“Far from tackling climate change, nuclear power is an expensive distraction whose safety is threatened by wildfires and floods, experts say.” – Climate News Network
100 Seconds to Midnight
The atomic Doomsday Clock (video) was moved to 90 SECONDS to midnight January 23, 2023. This the closest it has ever been before in history. As the statement issued by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists explains: “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare [funded largely by corporate totalitarian forces and dark money campaigns] that undercuts society’s ability to respond.”
The Nuclear Dilemma
In the following video from Just Have a Think on “Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century” Dave Borlace, the content creator, brings up some of the key points in the nuclear debate that will be also discussed here. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report elicited a large public response concerning global warming. It is clear that the climate crisis is here and its frightening consequences are upon us. This is indisputable, despite the continued decades of denial from governments (video) and world leaders.
As we have entered the sixth mass extinction, there are constant reports of record breaking heat waves, fires, droughts, melting glaciers, increasingly powerful storms and hurricanes, wavy jet streams, and sea level rise. In fact, the last time CO2 emissions were this high, modern humans didn’t even exist.
At this point most people recognize that there is an urgent need to divest from fossil fuels and decarbonize quickly in order to avoid the worst outcomes of climate change. According to a Pew study, “About two-thirds of U.S. adults (67%) say the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change, and similar shares say the same about government efforts to protect air (67%) and water quality (68%) – findings that are consistent with results from a 2018 Center survey.”
Nuclear energy supporters have responded by suggesting that nuclear power can provide the means to decarbonize. Therefore, they claim it is a potential solution to climate change. The IPCC special report, discussed above, comprises some constituents from pro-nuclear groups, and goes so far as to encourage society to ‘take a risky gamble on unproven technologies and to double down on nuclear power despite the enormous risks to human health, the environment, and all life.’
However, it is well known that the nuclear solution is disturbingly fraught with unanswered questions in an uncertain future. It seems the IPCC is allowing these all to unnerving implications of nuclear power’s longstanding legacy of failure to deliver on promises to go ignored here. Further, underlying the IPCC report’s claim is the belief that more technological solutions can fix the climate problems they created in the first place. Yet, technological fixes more often than not don’t address the root causes of climate change, rather they exacerbate them. This is a little known problem known as Jevon’s Paradox.
Worse still, deeper research on these matter does not appear to have not been sufficiently conducted by the IPCC, which makes its investigation into these matters and its advice on this issue superficial at best. Alternatively, renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures are now proving that they can help significantly to cut the energy sector’s emissions, and are safe, cost-effective, and commercially available today according to experts like Mark Z. Jacobson. It seems the IPCC report should have focused more on renewables, instead of recommending more risky behavior in a high stakes environment.
Meanwhile, the myths about renewables and intermittency continue as well as more confusion about renewables requiring too many mineral resources. Zeke Hausfather, @hausfath, said recently about renewables “we see a lot of concern today that renewables and other clean electricity will require too much materials, and producing those will break our remaining carbon budget. We have a new paper out today we find that these concerns are overblown.” Another expert, Simon Michaux, has said concerns here. But this just means more study including number and data crunching is needed. Once we have artificial intelligence (AI) and neural networks trained for this research it should go faster.
In any case, nuclear industry apologists and pundits continue to argue that the paradoxically deadly solution of nuclear power must be considered as a way to mitigate the climate crisis, a deadly situation in itself. Even reputable scientists have said that we have to consider nuclear power, but only as a last ditch solution to climate change. This is increasingly surprising to hear at all, given the untold unnecessary risks and costs.
However, in more recent studies and reports the nuclear solution to climate change is proving to be a dangerously outdated option which no one should consider even as a last ditch option. More careful risk analysis clearly shows that building new nuclear facilities will not be in time or enough to slow the emissions causing the majority of warming.
There is a lot of back and forth on this issue. This is a highly polarized and extremely controversial issue due to the harms associated with it. Therefore, global society and each of us as concerned citizen scientists must increasingly perform risk and cost-benefit assessments more carefully so that we can participate in the debate. We must weigh the massive risks against any industry-alleged benefits before making any judgements or conclusions. So, let’s actually look at the list of advantages and disadvantages and analyze the results for ourselves.
What are the advantages/benefits of nuclear power?
A potential list the advantages of nuclear power include the following:
- Low Greenhouse Gas emissions.
- Low life-cycle carbon emissions.
- High power output.
- Provides a steady base load output.
- Inexpensive electricity (this has never been proven to be the case).
- Nuclear energy doesn’t rely on fossil fuels, (but it is not carbon free either).
- Economic impact (i.e. it is said to provide jobs, which could be counted as a disadvantage in an endless-growth based, BS Job milieu which is also harmful to the environment).
The Pro-nuclear Argument:
There is a small group of mostly long-time nuclear industry supporters that have continuously proposed replacing 100% of the world’s fossil fuel power plants with nuclear reactors as a way to solve climate change. They propose nuclear grow to satisfy up to 20 percent of all our energy (not just electricity) needs. They advocate that nuclear is a “clean” carbon-free source of power, but they don’t look at the human impacts of these scenarios. So, let’s actually do the math and find out if their claims can withstand fact-checking.
