, which quotes him saying, “We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilisation is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear—the one safe, available, energy source—now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet.”

for full article click on link above