No such thing as ‘safe’ nuclear | LETTER TO THE EDITOR
March 20, 2011 · Updated 9:03 AM
To the editor:
Mankind has been playing around with nuclear bombs and nuclear power plants for decades, laboring under the mistaken notion that humans could control the fission process and create safe uses for nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Japan is a three-time example of the fallacy of this belief (remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki?).
In the case of nuclear power plants, we’ve once again witnessed that these plants are subject to all of the uncertainties of life on this planet, including human error and natural disasters. No matter how many safety features, careful design and redundancies are built into nuclear power plants, there is no way to guarantee they will be safe. Nuclear, all nuclear, is a very risky business.
Let’s start with the obvious. When plumes of radioactivity are released into the atmosphere caused by natural disasters, human error, defective power-plant equipment, or nuclear bombs or weapons, there are no national boundaries for its containment. Released radioactivity is truly a global event, showing us once again how everything in our world is inter-connected. We don’t know if releases of radioactivity, even small unreported ones, are contributing to the epidemic of cancer and other diseases we see today, but science tells us that radioactivity is a significant health risk.
Then there is the real fear that nuclear bombs or other weapons will be used by the elite nuclear family of nations, by a rogue nation or by terrorists. No one wants to even contemplate the horror of that scenario.
Last but not least, is the fact (yes, fact) that we have developed no method for safely disposing of nuclear waste. Nuclear waste hangs around for tens of thousands of years. Leaking containers, refusal by states to allow dumping and contamination of land and water are common scenarios in the nuclear waste industry.
As a student of nuclear issues for many years, I believe that the use of nuclear energy should be limited to medicine and science. We must work with all haste toward disarming the world of nuclear weapons.
In addition, it is imperative that we focus our financial and creative resources toward the development of new, safe sources of energy so that eventually existing nuclear power plants can be mothballed. At the same time, we must drastically curb our insatiable appetite for energy, which promotes the development and use of risky sources of energy. Conservation rarely receives more than a passing mention in public discussions on energy. Let’s make conservation first on the agenda.
The stakes are high. The failure to take these steps will surely result in more world catastrophes such as Japan is currently experiencing.