“One nuclear power plant takes on average about 14-1/2 years to build, from the planning phase all the way to operation. According to the World Health Organization, about 7.1 million people die from air pollution each year, with more than 90% of these deaths from energy-related combustion. So switching out our energy system to nuclear would result in about 93 million people dying, as we wait for all the new nuclear plants to be built in the all-nuclear scenario.” – Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation
Pro-nuclear entities argue that the benefits of nuclear power outweigh the risks given our current energy demands and the continued lack of investment in and infrastructure in place for renewables even as this is becoming increasingly less true. In this ScientistsWarning.TV video “Michael Shellenberger: Nuclear Power?” Michael Shellenberger (a well-known climate denier and nuclear industry apologist) discusses this matter further. There are many sides to this argument. The video exposes how those who side with nuclear power tend to downplay its numerous costs and risks.
For example, in this video, Michael Shellenberger, significantly under-represents the enormous catastrophe and ongoing unfolding environmental tragedy at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident site as many nuclear supporters do. Shellenberger also outrageously, claims, openly gaslighting his audience, that according to an apples-to-oranges nuclear industry supplied analysis by Environmental Progress, solar panels create about 300 times more toxic waste per unit of electricity generated than nuclear power plants. This will be discussed further below.
What are the disadvantages? Let’s Face it, “Nuclear Safety” is An Oxymoron
Despite the advantages of nuclear power discussed above, nuclear power comes with many significant, insurmountable and notorious disadvantages that it will never overcome. The following long list is enough to make anyone reconsider any commitment to nuclear power; except for decommissioning. This makes talking about renewables more important than ever. This is a very long list and this is only the beginning:
- Substantial safety and security risks.
- Ongoing containment issues.
- Increased probability of proliferation: radiological terrorism, nuclear war.
- Constant leaks resulting in low level radiation (LLR) in the environment.
- Huge water requirements.
- Bio-accumulation (biosphere and biodiversity risks).
- Long term medical and community-wide health risks.
- Still contributes to CO2 emissions, and produces greenhouse gases.
- Land use and habitat destruction.
- Unprofitable plants that are impossible to maintain in changing climate.
- At best, nuclear power’s contribution would be minor.
- Nuclear power is too late.
- Nuclear power is marginal form of energy in decline.
- Nuclear energy is too expensive.
- Nuclear energy is not adapted to a deteriorating climate, especially sea level rise and coastal inundation.
- Radioactivity and nuclear waste: more and more pollution.
- Major accidents: a disaster is always possible.
- And then, there’s the nuclear waste disposal and storage problem which remains unsolved to date, and which means high-level waste (HLW) in the environment that is so hazardous that humans and even robots cannot move it.
Summing Up The Mounting Disadvantages
Don’t be fooled by the nuclear smokescreen. Upon further analysis it becomes abundantly clear that nuclear energy produces more problems than it solves and carries more risks than we can calculate or pay for as a global society. “Most U.S. nuclear power plants cost more to run than they earn.” says, Amory Lovins for Forbes. And that’s without factoring in the accidents, since those are never even costed. Worse than that still, because the industry has failed to find a ‘solution’ to the waste issue, society can never truly cost even one unit of nuclear energy. The cost per megawatt hour (Mwh) is actually infinitely more than calculable, considering the waste is around essentially forever. The cost of this technology is astronomical, while conversely the return on investment is stultifyingly poor. It makes no sense.
Nuclear is Not Low Carbon
Worse than that still further, it is also a myth that it is low carbon and it is a myth that it will offset CO2 emissions significantly enough to solve climate change. It is too slow and too costly to be a viable solution. In short, recent studies have clearly shown that nuclear power does not reduce emissions enough to make it a good solution to climate change. As Lovins says, “if the nuclear one-tenth of global electricity generation displaced an average mix of fossil-fueled generation and nothing else, it would offset [only] 4% of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions.” This is a drop in the bucket for a technology that risks all life in the biosphere by its very existence.
Nuclear Power: A False Solution to Climate Change
According to this article, no matter how you look at it, nuclear power is a false solution to climate change. In summary, this article finds that “the typical nuclear power plant has 8.6 cents of damages attached to every kilowatt-hour of electricity it produces, and the industry as a whole has $223.7 billion worth of net damages every year. These costs are so large (and unavoidable) that in most countries investments in nuclear power do not occur, and they raise doubts as to whether a nuclear renaissance will produce net benefits to society.”
Deploying a dangerous solution to mitigate dangerous climate change, is just doubling down on a bad idea. Ironically, from uranium mines to nuclear waste, including radioactive and chemical pollution from nuclear reactors, every phase of the nuclear cycle brings about more industrial pollution. Further in this video Dr. Kate Brown of MIT, explains why nuclear power won’t stop or curtail climbing global emissions rates or mitigate climate change:
Additionally accidents, leaks, and the nearly complete inability for humans to contain this power have a long and dark track record that includes the Three Mile Island Accident, Chernobyl, The Dome, Novaya Zemlya, Kosmos 1818, The Hanford, Fukushima Daiichi, and many other large scale disasters that are still playing out. The world’s oceans contain large amounts of radioactive and nuclear waste, but none more than the Kara Sea. As the Arctic continue to melt, radiation from the largest nuclear test, the Tsar Bomba, is increasingly released into the ocean. A scientific expedition to Novaya Zemlya has discovered “big concentrations of radioactivity” in the ice — and concluded that the glaciers are melting into the sea at record speed.
