I don’t mean to be alarmist, but the attempted ho-hum normalization of a nuclear catastrophe by government officials and their big media stenographers is starting to terrify the crap out of me.
When a country like Japan, with a population of 127 million people, begins to require the importation of bottled water so that pregnant women and children can avoid radiated tap water, it’s worth stopping to consider a global phase out of all nuclear energy. Then it’s worth stopping to ask if women and children first is a tool of oppression or an incredible perk, as the performance artist Penny Arcade once put it.
Anyway, my point is that simply because there hasn’t been a made-for-TV image of a mushroom cloud explosion to punctuate the current nuclear disaster is not an indication that nuclear energy can be safely harnessed. As a bevy of nuclear experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists can attest, nothing can annihilate the potential for all human life on the planet quite as effectively as nuclear power.
So if in between meltdowns and explosions, nukes happen to generate enough power to juice up our homes and gizmos, then perhaps this isn’t such a neat tradeoff. As Ecology and Socialism author, Chris Williams, put it in an excellent article on the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster:
WHETHER A full meltdown and core breach happens or not–and let us all hope it does not–the catastrophe in Japan underlines the argument that anti-nuclear campaigners and socialists have made since the inception of nuclear power: There is no such thing as a safe nuclear plant.
For every contingency and back-up plan, there will always be something unexpected that overwhelms even the best preparations. And when those plans center around preventing the general release of something as inherently toxic as nuclear radiation, the only rational answer is to avoid the problem in the first place.
Given the unravelling nuclear catastrophe, despite Japan’s level of preparedness—unparalleled elsewhere according to experts—it is time for a rigorous debate about how to proceed toward a future powered entirely by renewable wind, solar and other green energy sources. This isn’t some hippie-dippy notion cooked up by slacker stoners—no offense to my slacker stoner friends who make up for their lack of industriousness with a certain joie de vivre.
If we lived in a genuine democracy, a well-informed debate would be raging on the airwaves and in Congress about how to proceed toward what thousands of scientists contend is not only achievable in our lifetimes, but urgently needed. Harvey Wasserman at nukefree.org explains, “By all serious calculation, solar is demonstrably cheaper, cleaner, quicker to build and infinitely safer than nukes. Wind, tidal, ocean thermal, geothermal, wave, sustainable bio-fuels (NOT from corn or soy), increased efficiency, revived mass transit all have their drawbacks here and there. But as a carefully engineered whole, they promise the balanced Solartopian supply we need to move into a future that can be both prosperous and appropriate to our survival on this planet.”
In the 25 years since Chernobyl’s meltdown, nearly a million people have died as a result, according to a Kiev study Wasserman cites. There are 450 reactors worldwide today, 104 of them right here in the United States. One is located just 40 miles from Manhattan, the largest concentration of humanity in the country, with no possible means of evacuation in the event of a release of radiation.
In place of a rigorous debate about future plans to eradicate nuclear power, we are being treated to minimal information, happy-time assurances and—almost unbelievably—a planned $36 billion giveaway to the nuke pushers in Barack Obama’s 2012 budget. This is the madness of capitalism in all its venal glory. I find the administration’s sickly choreographed kabuki performance of concern without any content to be the ultimate expression of our government’s bankruptcy.
It’s time to not only revive a No Nukes movement, but to advance the science and clarity of vision for a sustainable future that so many underexposed experts like Wasserman and Williams champion. This isn’t a problem without a solution, it’s a man-made calamity standing in the way of progress.