By: Gregory A. Wood
Originally Published: 3/28/2011
CAN NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION
By Gregory A. Wood
These days there is a concerted attempt to resurrect the legitimacy of nuclear power generation. It is perhaps the most reckless boondoggle that humanity has ever had to face.
The Nuclear Danger
Because radiation has both mutagenic and carcinogenic effects, there can be no sure “safe” dose. We scarcely have a grasp of this culturally because most of the information about anything “nuclear” comes from the vested interests of the nuclear industry and the military. To begin to understand this, consider the following quote about the nature of propaganda from novelist Thomas Pynchon: “If they can get you to ask the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.”
Since the first nuclear explosion, information has been deliberately tainted by propaganda designed to deflect justifiable alarm regarding the dangers of ionizing radiation. We know now that this danger is generated at every stage of the cycle of nuclear materials production and use. But we can hardly consider anything about nuclear issues without distortion. For instance, when you hear the term “half-life” regarding a radioactive substance, know it will never be “half” as poisonous as it was previously. It is just that in that period of time, half its mass will “radiate” away, toxic as ever, while irradiating other objects in its proximity. This phrase - “half life” - is emblematic of the government’s attempt to distort and soften the sense of alarm regarding nuclear materials in the mind of the public. Whether it is 5.27 years, as with the so-called half-life of cobalt-60 used in medical testing, or for over a 1,000,000 years, as with Uranium (235, 237, 238, and 239) used in nuclear weapons and dangerously vulnerable reactors, it is never less toxic. It is worth considering the cynicism behind such distortions.
You would never know this from the way it is discussed in the media. Though there are many kinds of radiation, from x-rays to gamma rays, all nuclear industries produce radiations that are invisible, odorless, and undetectable without special equipment, so long as it involves amounts that wouldn’t kill a person outright. However, even in small amounts they are inconceivably toxic and hugely dangerous, essentially forever. They are not “safe.” They will never be “safe.” They are not “containable” and cannot be “cleaned up.” They are deadly, invisible, slow, and inexorable, even in microscopic amounts. Therefore, to have a greater clarity about the danger of radiation that can only be discovered and commented upon by “experts” who have vested interests to lie to you, know this: There are three aspects to keep in mind to have your compass about radiation danger. The first is the intensity of the source, the second is the proximity of exposure, and the third is the length of time of exposure. Yet, when “experts” discuss issues regarding the nuclear industry, to falsify safety and justify the unjustifiable, these three elements are switched and shifted like a shell game.
It is important to note that the intensity of exposure must be measured not only in terms of proximity of location, but duration in time. This is crucial as it affects a person, an animal, or an ecosystem in the same way. If a microscopic particle of long-lived ionizing radiation is ingested through food or water or enters the lungs and bloodstream through the air, then the radiation will be constant until the animal or person is dead. That particle, nevertheless, will still be toxic for a million years, long enough to enter the ecosystem through water, air, or food again countless times.
The nuclear manufacturing facilities, storage facilities, and electricity generating sites are immensely vulnerable to accident or assault. They are all “Trojan horses,” impending catastrophes in our midst. However, even when functioning optimally, they all leak carcinogenic material in the form of radioactive gas, radioactive water, and, over their very short useful life, produce radioactive pipes, cement, and other construction material that becomes monstrously dangerous. There is no safe way to dispose of or even contain that radioactive junk. What is to be done with the sites themselves after they are no longer productive? Who benefits from the mad tradeoff of an optimal 100 years of electrical power generation versus 1,000,000 years of uranium pollution? And - perish the thought - if any one of them was hit with a nuclear weapon, it would produce a radioactive volcano far worse than any single nuclear explosion, in effect an open-air breeder reactor spreading deadly radiation on the winds for all time.
Radiation severs DNA, causing mutations and cancers that are dangerous to all life, both flora and fauna. In small amounts it still becomes increasingly dangerous cumulatively because it remains toxic for inconceivable periods. It is, in fact, not merely dangerous. It is so different from other dangers the world has faced that it could be called anti-life. There is nothing comparable to it. This is what you need to understand. There is nothing man has done more ill-conceived, dangerous, or that is more emblematic of “the anti-Christ” than these nuclear toxins because they are anti-life. Considering their immorality, their sheer destructive scope to all living things over inconceivable lengths of time, there is nothing more destructive of the web of life than the radiations produced by the nuclear war industry, nor has there ever been. They will only accumulate as an increasing threat to Nature itself, with greater and greater destructive effect, generation after generation.