The industry will claim these global issues and incidents are no big deal. They will say “accidents happen.” They will even claim that they are in control of these situations, like Tepco with Fukushima who’s ongoing lies and distortions have angered the Japanese people for more than a decade now. EPA and OHSA regulations have also failed. Many of their regulations and reports telling people this is safe technology, have been proven to be full of lies and inaccuracies, especially on indigenous lands in the US.
Nuclear Weapons Proliferation: Where the Sh*t Hits the Fan
Still worse, nuclear industry apologists and nuclear supporters continuously pretend or deny that there is no link between nuclear energy and weapons proliferation, despite constant news and regular reports that provide evidence to the contrary. According to this CNN report, “Uranium particles enriched to near bomb-grade levels have been found at an Iranian nuclear facility, according to the UN’s nuclear watchdog, as the US warned that Tehran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb was accelerating.” This connection to the the potential for arms proliferation and ultimately nuclear war that could result in the annihilation of all life on Earth is pretty much why J.R. Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, later repelled by his own creation said, “we have become death, destroyer of worlds.” Let’s be clear, all types of civilian nuclear energy assistance raise the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation.
Clear Present Danger: Nuclear States Rapidly Coordinating During Russia-Ukraine War
Some countries looking to build closer ties with Russia during the current ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict are threatening nuclear escalation. Iran may have nuclear capabilities by mid-March 2023 with Russia’s help. Just four nuclear states including North Korea, China, Iran and Russia are coordinating and amassing their nuclear arsenals. This threatens the current NATO and US deterrence strategy, with weapons production, storage, and arsenal supplies coming primarily from the US imperial system. This is a clear and present danger. One French intellectual is arguing that World War III (video) has already begun.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened the use of “tactical” nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine, but nuclear weapons of any kind would cause widespread devastation, according to a new position paper by a group of renowned scientists from around the world [issuing the latest science warning on this]. They want to make policymakers and the public aware of the ecosystem impacts and long-lasting consequences of nuclear radiation,” according to Jayme DeLoss of Colorado State University.
Situations exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict also include the potential for increased accidents at nuclear facilities. The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station, a six-reactor plant the largest in nuclear facility in Europe, continues to teeter on the edge. During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has become the center of an ongoing nuclear safety crisis, described by Ukraine as an act of nuclear terrorism by Russia.
The Only World War We Should Be Fighting Is the War on Climate Change
It is certain that nuclear energy development and weapons proliferation are causally connected because of the intersections of nuclear technology, profiteering, development, resources, supplies, and know-how. Everyone should be terrified of this especially in a climate-changed world with recent reports just out that Antarctica’s Doomsday Glacier is hemorrhaging ice. Scientists are warning that Antarctica’s melting ice sheet could wipe out entire nations. This is not good news for humanity.
Yet apparently we are more focused on making more nuclear bombs and continuing the war-based business as usual profit motive-based schemes around the world than addressing the real threat that every human being on the planet is now facing in climate change. Let’s face it big war is big business and brings in billions of dollars in profits for elite global leaders. America’s economy is a war economy. It is not a manufacturing economy. It is not an agricultural economy, nor is it a service economy. The US has been at war constantly with some nation or state for over its entire history. And that’s because it serves the almighty US dollar and the endless-growth profit motive of predatory global neoliberal capitalism that is destroying us.
But at this point in history, the devastating effects of waging war in terms of emissions, chemical, and other pollution is straining the boundaries of the biosphere to their limits to the extent that extinction of our species and all life is on the table. If we want to avoid mass extinction, the only world war we should be fighting is the war on climate change says the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Climate change is not just a threat multiplier. It is the main threat. Liz Boulten PhD, military strategist, creator and author of Plan E, is also saying so.
Nuclear Power in a Climate Changed World
It is hard to even talk about nuclear facilities and their lack of preparedness in a climate changed world. But if we can’t make nuclear power safe now, how can we do it in an altered climate? Experts, like Andrew Glikson, PhD are discussing the “Plutocene Era.” According to Glikson, this is “a period dominated by a tropical climate and high radioactivity lasting for approximately 20,000 years, as controlled by the half-life of plutonium and the longevity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. During the Plutocene the Earth will have tropical climate, sea levels will be higher, with not much ice at poles.”
It is well-known that according to Dr. Peter Ward, PhD (video) and others, we likely have 3-9 feet of sea level rise (SLR) already built in with climate lag which does not bode well for the some 85% of nuclear facilities now lining our sea coasts. With increasing and intensifying tropical storms this concern is a serious threat. Nuclear facilities located on the coasts (and there are about 150 of them) should be decommissioned as soon as possible given events like what just happened to the Bahamas in Dorian. Yet, nuclear industry supporters argue that it’s completely safe and not to worry. They also claim that decommissioning can wait and/or will be too expensive.
Ultimately, mankind has repeatedly failed to fully control or contain nuclear power or manage it’s waste disposal as the following video with Dr. Kate Brown from MIT appearing on Democracy Now! discusses. This is where it becomes crystal clear that the risks of this technology far outweigh any potential benefits to society. No discussion on the ills of nuclear power would be complete, without a look at the accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima.
