California Literary Review

Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer

by

March 26th, 2007 at 12:18 am

  • Print Print

[Editor's note: The following is the Introduction to Dr. Helen Caldicott's new book Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer.]

[Nuclear power] is a very important part of our energy policy today in the U.S. . . . America’s electricity is already being provided through the nuclear industry efficiently, safely, and with no discharge of greenhouse gases or emissions.

—Vice President Cheney in a speech to the Nuclear Energy Institute, May 22, 2001

The 103 nuclear power plants in America produce 20% of the nation’s electricity without producing a single pound of air pollution or greenhouse gases.

—President Bush in a speech to a group of nuclear power plant workers at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear reactor, June 22, 2005

The current administration clearly believes that if it lies frequently and with conviction, the general public will be lulled into believing their oft-repeated dictums. As this book will show, no part of “efficiently, safely, and with no discharge of greenhouse gases or emissions” is true. Nuclear energy creates significant greenhouse gases and pollution today, and is on a trajectory to produce as much as conventional sources of energy within the next one or two decades. It requires massive infusions of government (read taxpayer) subsidies, relying on universities and the weapons industry for its research and development, and being considered far too risky for private investors. It is also doubtful that the 8,358 individuals diagnosed between 1986 and 2001 with thyroid cancer in Belarus, downwind of Chernobyl, would choose the adjective “safe” to describe nuclear power.

Nuclear power is not “clean and green,” as the industry claims, because large amounts of traditional fossil fuels are required to mine and refine the uranium needed to run nuclear power reactors, to construct the massive concrete reactor buildings, and to transport and store the toxic radioactive waste created by the nuclear process. Burning of this fossil fuel emits significant quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2)—the primary “greenhouse gas”—into the atmosphere. In addition, large amounts of the now-banned chlorofluorocarbon gas (CFC) are emitted during the enrichment of uranium. CFC gas is not only 10,000 to 20,000 times more efficient as an atmospheric heat trapper (“greenhouse gas”) than CO2, but it is a classic “pollutant” and a potent destroyer of the ozone layer.

While currently the creation of nuclear electricity produces only one-third the amount of CO2 emitted from a similar-sized, conventional gas generator, this is a transitory statistic. Over several decades, as the concentration of available uranium ore declines, more fossil fuels will be required to extract the ore from less concentrated ore veins. Within ten to twenty years, nuclear reactors will produce no net energy because of the massive amounts of fossil fuel that will be necessary to mine and to enrich the remaining poor grades of uranium. (The nuclear power industry contends that large quantities of uranium can be obtained by reprocessing radioactive spent fuel. However, this process is extremely expensive, medically dangerous for nuclear workers, and releases large amounts of radioactive material into the air and water; it is therefore not a pragmatic consideration.) By extension, the operation of nuclear power plants will then produce exactly the same amounts of greenhouse gases and air pollution as standard power plants.

Contrary to the nuclear industry claims, smoothly running nuclear power plants are also not emission free. Government regulations allow nuclear plants “routinely” to emit hundreds of thousands of curies of radioactive gases and other radioactive elements into the environment every year. Thousands of tons of solid radioactive waste are presently accumulating in the cooling pools beside the 103 operating nuclear plants in the United States and hundreds of others throughout the world. This waste contains extremely toxic elements that will inevitably pollute the environment and human food chains, a legacy that will lead to epidemics of cancer, leukemia, and genetic disease in populations living near nuclear power plants or radioactive waste facilities for many generations to come.

Nuclear power is exorbitantly expensive, and notoriously unreliable. Wall Street is deeply reluctant to re-involve itself in any nuclear investment, despite the fact that in the 2005 Energy Bill the U.S. Congress allocated $13 billion in subsidies to revive a moribund nuclear power industry. To compound this problem, the global supplies of usable uranium fuel are finite. If the entire world’s electricity production were replaced today by nuclear energy, there would be less than nine more years of accessible uranium. But even if certain corporate interests are convinced that nuclear power at the moment might be a beneficial investment, one major accident at a nuclear reactor that induces a meltdown would destroy all such investments and signal the end of nuclear power forever.

In this day and age, nuclear power plants are also obvious targets for terrorists, inviting assault by plane, truck bombs, armed attack, or covert intrusion into the reactor’s control room. The subsequent meltdown could induce the death of hundreds of thousands of people in heavily populated areas, and they would expire slowly and painfully, some over days and others over years from acute radiation illness, cancer, leukemia, congenital deformities, or genetic disease. Such an attack at the Indian Point reactors, thirty-five miles from Manhattan, for instance, would effectively incapacitate the world’s main financial center for the rest of time. An attack on one of the thirteen reactors surrounding Chicago would wreak similar catastrophic medical consequences. Amazingly, security at U.S. nuclear power plants remains at virtually the same lax levels as prior to the 9/11 attacks.

