Nasty power:
Nuclear energy can devastate in ways solar and wind don’t

How much do you really trust nuclear power?

Do you find it reassuring that the nation's largest nuclear power plant, which supplies electricity to 4 million people - the Palo Verde station 50 miles west of Phoenix - was put under what the Los Angeles Times called a "tighter watch" by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission last month because of a "safety violation" with "low to moderate safety significance"?

Does it convince you that every time any problems occur with nuclear energy the potential harm is always minimized?

How about Chernobyl? Pro-nuke writers say it really wasn't bad. Only 56 people were killed directly by the reactor explosion, which was caused largely by human error. They fail to tell you, of course, that the explosion released as much as 40 times the amount of radioactivity of the bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and that the fallout plume reached the East Coast of the United States.

Does it make you comfortable to know that the nation's most important nuclear weapons facility - Pantex, near Amarillo, Texas - was under investigation last month for the general deterioration of its buildings, its leaking roofs, its compromised safety systems and its employment practices, which drive workers to the point of exhaustion, according to the Los Angeles Times?

Is this the news one wants to hear as the nuclear power industry parades newly pro-nuke environmentalists like the Whole Earth Catalog's Stuart Brand around the Internet, preaching the safety and sanity of using radioactivity to make electricity, when an array of proven alternative sources of energy are languishing for want of funds?

What happens when wind generation facilities go kaput? Well, they don't exhale plumes of pollution. The propellers, though, might fall off. Or how about breakdowns at solar facilities? I suppose there's a lot of broken silicon.

Rational objections to nuclear energy are not always about its overkill technology - harnessing the power of the atom to boil water - but about its plumbing and its management and upkeep, often the sources of human error - the things that the efficiencies of high technology can do nothing about.

You'd think that after more than 60 years the nuclear military/industrial complex would have solved the massive problems of what to do with nuclear waste. But the political will has gone into funding PR cons about how harmless radioactive waste is, not scientific research on waste removal.

According to some experts it would take 1,000 new 1-gigawatt nuclear power plants in America to significantly decrease our effect on global warming. There are only 103 now.

According to Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, three years ago renewable energy sources were generating more than 500 times more electricity worldwide than nuclear power, without any of its potential, nasty side effects.

Does nuclear energy really seem that appealing?

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
March 10, 2007