“Chernobyl is considered the worst nuclear accident in history, but Kate Brown, an MIT professor of science, technology and society, says much of what we understand about the disaster is inaccurate. Her new book, “Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future,” chronicles the devastating and under-reported impact of radiation on tens of thousands in the Soviet Union that went unreported for decades.”
It is almost never mentioned, but an estimated 600,000 people, residents of the most contaminated areas, are under consideration and watch after potential exposure to radiation from the the Chernobyl accident. According to the WHO “as about quarter of them will eventually die from spontaneous cancer not caused by Chernobyl radiation, the radiation-induced increase of about 3% will be difficult to observe. However, in the most highly exposed cohorts of emergency and recovery operation workers, some increase in particular cancers (e.g., leukemia) has already been observed.”
Other estimates show that at many as one million cancers could result from this type of accident as well as others like Fukushima. However, this information is heavily suppressed by the industry. But there is no question that these accidents increase the rates of cancer. Chernobyl did increase cancer rates. Increased risk of thyroid cancer has been one of the most important adverse health effects observed after the accident. This is also the case with Fukushima.
The failure to make nuclear energy safe is an ongoing concern. These and many other caveats also make nuclear power vulnerable to public rejection with good reason as seen in Japan and Germany following the Fukushima disaster of 2011. Eight years later, this disaster is still unfolding.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) many nuclear plants in the US alone are scheduled for much needed maintenance and are falling behind safety schedules. Additionally, these plants are no longer making a profit and many insurers do not want to cover these plants due to the potential for large unmanageable disasters.
According to the UCS, “More than one-third of US nuclear plants are unprofitable or scheduled to close. On average, it would cost $814 million annually to bring unprofitable plants back to a breakeven point. Plants owned by merchant generators that sell power into competitive wholesale markets face a higher risk of closure than regulated utilities that recover their costs from ratepayers.”
UCS also says that nuclear power’s risks can and must be substantially reduced, regardless of whether new nuclear power plants are built.
UCS Recommendations (largely unheeded by the industry):
• Better enforcement of existing regulations
• Expedited transfer of nuclear waste into dry casks
• Strengthened reactor security requirements
• Higher safety standards for new plants.
UCS recommends that all citizens urge Congress to demand the Nuclear Regulatory Commission enforce its safety regulations and establish a clear, realistic timeline for compliance by all nuclear power reactors. In the meantime, nuclear energy is on the decline and facing a risky, untenable future in a world bracing for multiple crisis situations, including the Russian/Ukraine conflict, pandemic, and increasing climate disasters.
How Much Radiation Exposure is Safe? To LNT or Not to LNT: That is The Question
The short is answer is no exposure is safe. But the trending science and nuclear industry research is pushing for a move away from the long held Linear No-Threshold Theory (LNT) of radiation. LNT has always stated that there is no safe dose when it comes to industrial level bio-hazard exposures to radiation.
So, what is LNT? The principal basis for the LNT is theoretical, and straightforward. A single particle of radiation hitting a single DNA molecule in a single cell nucleus of a human body can potentially initiate a cancer down the road. The probability of a cancer initiation is therefore proportional to the number of such hits, which is proportional to the number of particles of radiation, which is proportional to the dose. Thus, the risk is linearly dependent on the dose. At low levels exposure is said to be safe, however there is much debate on the matter.
Essentially those who argue against LNT base their argument on a complete lack of evidence. They conclude that since LLR carcinogenesis is unproven at low levels, there is no proof of it. However, we must all keep in mind that as Carl Sagan once said “absence of evidence, is not evidence of absence.” Granted it is evidence we are never likely to get, but just because we don’t yet have a way to measure it doesn’t mean the evidence isn’t there. This approach is also completely unscientific.
Still, the importance of this use of the LNT is difficult to exaggerate. It is estimated that in the USA, US $85 billion will be spent in cleaning up the Hanford site to avoid low level radiation (LLR), and comparable sums will be spent on government operating sites at Savannah River, Rocky Flats, Fernald and several others. If the LNT is wrong and low level radiation (LLR) is harmless, all of this money would be wasted. Also, funding for this superfund site clean up might not even happen without this.
Those downplaying the importance of LNT have become even more adamant and vociferous after Fukushima. For example, the Heartland Institute (video), funded by Koch Industries, is a well-known bastion of science denialism and an investor in the nuclear industry. It has proclaimed that LNT is too strict and denied it’s validity altogether. Scott Montgomery, a nuclear industry supporter, makes the case for nuclear power as a solution to climate change in his books and lectures. He argues that low amounts of radiation exposure poses no threat citing nuclear industry funded studies showing no correlation. In fact, it has become common for nuclear energy adherents to routinely claim that due to the “hormesis theory,” radiation exposure is actually good for you. This is a common assertion, just like the infamous tobacco industry claim that smoking is good for you.
There are only a handful of widely accepted studies even available about radiation rate increases post-Fukushima. The ones that are considered valid by mainstream science and media typically come from the Woods Hole Institute (WHOI). WHOI presents most of the data and findings on this topic to date. Suspiciously, this institute is also at least partially funded by grants received from the nuclear industry via the Department of Defense.
The WHOI repeatedly reports that the radiation from Fukushima arriving constantly on the West Coast of the USA now is at “low doses” that are what the agency calls safe. In fact, most research and data in this area is coming from the nuclear industry itself or funded by its interests. Of course, they report that all radiation from Fukushima and elsewhere is at safe levels in their ocean radiation reports as well. But what are they calling safe?