Adding to the danger, nuclear power plants are essentially atomic bomb factories. A 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor manufactures 500 pounds of plutonium a year; normally ten pounds of plutonium is fuel for an atomic bomb. A crude atomic bomb sufficient to devastate a city could certainly be crafted from reactor grade plutonium. Therefore any non-nuclear weapons country that acquires a nuclear power plant will be provided with the ability to make atomic bombs (precisely the issue the world confronts with Iran today). As the global nuclear industry pushes its nefarious wares upon developing countries with the patent lie about “preventing global warming,” collateral consequences will include the proliferation of nuclear weapons, a situation that will further destabilize an already unstable world.

Meanwhile, every billion dollars spent on the supremely misguided attempt to revivify the nuclear industry is a theft from the production of cheap renewable electricity. Think what these billions could do if invested in the development of wind power, solar power, cogeneration, geothermal energy, biomass, and tidal and wave power, let alone basic energy conservation, which itself could save the United States 20% of the electricity it currently consumes.

A Greenpeace report issued in October 2005 predicted that solar power could supply clean electricity to 100 million people living in sunny parts of the world by the year 2025. Such an enterprise could create 54,000 jobs and be worth $19.9 billion. In just two decades, the amount of solar electricity could be equivalent to the power generated by seventy-two coal-fired stations—for example, enough to supply the needs of Israel, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia combined. (Egypt is currently one of the few countries in the world that hosts a government department solely devoted to the development of renewable energy sources)

The Carbon Trust, an independent company established by the British government, estimates that, with the correct amount of investment, marine energy—tidal and wave power—could provide up to 20% of the United Kingdom’s current electricity needs. As Marcus Rand, chief executive of the British Wind Energy Association, said, “The report provides impetus behind the vision that Britain can rule the waves and the tides making a significant dent in our carbon emissions alongside creating new world-class industries for the UK.”

According to Amory Lovins, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, in 2004 the amount of electricity supplied by renewable energy sources—wind, co-generation, biomass, geothermal, solar, hydro (excluding electricity generated from large hydro dams)—added 509 times the total capacity worldwide that nuclear power contributed, and raised the global electricity production 2.9 times more than nuclear power contributed. These “minor” electricity sources already dwarf the annual growth of nuclear power generation, and experts predict that by 2010, they will add 177 times more capacity than nuclear power provides.

When nuclear proponents say that nuclear power can be used to reduce the United States’ insatiable reliance on foreign oil, they are simply wrong. Oil and its by-product gasoline are used to fuel the internal combustion engines in automobiles and trucks. Oil is also used to heat buildings. But oil does not power the electric grid. The grid, which is used to power electric lights, computers, VCRs, fans, hair dryers, stoves, refrigerators, air conditioners, and for industrial needs, is powered primarily through the burning of coal, other fossil fuels, and, currently, through nuclear power. (Oil does generate an infinitesimal amount of electricity—2% in the United States.)

How exactly is electricity generated? In the case of hydropower (which accounts for 7% of the electricity generated in the United States) the momentum of falling water is converted into electricity. For most of the remaining 93%, coal (50%), natural gas (18%), nuclear power (20%), and oil (2%) are used to produce immense amounts of heat. The heat boils water, converting it to steam, which then turns a turbine, generating electricity. So, in essence, a nuclear reactor is just a very sophisticated and dangerous way to boil water—analogous to cutting a pound of butter with a chain saw. At the moment, hydro provides 7%,and unfortunately wind is only 2% of the total U.S. mix, while solar is less than 1%. Globally, coal supplies about 64% of the world’s electricity, hydro and nuclear each provide 17%,and renewable sources again make up 2%.

Tragically, more and more people are believing the myths propagated by the nuclear industry about nuclear power—that it is emission free, produces no greenhouse gases, and is therefore the answer to global warming. Before the British election in May 2005, the nuclear industry slowly and surely fashioned a classy public relations campaign targeting politicians, media, and the British public. (That campaign, coordinated by the Nuclear Industry Association, cleverly did not address the dubious benefits of nuclear power but focused instead upon the current shortcomings of wind-generated electricity and other alternative power sources.)

The British Department of Trade and Industry (DIT) also viewed the 2005 election as an opportunity to promote nuclear power. Adrian Gault, director of DIT’s strategy group, made a wild and uninformed prediction that nuclear power would be supplying half of Britain’s electricity by 2050 while cutting greenhouse emissions. (Meanwhile, in 2001, DIT’ s Nuclear Industries Directorate had already agreed to participate in an international consortium to build the next generation of nuclear reactors—to be constructed by a British or American company. So their real agenda had been established four years earlier, and the propaganda campaign in May 2005 was merely an attempt to bring the British public around to seeing the wisdom of preordained policy.)

