The other night, as news from Japan took a turn for the worse, I stayed up late and wrote about Nuclear Power Madness. I hope you'll read the article and pass it on.
My opposition to nuclear power is longstanding. In the late 1970s, while advocating for solar and wind energy as well as conservation, I devoted two years to public education and nonviolent civil disobedience that aimed to shut down a large nuclear power plant operating just forty miles from Portland, Oregon.
Despite the latest in a long line of presidential assurances, the nuclear facts are dire. As the director of Public Citizen's Energy Program wrote this week, "There are alternatives. Had Japan invested in rooftop solar and wind turbines to the degree it spent maintaining and building nuclear reactors, the country wouldn't be grappling with the potential of a full-scale nuclear meltdown."
The ominous power of the nuclear industry extends from Sacramento to Washington, D.C., where an atomic lobbying force throws buckets of money at Capitol Hill.
Like every other president since the 1940s, Barack Obama has promoted nuclear power. Now, with reactors melting down in Japan, the official stance is more disconnected from reality than ever.
Political elites are still clinging to the oxymoron of “safe nuclear power.” It’s up to us -- people around the world -- to peacefully and insistently shut those plants down.
There is no more techno-advanced country in the world than Japan. Nuclear power is not safe there, and it is not safe anywhere.
As the New York Times reported on Monday, “most of the nuclear plants in the United States share some or all of the risk factors that played a role at Fukushima Daiichi: locations on tsunami-prone coastlines or near earthquake faults, aging plants and backup electrical systems that rely on diesel generators and batteries that could fail in extreme circumstances.”
Nuclear power -- from uranium mining to fuel fabrication to reactor operations to nuclear waste that will remain deadly for hundreds of thousands of years -- is, in fact, a moral crime against future generations.
But syrupy rhetoric has always marinated the nuclear age. From the outset -- even as radioactive ashes were still hot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- top officials in Washington touted atomic energy as redemptive. The split atom, we were to believe, could be an elevating marvel.
President Dwight Eisenhower pledged “to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma” by showing that “the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.”
Even after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 -- and now this catastrophe in Japan -- the corporate theologians of nuclear faith have continued to bless their own divine projects.
Thirty years ago, when I coordinated the National Citizens Hearings for Radiation Victims on the edge of Capitol Hill, we heard grim testimony from nuclear scientists, workers, downwinders and many others whose lives had been forever ravaged by the split atom. Routine in the process was tag-team deception from government agencies and nuclear-invested companies.
By 1980, generations had already suffered a vast array of terrible consequences -- including cancer, leukemia and genetic injuries -- from a nuclear fuel cycle shared by the “peaceful” and military atom. Today, we know a lot more about the abrupt and slow-moving horrors of the nuclear industry.
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