July 20, 2008
Don’t Drink the Nuclear Kool-Aid
By Amy Goodman
While the presidential candidates trade barbs and accuse each other of flip-flopping, they agree with President Bush on their enthusiastic support for nuclear power.Sen. John McCain has called for 100 new nuclear power plants. Sen. Barack Obama, in a July 2007 Democratic candidate debate, answered a pro-nuclear power audience member, "I actually think that we should explore nuclear power as part of the energy mix."
But nuclear power is not a solution to climate change - rather, it causes problems. Amory Lovins is the co-founder and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado. He makes simple, powerful points against nuclear: "The nuclear revival that we often hear about is not actually happening. It is a very carefully fabricated illusion . . . there are no buyers. Wall Street is not putting a penny of private capital into the industry, despite 100-plus percent subsidies."
Even if nuclear power were economically viable, Lovins continues, "the first issue to come up for me would be the spread of nuclear weapons, which it greatly facilitates. . . . It's just an awful idea unless you're really interested in making bombs."
Along with proliferation, there are terrorist threats to existing nuclear reactors, like Entergy's controversial Indian Point nuclear plant just 24 miles north of New York City. Lovins calls these "about as fat a terrorist target as you can imagine. It is not necessary to fly a plane into a nuclear plant or storm a plant and take over a control room in order to cause that material to be largely released. You can often do it from outside the site boundary with things the terrorists would have readily available."
Then there is the waste: "It stays dangerous for a very long time. So you have to put it someplace that stays away from people and life and water for a very long time . . . millions of years, most likely. . . . So far, all the places we've looked turned out to be geologically unsuitable, including Yucca Mountain."
The presidential candidates are wrong on nuclear power. Wind, solar and microgeneration (generating electricity and heat at the same time, in smaller plants), on the other hand, are taking off globally, gaining billions of dollars in private investments. Lovins summarizes: "One of the big reasons we have an oil problem and a climate problem today is we spent our money on the wrong stuff. If we had spent it on efficiency and renewables, those problems would've gone away, and we would've made trillions of dollars' profit on the deal because it's so much cheaper to save energy than to supply it."
The answer is blowing in the wind.
Originally published by Amy Goodman, King Features Syndicate.
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