The British nuclear industry is working hard to persuade members of parliament and other influential public figures of the benefits of nuclear power. Dr. James Lovelock, the UK-based scientist who developed the Gaia theory, now wrongly advocates the use of nuclear power as one solution to the global warming crisis. Sir David King, chief UK government science advisor, says that nuclear power plants are the only realistic way to satisfy growing energy demands while meeting global warming targets. And former UK Greenpeace leader Peter Melchett, who now works for the giant public relations company Burson-Marsteller, has also publicly endorsed this concept. The British nuclear industry has sacrificed full disclosure and jettisoned truth in order to ensure a new round of government subsidies for nuclear power. The government subsidy program for the nuclear industry—which might be dubbed the “Security of Supply Obligation”—amounts in essence to the socialization of nuclear power, ensconced within a “free market” economy.

In England in 2006, nuclear power has risen to the top of the political agenda, as government ministers and public officials rush to address an impending energy crisis, driven by Russia’s January 2006 decision to cut off its natural gas supplies to the Ukraine and hence to much of Europe. This scare helped to convince an already compliant Prime Minister Blair and senior people at the UK Department of Trade and Industry that new nuclear power stations are needed.

In the United States and Canada, leading environmentalists similarly seem to have been swayed by the Bush/Cheney/nuclear industry rhetoric. Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalogue; Gus Speth, the dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; and former Greenpeace Canada leader Patrick Moore, who now consults for the mining, fishing, and timber industries—all seem to have accepted the nuclear industry’s propaganda as fact. Meanwhile, it is increasingly critical to set the record on nuclear power straight, as international battles for oil threaten to morph into world wars, and leading NASA scientists are taken to task by the Bush administration for daring to tell the truth about global warming.

It is interesting to speculate why President Bush and Vice President Cheney are so beholden to and enamored of the nuclear power industry, an industry that has never actually been exposed to the chill winds of the market economy they unfailingly espouse elsewhere. As neither the president nor the vice-president can boast a scientific education, they would be hard pressed to understand the scientific and medical problems associated with this arcane industry. Both are oilmen who have made a great deal of money directly or indirectly through that industry; they are deeply indebted to big business for political contributions; and they overtly seem not to be interested in the health and well being of the American people, let alone the dire situation facing the planet in the form of global warming, and the threat of nuclear meltdowns and nuclear pollution.

Ironically, while the Bush administration is reluctant to admit that global warming is really happening and that it could be caused by deleterious human activities, it is using the issue of global warming to justify the increased production of nuclear power, which, it claims, is the answer to (the non-existent problem of) global warming. Claiming, as Cheney does, that atomic electricity produces no carbon dioxide, the culprit responsible for 50% of atmospheric heating, the U.S. nuclear propaganda apparatus has been shifted into high gear to convince politicians and public alike that there can be and will be no other reasonable solution apart from nuclear power to answer this catastrophic global problem now threatening many life forms with extinction. Global warming has been a great gift to the nuclear industry.

Fewer than ten days after taking office, Cheney promised to “restore decency and integrity to the oval office,” while he simultaneously took charge of the administration’s energy task force, called the National Energy Policy Development Group. On April 17,2001, Cheney met with Kenneth Lay, the CEO of the now disgraced Enron Corporation, to discuss “energy policy matters” and the “energy crisis in California.” Following that meeting, Lay gave Cheney a three-page wish list of corporate recommendations. A subsequent comparison of that memo against the final report of the National Energy Policy Development Group showed that the task force had adopted all or significant portions of the Lay memo in seven of eight policy areas. In total, seventeen policies sought by Enron were adopted.

Cheney and his aides met at least six times with Lay and other Enron officials while preparing the task force report, which is now the basis of the administration’s energy proposals. Cheney’s staff also met with an Enron sponsored lobbying organization, the “Clean Power Group.” Cheney, his aides, and cabinet departments have repeatedly refused requests for the records of these meetings, despite the fact that the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972 says that task forces like Cheney’s must conduct public meetings and must keep publicly available records. While we do not know, as a result, what Enron may have advocated in that meeting with respect to nuclear energy, we do know that Enron made significant contributions to the Bush/Cheney campaign, the Florida recount fight fund, and to the Bush/Cheney inauguration—a situation that calls into question whether legal and ethical guidelines were crossed.

The American Nuclear Society recently held a meeting in San Diego that drew scientists and industry professional from all around the world. The prevailing mantra was simple—surprise the opponent, plan ahead, coordinate, be pro-active not reactive, and engage and communicate with antinuclear groups. This extensive propaganda campaign is global. A formally chartered organization composed of the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, called the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), is collaborating with the U.S. Nuclear Energy research Advisory Committee to elucidate the benefits, technical and institutional barriers, and research needs for the most promising nuclear energy system concepts.

