from Democracy Now! (please check out the 16-minute interview).
Now watch me argue with my strawman:
This, in spite of the current dirty-bomb event brought on by the quake/tsunami, in spite of the pollution involved in uranium mining. Consider, too, that the waste is dangerous for many times longer than human civilization has existed on the planet. Civilization of some sort has been around for maybe 6,000 years. Fissile fuels commonly found in spent fuel rods are plutonium-239 with a half life of 80,000 years (13.3 times the current age of civilization), uranium-233 with a half-life of 159,000 years (26.5 times civilization). and uranium-235 with a half life of 704 million years (117,333.3 times civilization). Mostly it is uranium used today. So, even if there is some kind of deep, lead-insulated vault for all the rods (after hazardously transporting them to the disposal site), how do you communicate with our remote descendants a million years from now (when current earth languages are forgotten)–in order to warn them not to open up the vault?
But what about my need to watch TV and so on? Don’t we either have to have greenhouse-gas-emitting fossil fuels or nuclear power?
There are alternatives to fossil & fissile: solar, wind, geothermal, conservation. Yes, yes, I know, no infrastructure, no feasibility… But, with a will similar to the 1960s race to the moon, moving priorities from endless war to sustainable energy, getting corporations and super-rich to pay their fair share, and taxing carbon realistically (to pay for the real costs pollution charges), well then, maybe the alternatives would be realistic, wouldn’t they? As for the “if pigs could fly” rejoinder, that’s the retort offered to abolitionists, to freedom riders, to protesters against the Vietnam War.
But consider the TVA and rural electrification in this country, and then cast an eye at China, India, Indonesia, and Brazil. Aren’t they, with little government restraint, going to need a mind-numbingly large amount of power? Surely a bunch of windmills aren’t going to be enough. Nuclear power is like a knife in the kitchen: It is going to be used, so we had better learn to use it correctly or we are going to get hurt.
Well, so far (and, from what i see, well into the future), in this kitchen we have an 18-month-old fooling around with a very sharp knife. And as for those big countries mentioned–China, India, Indonesia, and Brazil–let’s be aware how that is pretty much the position of the U.S. delegation at Copenhagen and Cancun, representing the greatest polluter in the world: “Why should we bother doing anything at all until we know those other places are cleaning up their act?” A great man once told us that we need to get the beam out of our own eye before we discuss the speck in the other’s eye–and once we make progress there, we are in a stronger position to scold and cajole.
One more little thing on the nukes, by the way–and this from economist Joseph Stiglitz: “Nuclear power is a really interesting case, because that industry has never been commercially viable. It has always existed on the back of a government-provided insurance, that we provide as taxpayers, that they don’t pay for. And we see now in Japan that, you know, they did the same thing, and we see the cost of that. The rest of society is paying an enormous price. There is no way that the slight savings in energy cost can make up for the loss to the Japanese economy that has resulted from the nuclear explosion. And the same thing could happen here in the United States…. If the industry really believed that the Japan scenario could not happen here, let them make an unlimited liability and provide us with a guarantee that they would pick up for the financial cost of the kind of disaster that Japan is facing. And I can tell you that if you made them bear those costs, if we didn’t give them that free ride of limited liability, that industry would not exist in the United States today.”