Therefore, two crucial things to know are that these nuclear toxins called “ionizing radiation” are so long-lived they can only accumulate to greater destructive effect and that they affect the DNA of all life. If you think of this precious earth as the well of life, you should know - given the timeframes involved - it won’t take much nuclear toxin, proportionally, to poison the well. The immensity of the problem can be understood when compared to global warming. Over a generation, people can pull back from the coasts as the oceans rise but they cannot pull back from radioactive contamination of the genome. Nuclear production of any sort can never be considered safe or acceptable and must be stopped in its entirety.
Any Child Knows
Any child knows that there are reasonable alternatives to coal-generated power without the scam of nuclear profiteers. To suggest, bald-faced, that nuclear power can be “green” or to cite “background radiation” as comparable to long-lived ionizing radiation, is simply mendacious propaganda.
The mad economics of the nuclear-toxic-production-cycle do not pencil out. It does not make any sense when contexts are considered. It does make for a false economy of unjustifiable profits for a very few while providing material for nuclear weapons. In every case these are suicide weapons; their only delusive justification being a short-term strategic or economic gain based utterly on lies that hide or obscure their consequences. Meanwhile, it rationalizes irreversible gene pool pollution from the dispersion of poisons that are invisible in smaller amounts, won’t die, but will only accumulate in the genome of any living thing. All lives are vulnerable to radiation.
From the beginning of the invention of the nuclear bomb to this day, military propaganda has proffered lies and distortions to justify the military-industrial poisoning that can be conceived as a kind of genetic leprosy carried forward, generation after generation. Consider the dramatic difference in cancer deaths prior to 1945 and since. This is virtually a state secret. We are told anything might be the cause except government-caused radiation.
Whether polluting events are from the use of uranium-tipped weapon’s radioactive fallout carried on the winds, from larger government-instigated explosions, or from disasters that seem remote for the moment, the dimensions of these events are so large in their effect over time that they are nearly impossible to fathom. Yet we must be steady enough to imagine the destruction in order to be able to prevent it. Nuclear “power” is a myth. Nuclear pollution is a fact. We can almost imagine a nuclear “bomb” - but not its scale. It is even harder to feature what could be called “the slow bomb” of relentless destruction from nuclear toxins accumulating in the food chain and in the genome of humans, animals, and plants over hundreds of thousands of years. For inconceivable periods of time - far longer than governments, longer than human language, longer than all human experience - nuclear pollution will continue to effect every life that its microscopic poison touches. The result is that generation after generation will produce newborns with impossible birth defects because those most susceptible to mutations are fetuses and youngsters. We know cancer deaths will continue to increase dramatically in the young and old as we have all seen. The sheer denial of government complicity regarding this long assault upon the public is simply outrageous. This is, after all, about the safety of our children and grandchildren.
Reasonable human beings won’t long overlook monstrously stupid rationalizations of ecocide. We need wisdom and imagination to bring this to light in a way that even children can understand.
So, cultivate your own power. The first key is decentralization from the exploitation of any single group controlling essential resources at the spigot. The second is empowering individual households and communities through conservation and investment in solar and wind power safe enough for any child.
“Nuclear power is a cancer industry. War is no longer appropriate. Even conventional war is no longer appropriate because of nuclear reactors and huge nuclear radioactive waste dumps everywhere. [If bombed, they] would produce . . . genetic suicide. These weapons are biologically inapplicable and cannot be used.” - - Helen Caldicott, M.D., Australia. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and listed as one of the most influential women of the 20th century by the Smithsonian Institution.
A Note From The Wonk: You may want to look at this “Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945.” It was done by Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto and depicts all the nuclear bomb testing done throughout the world from 1945 to 1998. It is stunning. During that time there were 2,053 nuclear explosions, more than half of which have been done by the United States and the bulk of the rest by China. As far as I have been able to determine (Wikipedia), there have been 2 more nuclear explosions since 1998. This, of course, is just nuclear testing. We have to add in the nuclear “accidents” from nuclear reactors. I have found 28 “accidents” since 1952. (Wikipedia)
© The Issue Wonk, 2011