Other countries engaged in the possible construction of nuclear power plants include China, which already has nine nuclear reactors and plans to build another thirty nuclear power plants. (Even if it builds its thirty plants, however, nuclear power will still provide only 5% of its energy mix, while the percentage of China’s electrical generation capacity by natural gas is expected to increase from 1% today to over 6% by 2030 according to the International Energy Agency.) New nuclear power capacity is under consideration or construction in India, Japan, Taiwan, Turkey, Belarus, Vietnam, Poland, and South Korea. Russia as well as Finland have several plants under construction.

Nuclear power is often referred to behind closed doors in the U.S. Department of Energy as “hard” energy whereas wind power, solar power, hydropower, and geothermal energy are referred to as “soft” energy pathways. Clearly the same psychosexual language used by the Pentagon generals to describe various aspects of nuclear weapons and nuclear war has been translocated into the nuclear power vocabulary of some very powerful and influential men in the electricity generating field. As a physician, I contend that unless the root cause of a problem can be ascertained there can be no cure. So too the pathology intrinsic in the nuclear power gang needs to be dissected and revealed to the cold light of day.

The potential for growth in the renewable non-CO2 producing sectors is enormous. All that is required is a commitment by government leaders to urgently enact serious laws mandating energy conservation, and to shift the subsidies currently provided to the nuclear power industry to alternative and renewable electricity generation. Corporations as well should be incentivized to invest in exciting and diverse non-polluting energy technologies. In truth, the earth is in the intensive care unit, and the prognosis is poor indeed unless we all take courageous measures.

© 2006 by Helen Caldicott. This piece originally appears in Dr. Helen Caldicott’s Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer (The New Press, September 20, 2006). Published with the permission of The New Press and available at good book stores everywhere.

  • Brad

    What a complete load of sad and sorry horse@$$@.

    Fact 1: The alternatives (renewables) are more expensive. Joe Schmoe is very sensitive in the hip pocket

    Fact 2: renewables by their nature do not result in stable power supplies because the wind don’t always blow, the sun don’t always shine and hey, you can have drought. So your base-load electricity needs a stable, predictable supply for at least 70-80% of peak demand or you’ll be living in brown-out city. You all should remember what a power grid crash is like.

    Fact 3: I don’t know where she got the “uranium is a finite resource” from, sure- it’s finite but if you use fast breeder reactors you can use a whole host of products including thorium which would give something like 10,000 years worth of present global power consumption.

    Oh, and I don’t work in the nuclear industry. I work in the oil industry. I’d be only too happy for Joe public to loose some of the irrational fear of nuclear energy that people like the good doctor like to bandy about. Dr, you can live in the Utopia you create in your mind, but the fact is that in countries like China you have to use every resource available to you to meet demand. At the present rate, China will run out of their vast reserves of coal a lot faster than the US will and we’re all breathing the same air.

    Energy conservation? Absolutely! Knee-jerk reactionism, Dr. Caldicott you can do better I’m sure.

  • Sarah

    I read your introduction and I’m afraid I don’t agree with you. I work in the nuclear industry and many of the things you are saying are false. The industry is not controlled by the government, in fact, most of the companies are openly traded on the stock market. I too am in support of renewables, but we do not have the technology right now to mass produce electricity by solar, wind, etc. From your comments about the security, it seems that you may have never visited a nuclear power plant. If you like, contact me and I will approach my superiors about giving you a tour of one of our well-taken care of power plants. I look forward to speaking with you more extensively about this.

  • anonymous

    Nuclear Power is the ONLY answer to our current energy crisis. Continuing to use fossil fuels at our current rate is folley, possibly leading to environmental disasters of a biblical proportion. Renewable energy sources are expensive, unreliable for base-load power, and in-capable of supplying our needs, even with conservation.
    I do not work in the power industry, but I spent 30 years as a nuclear operator in the Navy and earned an Engineering Degree after I retired. My experience has convinced me that there is no safer, more reliable, more efficient or more environmentally friendly way to produce massive amounts of electricity than nuclear power plants.

  • plaasjaapie

    While I’m not particularly in love with the prospect of a massive increase in nuclear-electric generating capacity this utterly ignorant sort of rubbishing of the technology does nothing but make the job of more thoughtful opponents to nuclear energy much more difficult.

  • Chris Sparling

    I work in the nuclear industry and find it frustrating that we strive for transparency and honesty while others like Dr. Caldicott can toss out silly, emotionally charged prose and they are taken as being true by many people. They are desparate, emotional and either incorrect or outright ridiculous (we would get into trouble if we spoke about our industry and issued half or non-truths knowingly. We are all entitled to our opinion but we are not entitled to our own facts. I, like most of my co-workers, am an environmentalist. I am surprised that this story (and the current book tour), is the old Helen 1980’s stuff recycled, is still able to attract people and garner standing ovations.

