Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hiroshima to Fukushima: No More Nukes

           Hiroshima to Fukushima: No More Nukes
Scientific experts believe Japan's nuclear disaster to be far worse than governments are revealing to the public.  "Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind,"  according to Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president.  No nuclear reactors are designed to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 8.0. Yet there were 11 earthquakes greater than 8.5 last century, and only 11 years into this century, there have been five. Almost all were followed by tsunamis.

Even after Fukushima, Obama is still endorsing nuclear power as a "clean energy" source, and wants loan guarantees for corporations that build nuclear power plants. Corporations won’t risk their own money, which is why they haven't built any nukes since Three Mile Island (1979).  Obama claims building more nukes will help prevent global warming.  But what the nuclear industry and Obama are not admitting is the fact that the overall nuclear "fuel cycle" - mining, milling, fuel fabrication, enrichment, and so on - contributes substantially to global warming
In a nation-wide referendum in June, ninety-five percent of Italians voted against resuming their nuclear industry. All nuclear plants in Italy were closed down in 1987, after Chernobyl.  The first solar power plant in Italy is now being built at Altomonte, in Cosenza, Calabria, a few dozen kilometers from where we live.  It will generate enough electricity to power 2800 households.  Calabria is an ideal site for renewable energy.  Most days are sunny, and there are frequent strong winds like the Scirocco from the south, and the Tramontana from the north. 
Some so-called “environmentalists” think nukes are the answer to climate change.  But after Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, and dozens of near-misses and radiation leaks, and the ever-mounting pile of nuclear waste that no one knows what to do with for the next hundred thousand years, people want no more of it, and have made their voices heard.
After massive protests by the Greens, Social Democrats, and tens of thousands of others, Germany has decided to phase out all its nukes by 2022, and to continue its rapid deployment of renewables.  Germany already has low per capita carbon dioxide emissions and plans to keep reducing it. The US, Canada and Australia have twice the emissions and seemingly no plan or intention of forming one.
Renewable power generation in Germany has increased substantially in the past ten years, from almost none to seventeen percent in 2010.  Now that Germany has the infrastructure in place, that percentage will climb rapidly, especially with the plummeting cost of photovoltaic solar.  Germany and Italy are going to demonstrate to the world that we do not need dirty, dangerous nuclear power.  Even France, which now gets most of its power from nukes, is investing heavily in renewables - far above minimum EU goals. If nukes were a better solution, France would be deploying more - but they're not. 
Nuclear power is not the answer to climate change.  A nuclear power plant takes over ten years to construct and bring on line, during which time coal (the worst source of CO2) continues to be burnt unabated.  And nukes are not "zero-carbon", as some claim.   Their lifecycle emissions are six times higher than wind and about double solar. Nukes also take resources away from low carbon renewables that can be rapidly deployed now.  Nukes are more expensive than ever, while the cost of wind and solar continue to fall.
The majority of people in just about every country on the planet oppose nuclear power. Why can’t we have a referendum in the US to determine if we want to be exposed to the catastrophic risks of nuclear power?  People should have a say in how society is powered, not just a handful of plutocrats dictating what best suits them.  People who advocate one hundred percent renewables are on the right track - especially when entire countries like Germany and Italy are in agreement and committed to that policy. 
Finally, all nuclear reactors create the raw materials for nuclear weapons, like plutonium, as a by-product.  Attempting to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions through nuclear energy, thereby fueling the dangers of the ultimate global incendiary – nuclear war – could be the most tragic of all miscalculations.

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