Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Skewed Logic: Nuclear Power is the Solution

In an excellent piece in Orion Magazine, Reasons Not to Glow, Rebecca Solnit skewers the nuclear power cheerleaders who defy logic, reason, and common sense with their claims their nuclear power is the way to reverse climate change.
Nuclear power is clean, if you ignore uranium tailings and fuel processing and depleted uranium distributed with abandon in weaponry. Nuclear power is cheap, if you ignore the costs of decommisioning reactors after their 30- to 40-year lifespan and guarding the ruins for the next few centuries, as well as the accrued costs of the inevitable accidents. Nuclear power is the only way out of our situation, if you pretend that we can build them fast enough and that the remaining supplies of high-grade uranium ore won't run out in a couple of decades.
With a pen as sharp as a laser-tooled sword, Rebecca says:

If you’re not, at this point, chasing your poor formerly pronuclear companion down the hallway, mention that every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle is murderously filthy, imparting long-lasting contamination on an epic scale; that a certain degree of radioactive pollution is standard at each of these stages, but the accidents are now so many in number that they have to be factored in as part of the environmental cost; that the plants themselves generate lots of radioactive waste, which we still don’t know what to do with—because the stuff is deadly . . . anywhere . . . and almost forever. And no, tell them, this nuclear colonialism is not an acceptable sacrifice, since it is not one the power consumers themselves are making. It’s a sacrifice they’re imposing on people far away and others not yet born, a debt they’re racking up at the expense of people they will never meet.

Sure, you can say nuclear power is somewhat less carbon-intensive than burning fossil fuels for energy; beating your children to death with a club will prevent them from getting hit by a car. Ravaging the Earth by one irreparable means is not a sensible way to prevent it from being destroyed by another. There are alternatives. We should choose them and use them.

Enjoy the full article here.