  • Suzanne Sherman

    I read your book “Nuclear Power is not the Answer” and I have to say I whole heartedly agree with You. We have alternatives that are safe and longlasting. It’s time we use them and stop letting corporations and big government rule the safety of our planet and our childrens future. Thank you for your very clear and concise book.

  • Hans Heyman

    We read about all the different potential sources of energy for the future and yet there is no mention of the tremendous source of energy in the form of heat that lies a few kilometres down under the eath’s crust. Live volcanoes give just a little indication of this ssource of energy which if harnessed can keep this earth fully supplied of energy for thousands of years to come. We can now send people to the moon, surely our scientists can come up with methods that can harness this supply of energy so we need not bother any further with nuclear, wind, tidal or any other sources.

  • http://myspace.com Brandon Theut

    i beleive that research in the area of nuclear power should continue because of the fact that it is helpful for us in so many ways. They should also be holding it under higher security, and not do the experiments just any place they want to but in remote areas were no one or thing will be affected by it.

  • Clinton

    To hear her tell it, all the world’s problems are caused by the misogynistic men (i.e. ALL men) in charge being insecure about their penises. Women would spend money on milk for babies instead of phallic missiles. Good God almighty this biotch needs to get laid!

  • jessica

    i think nuclear poweris stupid and should be further investigated.

  • anonymous

    I take the advice of those that are employed by the nuclear industry with a grain of salt. You must remember that the engineers of the Titanic swore up and down that it was unsinkable. In fact, they probably would have ridiculed you had you tried to oppose them. (didn’t they set out on their journey without enough lifeboats because of how sure they were?) One unforeseen disaster at one of these plants would be catastrophic. That is what scares me about this technology, and I look forward to the day when we can decommission the current plants in favor of safer alternatives.

  • http://UPHE.org Dr. Brian Moench

    Perhaps some of the previous nuclear industry cheerleaders should familiarize themselves with the epidemiologic data that has repeatedly shown for over 50 years the danger of the entire nuclear fuel cycle to public health. I’ve never read anything by even one of these proponents who could mount a credible challenge to the works of Ernest Sternglass, John Gofman, Alice Stewart, Arthur Tamplin, or Andrei Sakarov,just to name of few, all of whom were the world’s experts on the health effect of nuclear radiation and became adamantly opposed to all forms of nuclear power.

  • Michael Gariety

    I am a physicist, and it is very sad to see lies and distortions on BOTH sides of this issue. First of all, the first photo that shows four cooling towers, each with a column of rising steam is misleading. It is juvenile to say that nuclear power pollutes into the air and show this picture. This is steam, the same kind that rises out of my saucepan when I cook mac and cheese, a very delightful dish I may add.

    There is an absence of real data to quantify amounts of radiation and pollution in this book. Here are a few examples from this book of vague references of overhyped/misleading/missing data:

    “Nuclear energy creates SIGNIFICANT greenhouse gases and pollution today, and is on a trajectory to produce as much as conventional sources of energy within the next one or two decades.”

    “Nuclear power is not “clean and green,” as the industry claims, because LARGE amounts of traditional fossil fuels are required to mine and refine the uranium needed to run nuclear power reactors, to construct the massive concrete reactor buildings, and to transport and store the toxic radioactive waste created by the nuclear process.”

    “Burning of this fossil fuel emits SIGNIFICANT quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2)—the primary “greenhouse gas”—into the atmosphere.”

    “In addition, LARGE amounts of the now-banned chlorofluorocarbon gas (CFC) are emitted during the enrichment of uranium.”

    “Within ten to twenty years, nuclear reactors will produce no net energy because of the MASSIVE amounts of fossil fuel that will be necessary to mine and to enrich the remaining poor grades of uranium.”

    this sentence actually has two of these vague words… “However, this process is EXTREMELY expensive, medically dangerous for nuclear workers, and releases LARGE amounts of radioactive material into the air and water;”

    “This waste contains extremely toxic elements that will INEVITABLY pollute the environment and human food chains”

    “Nuclear power is EXORBITANTLY expensive, and NOTORIOUSLY unreliable.” …unreliable… really?

    “To compound this problem, the global supplies of usable uranium fuel are finite” … the universe’s supply of hydrogen is also finite. …the amount of lint in my pocket is finite.

    “So, in essence, a nuclear reactor is just a very sophisticated and dangerous way to boil water—analogous to cutting a pound of butter with a chain saw.”
    …Actually, a dangerous way to boil water would be to set your hair on fire and then place the pot of water on top of your head. Which brings me to my next point… which weighs more, a pound of butter… or a pound of chainsaws?