“The recent findings as you might expect are being played down and the usual sound-bites are telling us “it’s nothing to worry about,” something the powers that be have been saying for 8 years now.” – The Big Wobble
In short, it boils down to whether you follow LNT or not. Many physicians think there are “safe” doses and are even talking about radiogenerative hormesis as ever (i.e. saying it’s even good for you at low doses just like the tobacco industry once did about smoking), while others still clearly assert that there are no safe doses, like Dr. Arjun Makhijani. The debate rages on.
Part of the problem is there are no studies yet correlating damages at really low levels because it is too low to in fact measure. However, we do know that it bio-accumulates (video) in living tissues and is passed from one organism to another thereby concentrating in the food chain (plants and animals). This means dose increases exponentially over time with repeated exposure given a radio-toxic environment like the world in which we live today.
According to Resilience.org, “this brings up the Precautionary Principle. It says that if there is doubt about the safety of a substance, the burden of proof that it is safe lies with those who advocate it, rather than burdening those who question it with the responsibility to prove its harm.” In other words, “Better safe than sorry.” The phrase “Precautionary Principle” is not even included in the index of Energy, much less discussed. [The current nuclear industry] approach suggests a “Throw-caution-to-the-wind Principle.”
What’s More Bananas Than The Nuclear Industry?
The comparison between bananas and nuclear power plants has become common and accepted; yet it completely ignores the spike in emissions and radiation doses following catastrophic accidents.
So, what is the banana equivalent dose (yes, that’s a thing) of the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters?
This answer, 6.48 trillion bananas, is well more than a person would eat in a lifetime. In the UK, the average person eats about 10kg of banana, per year. That’s equivalent to approximately 100 bananas (banalink.org). 100 bananas. If an average consumer is expected to live 75 years then they will eat approximately 7,500 bananas in a lifetime.
Also, don’t let these jargon science manufacturers of consent tell you that getting some sun on you is equivalent to getting some nuclear fallout on you from a nuclear disaster or dirty bomb. Nuclear industry supporters like to make this apples-to-oranges comparison. But all radioactive isotopes are not equal, and you simply don’t get Cesium 137 or Plutonium 239 from sun bathing. Or we would have evacuated Vail, Colorado (a high elevation city) long ago.
Michael Shellenberger, as mentioned above, is a nuclear industry funded pundit who has repeatedly refuted and devalued the work of doctors such as Helen Caldicott, and has written a Forbes article titled “It Sounds Crazy, But Fukushima, Chernobyl, And Three Mile Island Show Why Nuclear Is Inherently Safe.” It sounds crazy, because it is crazy. Except in a nation run by gaslighting, i.e. upending objective reality to support an ideation and delusional rationalization of what they call safety for investors, insurers and industrialists and those who seek to profit from this disaster. Therefore, trust but verify, as the Russian proverb goes: доверяй, но проверяй.
Externalities Mean No One’s Taking Responsibility
How could Fukushima be built on an earthquake prone zone many ask (and note that Fukushima is just one example, as many such facilities are built on coastlines now subject to sea level rise (SLR) of at least 3 feet according to climate scientists like Peter Ward, author of Flooded Earth (video), which conversely will also impact fault lines)? The answer is simple. for most nuclear energy corporations (like every other company) melt-downs and natural disasters, even triple melt-downs, are considered externalities which they will never pay for.
They are basically taking huge gamble with your money as the taxpayer or working citizen of your nation, but you never did the risk assessment. And then you are left with the bill, oh and in the case of nuclear melt-downs like Fukushima the radiation exposures, destruction of the natural environment, and possibly the entire Pacific Ocean and the Northern Hemisphere.
“Tokyo Electric built its reactors as it did because it would not pay the full cost of a melt-down anyway. Given the limited liability at the heart of corporate law, it could externalize the cost of running reactors. In most industries, firms rarely risk tort damages so enormous they cannot pay them. In nuclear power, “unpayable” potential liability is routine. Privately owned companies bear the costs of an accident only up to the fire-sale value of their net assets. Beyond that point, they pay nothing — and the damages from a nuclear disaster easily soar past that point.”
What About Safer Alternatives? Thorium Reactors? Fusion? God Parity?
It may be possible to support continued research and development of nuclear power technologies that are safer, more secure, and lower cost. With the need for cleaner energy higher than ever before, could liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR) be the solution? Molten Salt Thorium Reactors (MSRs) are being touted as a safer alternative. There are many newer types of reactors. Still these are long shots, and not likely to be the on time to solve the challenges of a climate already getting beyond human control especially considering climate lag. In the following video, Dave Borlace of Just Have A Think discusses this further. After examining both sides, it is clear that LFTR and MSRs are far from commercial reality, far from low carbon and cannot compete with the new low costs of renewables.
It is also known that few large corporations will spend the money to update their plants to these types of reactors. In this video episode of Answers with Joe this option is discussed further. Joe Scott also discusses other experimental technologies like, traveling wave reactors (video), TWR technology, molten salt reactors, and fusion (video). Recently a fusion breakthrough has made the news. Just Have a Think discusses this in the following video.
