Nuclear Energy – A Green Goal?
“In the early 1970s when I helped found Greenpeace, I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust, as did most of my compatriots. That’s the conviction that inspired Greenpeace’s first voyage up the spectacular rocky northwest coast to protest the testing of U.S. hydrogen bombs in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.”
So begins Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, currently chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd., in an article published in the Washington Post. Mr. Moore goes on to address the dangers of nuclear proliferation (he wrote this article days after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that his country had enriched uranium), and Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island nuclear power plant reactor core meltdown “that sent shivers of very real anguish throughout the country.”
Interestingly, he considers the damage done at Three Mile Island to be a success in terms of its containment and eventual net damage done. This is interesting as I have quoted over the past week or so, other experts who offer the same response in regard to what transpired in Japan.
He also quotes a study (I can’t find the source) that finds that 80% of the people living within 10 miles of the US nuclear plants are in favor of their use. This statistic does not include those employed at the nuclear power plants). I want to assume that these people did their due diligence and didn’t just jump at low house prices (it’s all about location!).
Finally he offers a number of ‘stars’ from the environmental world who support nuclear energy, including British atmospheric scientist James Lovelock, father of the ‘Gaia’ theory, Stewart Brand, founder of the “Whole Earth Catalog,” and the late British Bishop Hugh Montefiore, founder and director of Friends of the Earth. Incidentally, Bishop Montefiore was forced to resign from Friends of the Earth’s board of directors when he authored a pro-nuclear article in a church newsletter.
Moore does highlight many serious problems with pursuing nuclear power. While I list them below, his article goes into more detail.
– nuclear power is expensive
– power plants are not safe and there is the potential of a natural disaster
– power plants are vulnerable targets for terrorist attacks
– we do not have proven solutions to get rid of nuclear waste
– the move from a nuclear energy program to a nuclear arms program is a short one
Finally, for those of you less interested in plowing through a article, here is a 17-minute talk from Stewart Brand. He actually deals with more than just nuclear power in his speech, but it is fascinating.
Can we envisage nuclear energy as a green source of energy after what happened in Japan?
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).