    “Tragically, more and more people are believing the myths propagated by the nuclear industry about nuclear power—that it is emission free, produces no greenhouse gases, and is therefore the answer to global warming.”
    …What IS tragic, is that people believe statements about atomic energy without checking the facts (Physicists, Nuclear Engineers, even Wikipedia :). Also, nuclear energy is not THE answer to global warming… it is one of many solutions that can be simultaniously employed. And don’t get me started on ‘global warming’…
    Should we pollute… NO! Are we responsible for the climate changes on our planet… NO! Should we be more responsible for taking care of our planet… YES! Is the sun the main cause of changes to our climate… YES!

    Beware of arguments that take away your hope and stir up anger. And remember that Mark Twain said there are three kinds of lies… 1) lies 2) damn lies 3) and statistics.

    P.S. I can see the MANY faults, bad decisions, and stupidities in President Bush… can you see the many faults and lies in this book?

  • Jor

    Thank you soo much for this article! I am a homeschool highschol student and I take part in a debate club!! This year we are debateing the production of alternative fuels and my case is about doing away with nuclear power!! This is perfect because your credential are reliable and this article get the dirt on nuclear power!!
    Thanks again!!

  • Tom Culver

    Thanks Helen for the insightful read. I have never been one to use the “nukes saves oil” argument. I think Nuclear energy needs to be carefully looked at as a twenty or thirty year “bad aid” to help solve our global warming issue. Australia for example with its ample uranium resources could strictly control the mining, building, and maintenance for many emerging countries intent on building coal fired plants. In turn these profits could be mandated thru the government to but Australia on the forefront of solar, wind, and alternative cleaner energy sources. The new smaller reactors would serve some very poor nations very well as long as there were strict guide lines about the longetivity, building, maintenance, and shutdown of the facilities after a set goal in renewables is achieved. A big win for everybody with little danger of accident as the right controls from the stronger countries with the smarts to pull it off. I think if you add up real nuclear “accidents” (no the two Japanese bombs don’t count) you will find nuclear to be safer than coal and oil by far.

    Thanks again for the great book.

    Tom

  • Tom Culver

    That was supposed to say “Band Aid” sorry. and the “but Australia” should be “put Australia” Brad and others, your points come across more credible without the foul language:)

  • Anon

    I guess ANYONE can release a book today, no matter how unfounded their information is. e_e

    Chernobyl was an accident.

    France has been living off of Nuclear power for decades now, and some places since WWII!
    Length of life vs casualty rate. The numbers favor Length of Life, which means it’s considered a favorable option.

  • Anon

    “We read about all the different potential sources of energy for the future and yet there is no mention of the tremendous source of energy in the form of heat that lies a few kilometers down under the Earth’s crust. Live volcanoes give just a little indication of this source of energy which if harnessed can keep this earth fully supplied of energy for thousands of years to come. We can now send people to the moon, surely our scientists can come up with methods that can harness this supply of energy so we need not bother any further with nuclear, wind, tidal or any other sources.”

    The amount of power we need must rely on a relative constant.
    The flows change in speed, not to mention the extreme heat causing things to melt and whathaveyou. There’s almost nothing today that can withstand that kind of constant heat.
    Plus, if we all started stuffing magma mills into the ground, we would tax it so hard the flows would stop and we’d all be doomed to… well, I don’t know what would happen, really… :P

    But seriously, I agree with the sort of idea you have behind this, but I’m not really on board with the practical application.

  • Gerardo Alvarez de Benito

    Nuclear energy (fision,thorium,fast breeder reactors,storage of residues,dismantling,fusion,etc) is far too:
    expensive,complicated,dangerous( specially terrorism),and
    time consuming for: research,selecting ways,developing them,choosing solutions,designing,finding and acceptable location,construction.
    I think basic reason for governments support is their unacceptable interest
    in nuclear weapons.
    Should this reason be rejected by citizens,the whole nuclear energy would
    collapse.

  • David Percival

    The source of any CO2 induced global warming is the trapping of a greater proportion of the heat released into the atmosphere by nature’s processes and man’s activities.
    Heat from uranium decay is released slowly in nature and millions of times quicker in nuclear power plants – which must therefore be unaturally increasing the heat in the atmosphere and causing some global warming.

  • Charles Hardy

    With the proliferation of nuclear reactors worldwide and the global exploitation of uranium metal, I should think the heat released as radioactivity would be a source of global warming in itself. I mean, that’s a lot of heat energy being released in the past fifty years, the time period when the earth’s temperature rose. Why do you never see any experts crunching the numbers on heat released from a reactor?

    Also, if I took an infra-red picture from a satellite, would reactors glow as hot spots? How about mine-tailings?

