It’s got about as many different connotations, opinions, images and ideas attached to it as… say… drugs.
Some call it clean, some call it reliable, and some even call it green.
But as much as I would love to have such an energy source ready and waiting to replace dirty, dirty coal as our main energy source, nuclear generated power just can’t live up to these admirable names.
First and for most, nuclear is far from safe. The entire process of nuclear energy, from the mining of uranium to the milling and enriching of the ore to the process of nuclear fission, to the storage of the radioactive waste puts workers and communities at risk of radiation exposure.
Communities surrounding uranium mines and nuclear plants have been shown to have higher cancer rates from exposure to radiation. Mines especially have a high potential of allowing radioactive contamination to seep into the drinking water of nearby communities.
Waste storage is probably the biggest safety and health concern. Nuclear waste, which includes the processed uranium as well as exposed rags, safety equipment, tools and other materials, stays radioactive and dangerous for millions of years.
Yet no adequate location for a universal storage facility has been found – after 50 years of nuclear history! The Obama administration recently found that the proposed sight at Yucca Mountain was not scientifically sound and too risky. The current alternative, storing waste on sight at the plants, poses a huge security risk – the original plans for 9/11 included flying two airplanes into nuclear power plants.
In addition to safety and health is the simple fact that the nuclear energy industry, by default, encourages nuclear proliferation. In the world today, there is enough enriched uranium and separated plutonium in the world to make more than 100,000 nuclear weapons. Increasing nuclear power would only increase our ability to easily make more nuclear weapons.
Economically, nuclear doesn’t make any more sense. Nuclear power is more expensive than both wind and solar. The industry would not be feasible without subsidies funded by our tax dollars because Wall Street avoids investing in the risky industry.
Current proposed reactors in Texas at Comanche Peak are expected to cost $22 billion dollars. At a time when Texas is on the threshold of leadership in true renewable energies- wind and solar- spending this excessive amount of money on a dangerous and unhealthy technology is sacrificing our potential to fight climate change. We should be investing smartly, in promising solutions, rather than throwing our money away on an infeasible technology.
Add together all of these issues and you begin to see why nuclear energy is neither clean nor reliable nor green. So call it what you will but never call it an answer to climate change.
For more information about nuclear energy in Texas and current legislation, proposed reactors, and waste dumps visit www.nukefreetexas.org.