.Nuke Talk: A dangerous source of power

With J. Robert Oppenheimer having his second 15 minutes of fame, let’s talk about nuclear proliferation.

When I was a kid in the Cold War, we had an awareness and fear of the dangers of war or meltdown that could alter or destroy life on Earth almost instantly. None of those dangers are gone. But when is the last time anyone’s mentioned Three Mile Island, The China Syndrome or the most watched television movie of all time, 1983’s The Day After?

Besides the egregious lack of seriousness in arms reduction efforts these days, I’d like to peek at a trickier type of nukes: power. You may now see ads from advocates for nuclear energy from environmental-sounding organizations with names like Good Clean Green Power Smart Future, emphasizing the carbon pollution of fossil fuel energy.

When you do, please remember three things, which they always omit:

1. Nuclear power is not a renewable resource. Mining uranium is destructive and will run out too.

2. Nuclear waste remains lethal for thousands of years. This country’s “best” solution for waste disposal was the massive infrastructure project to bury it under Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But due to the very warranted fears of folks nearby, even that project is shut down, so there is no plan for storing the immense and growing quantity of nuclear waste.

3. The next Chernobyl or worse is a matter of when, not if. We can just pray that it is not soon or in our backyard.

I’m sure the many voices claiming that nuclear energy is a magical way to meet our energy needs really believe it. Those folks point out that renewable energy sources can not meet the growing demand for energy. So here’s the hard thing to acknowledge: There is no way to meet the demand, unless we are willing to look straight on at the rapacious consumption and corporate hegemony driving the cancerous global status quo.

Yes, this means capitalism, that word that has cravenly been in bed with “democracy,” as if they are synonyms. They are not, and there are those of us who can imagine myriad scenarios where our standard of living and well-being surpass that of today while not bowing down to our corporate masters.

Jasper Thelin lives in Marin County.


  1. Jasper is correct, but left out a couple of highly significant points: (1) nuclear reactors can sabotaged to deadly effect; (2) reactor waste can be used by terrorists to make “dirty” (i.e., radioactive) bombs that, rather than killing, e.g., all the people in a community, would leave it uninhabitable for generations; (3) nuclear power reactors, due to a complete lack of knowledgable engineers, technicians, special industrial equipment and parts fabricators world-wide–are outrageously expensive and have broken and continue to break the bank for countries and companies that invested in them, and much of the usable uranium for fuels comes from places like Russia (36% of world supply) and Namibia, and Kazakhstan (not great business partners); and, if those are not sufficient, (4) the new reactor designs–touted by nuclear industry tools and folks thinking they can get rich quick selling the proverbial Brooklyn Bridge again–do not exist in the real world–they are all “on the drawing board” concepts that the Nuclear (non)Regulatory Commission would like to test in your back yard. Finally, by the by, the nuclear industry (owners of what’s left of America’s “power to cheap to meter” nuclear power “fleet” and the promoters of more nukes everywhere–and not so bright folks (decent ones) they have conned) are all trying to park America’s nuclear waste in southern New Mexico. The New Mexico legislature recently indicated its displeasure with that idea. “Safe, clean power too cheap to meter” is what the US government and the would-be nuclear energy industry told us in the 1950s and early 1960s. The reality was vastly under-costed, wasteful, community polluting economic dead-weights and no where to put about 88,000 metric tons of “spent” radioactive “fuel” some of which has at least a 25,000 year half-life of lethality to living creatures like us. Too cheap to meter? Safe? Clean? Really? Let’s not be fooled again.

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