Some people are still hoping for a “star in a jar” solution (video), but fusion is perpetually acknowledged to be a long way off. Promising but fleeting fusion reactions have been achieved in several experiments. China’s Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) known as an artificial sun made an important advance by achieving a stable 101.2-second steady-state high confinement plasma, setting a world record. Fusion needs more experimentation and funding to unlock its promise. However, some are still asking who killed fusion? If you can’t get fusion, the next best thing might be the god parity.
It is certain, energy sector analysts such as Tony Seba (video) expect the next decades to see major disruptions in the energy sector that could change the horrific reality we now face in dirty energy and dirty money. This is true forward thinking. And it’s not just for futuristic visionaries such as Jacque Fresco (so far ahead of his time that he was often ridiculed for his vision of a demonetized and energy unslaved society) anymore. “Los Angeles Power and Water officials have struck a deal on the largest and cheapest solar + battery-storage project in the world, at prices that leave fossil fuels in the dust and may relegate nuclear power to the dustbin,” – according to Forbes contributor Jeff McMahon.
According to energy sector analysts like Tony Seba, “this disruption is based in AI and computational power. It will require an open source project (and the 2 world leaders in this technology already on this are open source) that the world and the scientific community are focused on in a collective effort. This will exponentially increase the development of these emerging energy solutions. We would probably be there in less than 5 years. However, unfortunately we cannot create that environment today within our current system. Still, the next 20 years are going to rewrite the entire human narrative. And people have no idea it’s coming.”
Waste Not Want Not
There are many serious, unresolved problems associated with nuclear power that have existed since its introduction. The most significant challenge that nuclear power presents is the high level waste (HLW) storage problem.
HLW is liquid waste taken from spent fuel pools. High-level radioactive wastes are the highly radioactive materials produced as a byproduct of the reactions that occur inside nuclear reactors. High-level wastes take one of two forms: Spent (used) reactor fuel when it is accepted for disposal. Waste materials remaining after spent fuel is reprocessed.
Nuclear fuel remains dangerously radioactive for thousands of years after it is no longer useful in a commercial reactor. The resulting waste disposal problem has become a major challenge for policymakers and the environment. According to a NIRS/WISE report:
“In the last few decades researchers have been working on the technology to reduce radioactivity and the decay time of nuclear waste, the so-called transmutation process. There is no guarantee that this expensive research will be successful, and these techniques can only be applied for future spent fuel and not for the present amount of nuclear waste 300,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel have already been accumulated worldwide.”
In the following video a report on this problem the waste storage issues at just one facility are discussed:
Nuclear countries plan on burying the waste, but the only existing burial sites (Asse in Germany and WIPP in the United States) have turned into incredible fiascos that already contaminate the environment, although they store less radioactive wastes.
For the storage of radioactive nuclear waste there are still no solutions. What’s worse is HLW storage requires nuclear waste dumps for eternity (video) as highly radioactive nuclear wastes will remain deadly for over hundreds of thousands of years. SpaceX is experimenting with the notion of whether or not we can send nuclear waste to the sun (video)? The problem of nuclear waste disposal is now largely recognized as unsolvable (video).
What’s Worse Nuclear v. Solar Waste
Does solar power generate more waste than nuclear power as claimed by Michael Shellenberger in the video above? Shellenberger also makes points about eROI (pronounced Ee-roy). According to Forbes, “also referred to as Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI), eROI is the ratio of energy returned to energy invested in that energy source, along its entire life-cycle.” The energy return on investment (EROI) is a key determinant of the price of energy. Many nuclear industry supporters claim that the return on investment for nuclear power over solar is much more and with less risk.
Nuclear industry supporters like to claim that recycling a solar panel is bad, but recycling a nuclear reactor is good! It is also trendy to claim that the resulting nuclear industry waste products are somehow far less than solar industry waste products. It’s also a somewhat ironic concern from proponents of nuclear power, which has a rather bigger toxic waste problem.
Also, if you look at the overall numbers this isn’t so:
- Nuclear Waste Totals: 115,000,000 cubic meters of waste, most of it radioactive, deadly, and unmanageable.
- Solar Waste Totals: 19,500,000 cubic meters of waste, all of it safe and most of it recyclable.
Further, according to a spokesman for the Solar Energy Industries Association argues that the study cited by Shellenberger is incorrect, and that in fact solar panels are “mainly made up of easy-to-recycle materials that can be successfully recovered and reused at the end of their useful life.”
And then there are the reactors themselves. The problem here is that you can only recycle concrete a bit, currently about 28%. Crushing it costs energy. Some concrete is used as aggregate for road construction and similar tasks, but that’s about it. In any event, you can’t turn old nuclear reactors into new ones.
But don’t look at the argument, look at the facts. People are recycling solar panels right now, today. The numbers don’t lie. Meanwhile, the cost of decommissioning nuclear plants is spiraling out of control, and we still have no idea what to do with the nuclear waste as discussed above. In fact, radioactive HLW storage is one of the most significant problems plaguing modern man. All of these factors are just more reasons to look toward real world renewables like hydroelectric dams.
According to Clean Technica, “some critics and skeptics incorrectly say too much energy is consumed in the production of solar panels and that the panels don’t generate enough electricity during their lifetimes to make up for it. This criticism has been proven to be false, and may be nothing more than a deliberate form of misinformation intended to persuade people who are interested in solar power to lose that interest. Too often, the critics turn out to be people who are directly or indirectly connected to fossil fuel industries like oil and gas, nuclear, or coal.”
