Nuclear power is not the way forward

September 7, 2009

carlpope-sierraclub— Carl Pope is executive director of the Sierra Club. The views expressed are his own. —
Nuclear power is not a responsible choice and makes no sense as part of America’s clean energy future. We can meet our energy needs through energy efficiency and renewable energy, and have a clean and healthy world without nuclear power.

There are four insurmountable problems with nuclear power.

First, nuclear power produces highly dangerous radioactive waste. Every nuclear reactor generates about 20 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel and additional low-level radioactive waste per year. The waste can kill at high doses and cause cancer and birth defects at low doses. Nuclear waste remains dangerous to humans for 200 thousand years.

Worse, we don’t know what to do with this waste once it is generated. Some propose dumping nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain, NV; however, the mountain is seismically active. An earthquake in the 1990’s caused over $1 million damage to a Department of Energy (DOE) facility at the site. In addition, a Department of Energy panel of scientists has found that the nuclear material may leak from the containment vessels over time and will contaminate groundwater. On its way to Yucca Mountain, the waste would also pass through thousands of cities and towns and present multiple exposure risks.

Second, nuclear power is prohibitively expensive. The method is not anywhere near cost effective; nuclear plants in the states of Oregon, New York, Maine, Illinois, and Connecticut have been shut down because the owners found it was too expensive to keep them going.

American taxpayers are also subsidizing the nuclear industry. According to the Congressional Research Service, the industry has cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars in research and development subsidies.

Third, an accident at a coal plant is a problem, but an accident at a nuclear plant can be a disaster. Because human beings operate plants and drive the trucks that transport nuclear waste, accidents can and will happen. The danger with nuclear power is that the stakes in accidents are extremely high. Anyone exposed to radiation leaks or accidents will likely sicken or die from that exposure.

And finally, there is a risk that nuclear material will fall into the wrong hands. Some have recommended that we consider “reprocessing” of spent nuclear fuel, a method that consolidates waste into weapons-usable plutonium. The government has elaborate plants to prevent rogue nations and terrorists from stealing the nuclear fuel or waste to make nuclear bombs. The more nuclear reactors, the more risk of radioactive material being stolen to make bombs.

Nuclear power is not the way forward. America deserves a safer, cleaner, and cheaper energy future.

2 comments

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Sandor Marai teaches us:
“135. Plenty of courage is required for the intelligence
You have to know that men for a reason sticks to the meager, murky and woo-doo, to the illusions and to the clean half-truths, to the unintelligent. The reason is that the intelligence is the discovery and patient toleration of the truth – knowledge of all the things in depth. And to tolerate the truth is always very hard. For the intelligence, for the knowledge of reality and of the truth you need exceptional courage. The man learns the truth with whole of his hearth, with his entire wisdom, with his essential whole-self. One can gain intelligence only wholeheartedly. The men always accepted much easier a cover-up explanation for an uncomfortable truth, therefore the unintelligence, then seek the raw, simple, uncomplicated truth, what is the intelligence. The men secretly know that every truth and human, therefore everything which is real is born in blood and perspiration and begotten in exaltation. But they choose to spread rumors like the babies are from cabbages. That is more likable and more comfortable. But the intelligence is not born out of cabbages.”
Let see the unintelligent and compare to the intelligent.
There are four insurmountable problems with nuclear power.
First, nuclear power produces highly dangerous radioactive waste. Every nuclear reactor generates about 20 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel … – Not true. The spent fuel contains only a few grams of waste as our technology stands today, most of the mass could be and should be reused.
Worse, we don’t know what to do with this waste once it is generated. – Not true. We do know what to do. Burry in the stable geological formations and continue monitoring until it is safe.
Second, nuclear power is prohibitively expensive. – Not true. Only the regulatory costs are uncontrollable mostly because of such hysteria as fueled by Sierra, but still the nuclear power is the cheapest.
American taxpayers are also subsidizing the nuclear industry. According to the Congressional Research Service, the industry has cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars in research and development subsidies. – Not true. No other industry provides funds for insurance for extreme hypothetical accidents and decommissioning, which is used by governments in the mean time. Also, the regulatory costs are the defining cost of a nuclear power plant investment, taken by the governments.
Third, an accident at a coal plant is a problem, but an accident at a nuclear plant can be a disaster. Because human beings operate plants and drive the trucks that transport nuclear waste, accidents can and will happen. The danger with nuclear power is that the stakes in accidents are extremely high. Anyone exposed to radiation leaks or accidents will likely sicken or die from that exposure. – Not true. There is no other industry where even extreme accidents or sabotage could not cause harm, like in the nuclear industry.
And finally, there is a risk that nuclear material will fall into the wrong hands. Some have recommended that we consider “reprocessing” of spent nuclear fuel, a method that consolidates waste into weapons-usable plutonium. The government has elaborate plants to prevent rogue nations and terrorists from stealing the nuclear fuel or waste to make nuclear bombs. The more nuclear reactors, the more risk of radioactive material being stolen to make bombs. – Not true. There is no other way to eliminate the already collected stockpiles of nuclear weapon materials, but to rework them and burn in the nuclear power plants.

Posted by Aladar Stolmar | Report as abusive

Nuclear power is green compared to all other 24/7 power sources, oil,gas,biofuel,coal. We need cleaner 24/7 sources in addition to solar/wind/…. We need nuclear energy to power the factories that make the solar cells which don’t break even with the power used to make the cells for many years if at all.
Environmental groups badmouth nuclear power to generate PR from powerful fear responses from the uninformed masses, just as rightwing commentators do – don’t be fooled by powerful green groups advancing their own influence with hot button issues at the expense of the envirionment they claim to protect.

Posted by BDavid | Report as abusive