Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Time to abandon nuclear energy

I have always been against nuclear power for two reasons. First, the highly radioactive nuclear waste must be stored deep underground for decades – and finding places to store it is nearly impossible. So far, despite our best efforts, no one anywhere in the world has found an appropriate permanent nuclear storage facility. Second, meltdowns may be “rare” as in Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and the disaster in Idaho in 1961, but when they happen they threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people who live near them – look at what is happening in Japan as an example.

Nuclear energy has become obsolete. It is dirty, dangerous, and wastes resources, as the reactor's main fuel source, uranium, will run out in about 50 to 60 years, according to experts. After that, the nuclear plants will sit idle. Therefore, nuclear power is not sustainable. The people who want you to believe it is sustainable are nuclear lobbyists and energy company executives who make a lot of money from nuclear energy.

The nuclear crisis in Japan demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt how dangerous and unpredictable nuclear energy is. Yes, we can control nuclear fission. Yes, we know how atoms operate and what we need to do to use them to generate vast amounts of energy. But we also know now that experts, nuclear physicists, and politicians are alarmingly helpless when a plant is under threat. Suddenly, a feeling of powerlessness takes hold, and we can only hope that there is no total meltdown of a reactor.

The argument that Japan is sitting on a ticking tectonic time bomb, and that there are no earthquakes to speak of in Middle America, is far too easy. What about airplanes that could crash over a nuclear power station, a terrorist attack, a simple technical failure, or human error?

Do we really want to keep taking the risk when we have viable alternatives like solar and wind energy? We should be developing renewable energy that is sustainable and harmless. We have to start investing in these energies on a grand scale. These energy sources could be used to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

Maybe the disaster in Japan has hopefully served as a wake-up call for the political elite. Now politicians have to demonstrate courage, break old habits and invest in technologies and energy sources of the future. Fat chance…