As to this argument of recycling solar panels: “There is no such thing as waste when you have the ability to manipulate matter at the atomic scale. If you can manufacture at the atomic scale? You can recycle those atoms as well. I know of 6 different research groups now working on the creation of Nano-replication. We already possess all of the material sciences now, as well as the ancillary technologies necessary for its creation. It is no longer a matter of if, only when.”
The Never-ending Threat of Nuclear Winter
What’s worse than the Anthropocene you might ask? The answer is the Plutocene. We cannot forget the intimate connection between nuclear power and nuclear war. Plutocene is a term coined by author Andrew Glikson to describe the future world we are on course to inhabit, now that it has become clear that we are still busy building nuclear weapons rather than working together to defend our planet. The doomsday clock is already set at two minutes to midnight, the closest it’s ever been in world history. Russia is said to have built a new 100-megaton underwater nuclear doomsday device, and it has threatened the US with it.
“An organism at war with itself is doomed.” – Carl Sagan
According to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, “nuclear weapons and nuclear power share several common features. The long list of links includes their histories, similar technologies, skills, health and safety aspects, regulatory issues and radiological research and development. For example, the process of enriching uranium to make it into fuel for nuclear power stations is also used to make nuclear weapons. Plutonium is a by-product of the nuclear fuel cycle and is still used by some countries to make nuclear weapons.”
Governments Unprepared to Manage Nuclear Power and Sea Level Rise
The most conservative scientific estimates from NOAA and others are mathematically predicting a 2 foot sea level rise due to our perturbation of the environment even if we stop burning fossil fuels today due to climate lag. Dr. Peter Ward says 3-9 Feet by mid-century to 2100 in his book on GHG Extinctions “Under A Green Sky”. Some, like Dr. Harold Wanless, sea level rise expert, say as much as 120 feet of sea level rise is coming in the next couple centuries.
However, even the conservative 2 foot rise predicted by NOAA will displace coastal cities around the globe, where many nuclear reactors are situated. In the following video Arnie Gundersen, nuclear expert and Director of Fairewinds Energy Education, explains that we have to expect more nuclear disasters like Fukushima and the resulting risks of Fukushima fascism that the world is now taking on because governments and corporations are unprepared and incapable of managing nuclear power in the long run.
“The safest nuclear power or energy policy is to realize zero nuclear power.” – Naoto Kan, Former Japanese Prime Minister
The True Solution to Climate Change
Those who are serious about climate and social justice argue that nuclear power is a false solution to climate change and are working toward a 100% renewable energy future.
“Every dollar spent on nuclear is one less dollar spent on clean renewable energy and one more dollar spent on making the world a comparatively dirtier and a more dangerous place, because nuclear power and nuclear weapons go hand in hand.” – Mark Z. Jacobson
Nuclear is NOT part of the answer! Ask those who are down wind of The Hanford, where part of the soil is so radioactive that a person exposed to it would be dead in a few minutes. Arnie, a nuclear engineer at Fairewinds Energy Education says pushing nuclear power as a solution to climate change is a dangerous smokescreen.
- The 7 Reasons Why Nuclear Energy is Not The Answer to Solve Climate Change
- Court Rules Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Preventable
- Chernobyl: Understanding Consequences of Playing With The Poison Fire
- Chernobyl Impacts on UK
- Chernobyl Briefing EP
- Chernobyl Impacts on Scandinavian Farmer
- Children Born With Deformities Near U.S. Base in Iraq
- Does Nuclear Power Slow Or Speed Climate Change? (***IMPORTANT)
- Exiled scientist: ‘Chernobyl is not finished, it has only just begun’
- Exposing the Misinformation of Michael Shellenberger and ‘Environmental Progress’
- Global Warming and Energy Facts | UCS
- How Nuclear Apologists Mislead the World Over Radiation
- How to Stop Fighting Around Nuclear Power Plants
- Is Nuclear Power Globally Scalable | IEEE
- Fukushima Disaster: Increase in Throat Cancer in the US
- Fukushima: A Nuclear Story (Video), Willem Defoe Narrates
- Fukushima Update 2019 | Thom Hartmann and Kevin Kamps
- Ghost Train Full of Radioactive Meat
- Iran enriched uranium to 84 percent — but can it make a nuclear bomb?
