September 27, 2009
THERE ARE at least five strong arguments against nuclear power being more than a minor part of the response to climate change (“Nuclear must be part of energy equation,’’ Op-ed):
There is no current or imminent plan for permanent disposal of high-level nuclear waste in the United States.
Addressing climate change through nuclear power means spreading nuclear technology worldwide. We already see how this leads to nuclear proliferation in places such as Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea. This also may heighten the risk of nuclear terrorism.
Unintended releases of radiation from nuclear power plants, while rare, can be catastrophic (witness Chernobyl), and may be more likely as nuclear spreads to countries with less experience with the technology than the United States.
Nuclear is not really carbon neutral. The mining and processing of uranium, the building of power plants, and their decommissioning release carbon. A full accounting must consider the complete life cycle.
Finally, but not least important, mining and processing uranium ore has had devastating consequences for workers and nearby communities, often indigenous peoples.
Before we jump on the nuclear bandwagon, we need to appraise all the impacts and consider other alternatives, such as solar and wind, that have substantially less downside.
The writer was co-editor of the book “The Navajo People and Uranium Mining.’’