By Robert Jay Lifton and Naomi Oreskes
Commentators from Greenpeace to the World Bank agree that climate change is an emergency, threatening civilization and life on our planet. Any solution must involve the control of greenhouse gas emissions by phasing out fossil fuels and switching to alternative technologies that do not impair the human habitat while providing the energy we require to function as a species.
This sobering reality has led some prominent observers to re-embrace nuclear energy. Advocates declare it clean, efficient, economical, and safe. In actuality it is none of these. It is expensive and poses grave dangers to our physical and psychological well-being. According to the US Energy Information Agency, the average nuclear power generating cost is about $100 per megawatt-hour. Compare this with $50 per megawatt-hour for solar and $30 to $40 per megawatt-hour for onshore wind. The financial group Lazard recently said that renewable energy costs are now “at or below the marginal cost of conventional generation” — that is, fossil fuels — and much lower than nuclear.
In theory these high costs and long construction times could be brought down. But we have had more than a half-century to test that theory and it appears to have been solidly refuted. Unlike nearly all other technologies, the cost of nuclear power has risen over time. Even its supporters recognize that it has never been cost-competitive in a free-market environment, and its critics point out that the nuclear industry has followed a “negative learning curve.” Both the Nuclear Energy Agency and International Energy Agency have concluded that although nuclear power is a “proven low-carbon source of base-load electricity,” the industry will have to address serious concerns about cost, safety, and waste disposal if it is to play a significant role in addressing the climate-energy nexus.
By Linda Pentz Gunter
Early on in Uranium Derby, the new film from first-time filmmaker, Brittany Prater, you get a creeping feeling of deja vu. Haven’t we seen this story before?
Not that this takes away any of the power of Prater’s very personal film, a documentary set in her hometown of Ames, Iowa, a town, she comes to learn, she knew little about, and which harbored a dark, and maybe even deadly secret.
In the modest-sized, very white and very traditional town of Ames, population a touch over 58,000 today, work went on in the 1940s and ‘50s processing uranium for the US nuclear weapons program. In an anonymous grey house, nicknamed “Little Ankeny,” now demolished and replaced with a stone marker, some of the world’s most radioactive uranium was handled by about 14 men working in secret for the Manhattan Project. This was the dawn of the Ames Laboratory, then called the Ames Project. Wikipedia summarizes its early purpose, as does the film:
“Its purpose was to produce high purity uranium from uranium ores. Harley Wilhelm developed new methods for both reducing and casting uranium metal, making it possible to cast large ingots of the metal and reduce production costs by as much as twenty-fold. About one-third, or around 2 tons, of the uranium used in the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction at the University of Chicago was provided through these procedures, now known as the Ames Process. The Ames Project produced more than 2 million pounds (1,000 tons) of uranium for the Manhattan Project until industry took over the process in 1945.”
Watch a trailer of Uranium Derby below:
The radioactive debris and detritus resulting from these activities had to go somewhere. And where it went, as the film narrates it, is pretty much all around town, on ten sites including the airport, a cemetery, under a highway overpass, and at the intersection of two residential streets.
By Linda Pentz Gunter
The headline — Police probe opened into rumours of unsafe tap water in Paris — raised hopes that nuclear operators might finally be held accountable for what appears to be routine radioactive contamination of drinking water in France.
News stories had circulated after a French radiological testing laboratory published findings on June 17, 2019, that more than six million French residents were drinking water contaminated with tritium released by the country’s nuclear power plants and other nuclear installations.
The laboratory — L’association pour le contrôle de la radioactivité dans l’Ouest or ACRO — raised the alarm because, it said, the presence of tritium implied there could be other radioactive isotopes in the water as well. None of the tritium levels they measured on this occasion, exceeded those French health authorities have established as “safe”, but research in the past has found higher levels, especially in groundwater, rivers and streams.
That “acceptable” level is 100 Becquerels per liter, not quite as arbitrary as the shocking 10,000 Bq/L level set by the World Health Organization, in thrall to the nuclear power-promoting International Atomic Energy Agency through a 1959 agreement.
The cities affected included Paris and its suburbs, and other large population areas in the Loire and Vienne regions of France such Orléans, Tours and Nantes.
By Nic Maclellan
But the deaths of John Doom, Bruno Barrillot and Roland Oldham mean others must pick up their work, to support the thousands of Maohi workers who staffed the nuclear test sites.
Tanemaruata Michel Arakino was born on Reao, an island not far from Moruroa Atoll in the Pacific territory of French Polynesia. From the 1980s, Arakino worked for 17 years with the French military unit responsible for collecting biological samples at the French nuclear test site, to determine the spread of radioactive particles. Working as a scuba diver, he plunged into the lagoon at Moruroa Atoll to collect samples of water, seaweed and sediments, just hours after underground nuclear tests had been detonated deep in the atoll.
Arakino reported: “In my job, I was regularly in the so-called ‘hot spots’ to gather samples from the ground and the sea for biological testing on Moruroa and Fangataufa Atolls. It is likely that while diving to gather plankton above ground zero, I swallowed or breathed in radioactive particles. In no case did my senior officers inform me of the risks I might incur.”
Arakino later died of cancer. He was just one of thousands of workers who laboured in support of the French nuclear testing program, with Algerians and Pacific islanders often allocated the most dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs.
We, the undersigned, representing a coalition of concerned peace organizations and citizens of the United States are advocating for abolition of nuclear weapons globally. We are gathering here, in front of the Consulate General of Japan in New York, with a bouquet of flowers to express our sincere regrets and apologies for our nation’s atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Although our government hasn’t apologized officially for this war crime and crime against humanity, the members of our coalition would like to extend our deepest condolences to the atomic bomb survivors (Hibakusha) who have endured great mental and physical hardships for over seven decades.
Back in 1987, President Reagan and Secretary General Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which banned all land-based ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. In February 2019, President Trump formally suspended the U.S. obligations for this treaty. Considering the fact that the U.S. and Russia hold more than 90% of nuclear warheads in the world, President Trump’s policy could insinuate unnecessary tension not only between these two countries, but also amongst the countries around the world.
After more than seven decades of nuclear deterrence policy, it has been an undeniable global consensus that the world became more dangerous under such policy. We promise to keep raising our voices to our government regarding the importance of keeping arms control treaties and signing and ratifying of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by the United Nations in 2017 with overwhelming support from 122 member states. We also hope that Japan will be the first country in the U.S. nuclear alliance to give up the U.S. nuclear umbrella by swiftly signing, ratifying and playing a leadership role in promoting the Treaty. Our coalition also calls on Japan to preserve its peace constitution and to support the peace process on the Korean Peninsula.