- Japan’s Fukushima Fascism | EcoWatch
- Japan Must Be Prudent in Fukushima Waste Water Dumping Issue
- Map Sea Level Rise by 2030 on Coastal CIties Where Most Nuclear Plants Are
- Nature Points Out the Folly of Man
- New Nukes Make Global Warming Worse | Fairewinds
- Nuclear Energy Too Slow, Too Expensive to Save Climate: Report
- Nuclear Power and Climate Change: Rising Seas
- Nuclear Power Overview | UCS
- Nuclear Power Cost
- Nuclear Power Safety Recommendations
- Nuclear Power in a Warming World
- Nuclear Power Primer | Ralph Nader Radio Show
- Nuclear Power: A False Solution to Climate Change
- Nuclear Power Cannot Rival Renewable Energy
- Oppenheimer’s Infamous Speech to the American Philosophical Society
- Plutonium Free Future
- Putin Threatens the World with Nuclear Annihilation
- Radiation is Good For You and the Hormesis Argument
- Radiation Chelation: Three Plutonium Chelation Cases
- Radiation Detoxing The Herbal Way
- Radiation Leaking from Tsar Bomba As The Arctic Melts
- Real Cost of War
- Sleepwalking to Armageddon
- The Nuclear Power Dilemma
- The Godzilla Factor: Nuclear Testing and Fear of Fallout
- The Hidden Costs of Our Nuclear Arsenal: Overview of Project Findings
- The Nuclear Option | PBS Nova (Video)
- World War III Has Already Begun
- Why Nuclear Power Will Never Supply The World’s Energy…
- Why Nuclear Power Slows Action on Climate Change
- Why the U.S. Government Plans to Spend Billions to Keep Money-Losing Nuclear Plants Open
It is clear that the risks powerfully outweigh the benefits of nuclear power, almost on the waste storage issue alone. In terms of cost, the US is spending massively on nuclear defense and energy, a risky and death-orientated combo proposition. At the same time, it spends almost nothing on the climate action that could halt human other species extinction. Most of the current climate spending involves payouts to large insurance corporations to clean up after disasters in predatory disaster capitalism schemes defined best by Naomi Klein in her book “The Shock Doctrine.” This is can hardly be defined as real action. Most of this money is never seen by actual victims of climate disasters. This is more of a money-making ponzi scheme sadly. In order to actually protect the climate, we must actually do the right thing and save the most carbon at the least cost and in the least time, counting all three variables – carbon and cost and time. This is where the ethics and the numbers for nuclear just don’t add up to a livable future.
Additionally, due to the corruption of our government regulatory bodies by profit and power motivated bad actors, warring entities, and radiological terrorists we, as a society have proven time and again that we are just not equipped to play with the proverbial fire that nuclear power represents. Especially as we move into a warmer world with several feet of sea level rise on the way and more than half of these problematic and already leaking reactor sites located on sea coasts, Rupert Read calls nuclear power a profoundly irresponsible solution (video) for our energy future.
“To get to our goal of 100 percent sustainable energy, we will not rely on any false solutions like nuclear, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestration, or trash incinerators.”
– Bernie Sanders Seeks Nuclear Moratorium, Desmog
Despite our best intentions, our governing systems all too often allow profit to trump safety forcing us to conclude that we can’t continue considering nuclear energy solutions without a fundamental ecological shift in these dynamics. We need system change, not climate change. In the current system, we are slated for more of the same gross negligence, externalities, disasters, and failure.
With the daunting disadvantages that come with nuclear energy, there are many things that will need to change significantly in order to make this type of energy a reasonable option for further consideration. Many upgrades in this technology have been promised, but never delivered. Simply put, this debate is ongoing and there have been no good answers from the industry itself which continues to profit while radiation leaks into the sea from Fukushima, and the untouchable Elephant Foot melts forever at Chernobyl, while The Dome leaks in the Marshall Islands, and while Tzar Bomba radiation is released once again from the depths of its icy grave as the Arctic melts. The only thing that remains clear is that nuclear solutions are a cautionary tale at best. And to its own creator, even worse, a profound evil unleashed on all life.
In the summer of 2023, the Oppenheimer Film will be out. In preparation, it is a good idea to read up on this great scientist. With an IQ over 190, this scientist was indisputably one of the greatest minds in our history. Be sure to listen to his many lectures and speeches which can be found online, especially Oppenheimer’s Infamous Speech to the American Philosophical Society in 1945. In this historical speech Oppenheimer summarizes this technology in his own words for us all as follows:
“What is not contingent is that we have made a thing, a most terrible weapon, that has altered abruptly and profoundly the nature of the world. We have made a thing that, by all standards of the world we grew up in, is an evil thing.“
Listen to the full speech online here >>
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• Caldicott, Helen (2017). Sleepwalking to armageddon [Book]. New York, NY: New Press.
• Clean Technica (2018). Solar ERoEI is actually really, really good. Retrieved from https://cleantechnica.com/2018/02/03/solar-power-can-pay-easily/
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• Gundersen, Arnie (2018). Fairewinds presents sobering facts about Fukushima [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1EurSNdy8c
• Newsweek (2017). Plutocene: forget doomsday…Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/doomsday-plutocene-era-radioactive-nuclear-war-climate-change-673162
• NIRS/Wise (2005). Nuclear power: no solution to climate change. Retrieved from https://www.nirs.org/wp-content/uploads/mononline/nukesclimatechangereport.pdf
• Glikson, Andrew (2017). The plutocene: blueprints for a post-Anthropocene hothouse-earth [Book]. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
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• Sagan, Carl (1980). Who speaks for earth [Video]? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjrmK8t6VYk
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• Union of Concerned Scientists (2018). Nuclear power dilemma. Retrieved from https://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear-power/cost-nuclear-power/retirements#.XFkzO-JlA2x
• Utility Dive (2019). Is 100% renewable energy for the us possible – yes. Retrieved from https://www.utilitydive.com/news/is-100-renewable-energy-for-the-us-possible-yes/547135/
• Verge Science (2018). 88,000 tons of radioactive waste – and nowhere to put it [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgVyPwhkoJs