By Slater, Alice
Pacific Ecologist , No. 16
Insecurity is increasing worldwide with the global warming and energy crises, but establishing an International Renewable Energy Agency to help bring a speedy transition to harnessing earth-friendly renewable energy resources would greatly assist in assuring stable, reliable energy supplies everywhere, reports ALICE SLATER. Nuclear power's very limited ability to reduce greenhouse gases, compared to reductions that can be achieved using the same dollars for sustainable energy, and its enormously dangerous proliferation and pollution issues, combine to make nuclear an untenable, irrational energy choice.
We are at a critical time in history. Increasingly severe extreme weather events, more catastrophic hurricanes, droughts, melting polar ice, underline the urgency of heeding the scientific consensus on the need to reduce our ever rising use of carbon-based fuels which are endangering our survival on the planet. Current international efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, including the Kyoto Protocol, are proving insufficient to address the urgency of the global climate crisis. The world's dependence on fossil fuels creates political and economic instability across the globe. These tensions are bound to increase as depleting resources and price volatility undermine energy security worldwide.
Rise of nuclear tensions
Additionally, recent failures of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the Millennium Summit and the General Assembly to meaningfully address nuclear disarmament and nuclear proliferation issues, should serve as a wake-up call to nations. We cannot continue with "business as usual," as increasing numbers of nations seek to assert their right to pursue civilian nuclear technology under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which can easily be converted to weapons technology. Civilian nuclear programs in Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea enable each of those countries to covertly develop nuclear weapons as a result of their "peaceful' nuclear energy programs. Currently, Iran's assertion of its right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium is raising new international concerns.
Nuclear power plants generate toxic radioactive waste that threatens both human life and the environment. To date, the United States alone has produced more than 80,000 tons of highly radioactive waste for which there is no suitable storage location. This waste will remain lethal to human health and the environment for more than 250,000 years, and its continued production poses an unacceptable burden on present and future generations. Nuclear reactors emit contaminated water and steam as part of daily routine operations, leaking radioactive toxins into groundwater and soil.
In every situation where nuclear technology is employed, whether in the military or civilian sector, countless studies report higher incidences of birth defects, cancer, and genetic mutations." A US National Research Council 2005 study reported that exposure to X-rays and gamma rays, even at low-dose-levels, can cause cancer. The committee defined "low-dose," as a range from near zero up to about 10 times that from a CT scan. "There appears to be no threshold below which exposure can be viewed as harmless," said one NRC panelist. (2) Tens of thousands of tons of nuclear waste accumulate at civilian reactors with no solution for its storage, releasing toxic doses of radioactive waste into our air, water and soil and contaminating our planet and its inhabitants for hundreds of thousands of years.
Despite the obvious health and security disadvantages of utilizing nuclear power to produce electricity, it's being promoted in some quarters as having potential to help avert future climate catastrophes. But nuclear power is not pollution or emissions free. Every step of the nuclear fuel cycle: mining, development, production, transportation and disposal of waste, relies on fossil fuels and produces greenhouse gas emissions. …