  • christopher e peterson

    THE PROPOSED OWNEROF THE NUCLEAR PLANT IN GEORGIA PRODUCES 20% OF THE NUCLEAR POWER IN THIS COUNTRY AND CONTRIBUTED MUCH TO OBAMBA’S CAMPAIGN. HIS CHIEF OF STAFF WORKED FOR THE SAME CORP.

  • Jim

    This book is tremendous… very clear, conclusive and comprehensive. Nuclear power should have NO PLACE whatsoever in the world’s future and all existing station should be (carefully) dismantled. It is about 180 pages of content. Get it. Note the lies at the top of this post from corrupt industry posters!!

    Go for wind and solar. T Boone Pickens agrees. Get vehicles on natural gas too.

  • Ghostrider

    So many uneducated fearmongers spreading lies and false data about nuclear power, so little time.

  • JG

    Nuclear may not be the answer for the US or Europe, but there’s nothing to say that these nations will continue to lead economically, financially or technologically and nothing to say others won’t simply be braver and step into their abandoned shoes.

    As an engineer, this possibility looms large, and frankly I won’t go down with the ship with all the rats. That’s why emigration from the US is likely in my future. I’m now ex-pat, former CA resident.

  • David McFarland

    I work in the Naval Nuclear Industry. Most of this article is a bunch of bull. Nuclear power, especially it’s future and the ideas spawned from it, will reduce carbon emissions as much as those who are afraid of reactors will let it.
    Fear of reactors is ignorance. Fearing another Chernobyl is to fear something that has been more than prepared for – America, at least, doesn’t design reactors like Chernobyl. It’s like comparing a steam engine to the six cylinder in your car.

    I’ve done the rad surveys. I’ve touched a shutdown reactor with my bare hands. If you live in a valley, you’re exposed to more radiation due to temperature inversions and the radon involved than you are in the “control room” of a reactor, only 60 feet from the reactor itself.
    There are so many safe guards within the reactor, even IF a terrorist group managed to get into the “control room,” they wouldn’t be able to cause a meltdown. They’d have to have taken years of instruction – after passing thorough background checks – to even begin to know how to cause a meltdown, save shutting down the reactor, placing C4 all over the reactor compartment, and then starting back up. Without that training, it’d be hilarious to see them try.
    That’s also providing that they get past the dozens of ex-marines and ex-army security guards armed to the teeth, the cameras, dogs, pressure and electrical sensors, then somehow get the codes to actually get into the reactor plant building, et cetera…
    I’d also like to see an aircraft try to bring down a reactor. They’d have a small target to hit over a large site. That’s if they get through the primary and secondary shields, then the containment barrier alone is enough to take quite a bit of the blow of an aircraft, and is designed to do so.
    A truck bomb? Good luck. I’m not even going to touch that retarded idea.

    This is basically people who know what they are talking about against those who know nothing about nuclear power other than Chernobyl being bad. Chernobyl was the worst possible design, the worst possible equipment failures, with the worst possible morons operating it.

  • Lee

    @Dave >
    Yea I think she is smearing the facts and that most of the time, nuclear is a fine way to make energy. But your comment about Chernobyl.. makes me uneasy.

    >Chernobyl was the worst possible design, the worst >possible equipment failures, with the worst possible >morons operating it.

    I mean yes.. but isnt that the point? The technology needs to be safe even when subject to worst case conditions.

  • gerardo Alvarez de Benito

    Safety and cost of storage (not reactors)of high radioactivity long term residues for 100,000 years against fanatic terrorists IS the problem.
    Fast breeder reactors are too expensive and dangerous.
    Same for regeneration of spent uranium.
    Thorium reactors not even designed yet.
    Fusion is 30/50 years away,IF EVER AT ALL..
    Anyway,similarly to no insurance company considering business with any reactor anywhere,ever,no private financing shall undertake nuclear busines as soon as Goverments drop nuclear weapons(and so financing any nuclear).
    And what about the cost of OLKILUOTO 3?.
    And http:/www.after-oil.co.uk/nuclear.htm.> by John Busby
    So,forget nuclear energy altogether.Thank you. .

  • Stephen Pipkin-Savage

    was triggerman on nukes (USAF 1968-1972)
    since early ’80s and first action against nuclear at Diablo Canyon, i have been an educated anti-nuclear activist.

