Don’t jump on the nuclear bandwagon

To the editor:

With the recent rapid rise in gas prices, the hype about nuclear as an alternative source of energy has resumed — if it ever let up. Notwithstanding the Fukushima disaster and the consequent spread of dangerous radioactive emissions, the extent of which is still unknown, the nuclear industry is still trying to persuade us that it has the solution to our energy problems. Here are seven reasons why they are wrong:

1. Time. It can take up to 20 years to commission and build a nuclear plant. The supply of cheap oil is already exhausted, so gas prices will continue to rise during this time, to the point where the continuation of our oil-dependent lifestyle will be seriously threatened.

2. Insurance. The insurance industry has refused to underwrite nuclear power, which means we taxpayers will be expected to fill that void. Can we afford to do so when federal and state budgets are already strained, and cuts in education, health care, social services, and highway repair are in the works?

3. Waste. Nuclear waste has a half-life of 100,000, and there is no safe place to put it. It is proposed to truck it up I-26 and I-40 from the Savannah River Plant, and deposit it somewhere in our mountains. Do we want that hazard for our children and grandchildren in our backyard?

4. Cost. Nuclear plants are prohibitively expensive, and cost overruns are legendary. Private investment is hard to come by because of the risk involved. President Obama has slipped $36 billion in new construction loan guarantees into the 2012 budget. If we can’t afford to fund teacher salaries, food stamps, health care for the elderly, bridges, and social security, why would we even think of pouring money into a nuclear boondoggle?

5. Peak Uranium. At present there are about 60 years of uranium left. If electricity generation from nuclear grows, however, this figure will decline, to the point where if all the world’s electricity were generated with nuclear, we’d have about three years’ supply left. Like peak oil—which rising gas prices demonstrate has already hit us—the supply of uranium is limited and does not warrant a huge investment for a short-term gain. Shouldn’t we be planning for a long-range future by putting our money into renewable sources of energy like wind and solar? (My wife and I have installed solar panels on our roof with this in mind.)

6. Carbon Emissions. Contrary to industry claims, nuclear is not a carbon-free way of generating electricity. True, the actual generation uses no fossil fuels, but the mining, processing, enrichment, treatment, and disposal of nuclear fuel all have significant impacts, equivalent to about one-third those of conventional, gas-fired generating plants. The production of nuclear power does send greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to global warming and environmental devastation. Haven’t we had enough of that?

7. Risk of Accidents. In the U.S. we already have 104 licensed reactors, 23 of which are of the identical or similar flawed, outdated design as the Mark I at Fukushima. Through the years there has been a steady stream of nuclear accidents worldwide, leading up to the Fukushima disaster. A major incident like this in just one of these plants could kill thousands, spread radioactive residue, and do trillions in damage, devastating our economy and putting future generations at risk. Why would we want to take a chance on this?

It’s up to us to muster “people power” to stop the rush to nuclear power by opposing the industry propaganda that has spent some $645 million in the past decade pushing their product in Congress. As Nuclear Watch South puts it, “No Nukes, Y’all!”

Doug Wingeier


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