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.