    Helen Caldicott’s writings, along with John Gofman, a qualified voice, helped educate me to the dangers of nuclear power as with its aftermarket child, nuclear weapons, dangers i was already deeply aware of.

    look, the pro-nuke lobby has its advocates, obviously.

    and they lie all the time.

    anyone who advocates nuclear power over safer green alternatives is either ignorant or evil, in my humble opinion.

    years ago, i made a stand with the Caldicotts and Wassermans of the world and my understanding of the extreme dangers of nuclear power and its diabolical child, nuclear weapons…deliverable now by suitcases…is only intensified by incidents like Chernobyl and, now, in the wake of Earthquake Japan. Diablo Canyon in CA, where Trudell, Jackson Browne, I and hundreds of others protested startup in the early ’80s is close to a faultline.

    it can, and will, happen here. increased nuclear dependency results in increased risk to our Generations when catastrophe occurs.

    in the short lifespan of this technology we have already seen enough literal impact (weapons, 1945…incidents since)
    to understand that this is a moral issue.

    nuclear is immoral. it always was and always will be. it is not safe; it is inherently volatile and uncontrollable under catastrophic condtions.

    but it will function as a good population control mechanism at some point.

    perhaps that is the objective?

    the half-lives of nuclear by-products is measureable in tens and hundreds of thousands of years.

    this results in genetic alterations in all species, now observable to the naked eye in species in the vicinities of nuclear power plants.

    but, forgive me, you don’t know me any better than i know any of the other commentators here.

    study, research, walk the areas around nuclear power plants, think about the Generations.

    then decide.

    it’s all part of a monopoly game played by plutocrats without souls who have no understanding or respect for ancient natural sacred ways.

    a vote for nuclear is a vote for apocalypse. and that’s the reason we have it….because of Greed and Arrogant Ignorance by the perps.

    committed pro-nukers have no soul. anyone with a soul would get out of that business.

    anyone who cares about the Future Generations as a priority would get out of that business and fervently oppose it. that’s where we started, where we repented and i am proud that my children saw this establishment guy to that point repent and put his ass on the line AGAINST nuclear power, the parent of nuclear war and invisible pollution.

    Stephen Pipkin-Savage
    Clearwater, FL

  • gerardo Alvarez de Benito

    Fukushima is not a NATURE´s problem,but a TECHNICAL problem,so an anthropomorfic problem
    Nature has just disclosed/shown several technical problems existing in nuclear fision.
    Actually cause could have been:
    Terrorism,inundation(from river,or broken/exploded dam),long electric failure,
    In any case,the design of whole charge of fuel,plus even spent radiactive residues,both together in/by reactor, and needing never failing refrigeration,is a basic,unacceptable, and tremendous danger.
    Repositories/storages for high radiactivity residues for ove 100,000 years
    are also pathetic solutions,and clear aim for terrorists to run away with
    Plutonium to easly make dirty bombs.
    And about reprocessing,failure already of the first 27 procedures out of 31 ever imagined,isn´t enough to give up spending those enormous amounts of money?
    Nuclearization of the World is ruinous,dirty,and terryfying
    Thanks

  • Jay

    Helen Caldicott, the majority of what you state is false.

    Supply – Uranium is now able to be extracted from seawater cost-effectively meaning supplies are vast. Companies are working on creating reactors to run off of spent fuel and effectively deplete its radioactivity (TerraPower). Thorium reactors look very promising and safe.

    Renewable electricity comes from intermittent sources and therefore requires backup or energy storage to be grid compatible on a large scale. Add this on top of the already high costs and it is practical or scalable as a whole world solution. Which is unfortunate I must say because I work at a solar company.

    Safety- The worst possible nuclear scenarios have played themselves out in fukushima, Three mile island, and cherynobyl. Compared to the amount of electricity produced, the fatalaties are lower than coal, natural gas, and hydropower. Radiation release from three mile island was insignificant. Fukushima has significant radiation release within 10km only. You claim hundereds of thousands could die in a disaster. This is false propaganda. Newer designs employ passive core cooling in the event of an emergency instead of relying on grid electricity as in the other cases. This makes them much more safe than prior designs. Also nuclear reactors are resistant to terrorist attacks of the Boeing 747 nature. If a missile is able to find its way onto US territory then we may have bigger issues.

    Weapons – It is extremely difficult to make nuclear weapons from the products of nuclear reactors. Whole countries such as (North Korea) have been trying without success. How any group with enough resources to pull if off would have access to US nuclear waste is beyond me.

    Cost – The Palo Verde Nuclear plant in Arizona produces 3.3GW of energy that is cheaper on a $/kWh basis than all other generation sources aside from Hydro. Liberalized electricity markets have made obtaining the necessary funding for nuclear more difficult than in past, but as climate change concerns grow nuclear will inevitably gain great interest and investment once again.

    Please stop spreading lies.

  • Jay

    I meant renewable energy is NOT practical or scalable. If intermittency is considered (which it usually is not) it isnt even arguable and cant be overcome without MAJOR break throughs in storage cost. Energy Storage solutions are often dirty and require much energy to produce, these arent scalable either.

Get The Latest California Literary Review Updates Delivered Free To Your Inbox!

Powered by FeedBlitz

Recent Comments