By Peter Weish
This is Peter Weish’s acceptance speech on receiving the 2018 Nuclear-Free Future Award in the category of Lifetime Achievement, on October 24 in Salzburg, Austria.
As we all know, it all began with the bomb. After the two atomic weapons of mass destruction were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the dictum shifted in the mid-1950s to “Atoms for Peace,” sparking a euphoric faith in the power of the atom. Every self-respecting country set up its own nuclear research centers and embarked on atomic energy projects.
The Austrian Atomic Energy Research Organization was founded in 1956, and in 1960 the first research reactor was built, in Seibersdorf. From 1966 to 1970, I worked at the reactor facility, in the Institute for Radiation Safety, where I noticed, with growing concern, how others were handling radioactive substances incompetently and irresponsibly yet seeking at the same time to promote these substances’ large- scale use. When the reactor’s technical director stated one day in a radio interview, “We hear constant claims that radiation causes cancer. The opposite is true – radiation cures cancer,” I had had enough.
Together with my friend Eduard Gruber, a radio chemist, I began developing scientific arguments to counter the pro-nuclear narrative and raise public awareness. It was only much later that I chanced upon a quotation from Jean Jacques Rousseau that neatly summed up my motivation: “I would never presume to educate people if others did not seek to mislead them!” And so it was that in 1969 I published my first critical essay on nuclear energy.
By Karl Grossman
Libbe HaLevy has written a brilliant book about the deadly dangers of nuclear power.
It’s titled “Yes, I Glow In The Dark!” with a subtitle, “One Mile From Three Mile Island To Fukushima And Nuclear Hotseat.”
It combines the personal with clear facts about why nuclear power is lethal.
Its title stems from Ms. HaLevy being just a mile from the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, Unit 2, when it underwent a meltdown.
“CLOSE ALL YOUR DOORS AND WINDOWS AND STAY AWAY FROM THEM. STAY INSIDE AND DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOMES UNLESS IT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY,” begins the book’s introduction, referring to what people in the area were told in 1979 when TMI went wild.
“This was not the vacation I had intended,” she relates. “Not a drill, not a false alarm. This was really happening. A nuclear reactor malfunctioning only one mile away…”
“This is the story of what happens when someone who is just a person—no privileged standing in the world, no family fortune, old school ties, corporate or political connections to call upon—finds herself caught next to something that we were told could never happen, a malfunctioning, radiation-leaking, out-of-control nuclear reactor.”
“Whatever it is that speaks to you in what follows,” she tells readers, “may it provide clarity, perspective, and food for thought….”
By M.V. Ramana and Robert Jensen
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report released in October rightfully elicited much public commentary about global warming and its truly frightening impacts. But in those initial reactions, less attention was paid to the unnerving implications of the report’s suggested solutions, which encourage us to roll the dice on unproven technologies and double down on nuclear power.
Underlying the IPCC report’s claims is the belief that technological solutions can fix the climate problem. Yet these fixes don’t address the root cause of climate change.
Let’s start by facing the frightening facts. The report shows that warming must be held to no more than 1.5°C above preindustrial levels to avoid truly catastrophic consequences. This requires emissions of CO2 to be limited to an amount that, at the current rate, will be breached in 10 to 15 years.
The report outlines four broad pathways to stay within that limit, all of which include large-scale deployment of various technological fixes to climate change. These include not just the sensible pursuit of solar energy and wind power but also of unproven technologies, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, which has not been demonstrated to work at scale.
By Paul Gunter, Beyond Nuclear
A controversial new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests that closing aging US nuclear plants — and not subsidizing the cost of building new ones — will increase carbon emissions. The assumption is that nuclear plants that close will be replaced by coal or natural gas-fired plants.
An increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the US is of course unacceptable given the accelerating climate change crisis we now face. However, the evidence so far, that closed nuclear plants will largely be replaced by natural gas and coal, is not borne out by the actual evidence.
California, which has only one nuclear power plant still operating at Diablo Canyon, will replace it, and the already shuttered San Onofre reactors, entirely with renewable energy. When Nebraska closed its flooded Ft. Calhoun nuclear plant, it was wind energy, not fossil fuels, that stepped in to fill the new generation void.
As members of Three Mile Island Alert, a watchdog group, we are resolutely opposed to the present attempts by utilities in Pennsylvania and Ohio to secure huge subsidies to keep their aging and financially failing nuclear power plants operational well beyond their “expiration dates”. Such a decision would have national implications. The diversion of billions of dollars into nuclear subsidies would distort markets and state regulatory decisions and result in lower investment in renewable resources and energy efficiency. This in turn would prolong the uneconomic existence of a resource that is not clean energy.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, in its new report, argues that the trajectories of existing renewable energy and efficiency standards are insufficient to prevent a dangerous increase in CO2 emissions, and that a price on carbon could serve to better mitigate carbon emissions as long as nuclear reactors remain operational.
This latter requirement is roundly contradicted by reports over the last several years that show that, even in Pennsylvania, a state with one of the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rates, GHG reduction goals can be met under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan targets through planned power plant retirements.
Nuclear power is a well-funded, controversial industry that embodies hazards at all points along its fuel cycle. There is no room for both renewable energy development and continued, subsidized operation of nuclear power plants.
By Mary Lou Dauray
The journey of an artist’s work involves a variety of pathways. Sometimes these lead to paintings inspired by serious events that involve the entirety of our planet. That was to be my destination as an artist, but my journey began with landscapes, on the top floor of my strict Catholic school, where, on Saturday mornings, we were allowed to paint scenes from photographs.
That sojourn in the tranquility and beauty of nature was abruptly turned upside down after the 2000 election of George W. Bush.
The election night itself, with its bizarre turn of events, set me painting furiously, an anger that exploded into a flame-filled oil painting in response to the 9/11 attacks almost a year later. Then came the war in Iraq and I found myself creating a series of watercolors of soldiers, bombings, the women of Iraq and of death. After all, the Iraq war was about oil. It had become increasingly obvious to me how burning oil and coal, non-renewable resources, contribute to greenhouse gases and the warming of our planet.