Atoms for Peace

Nuclear Power Plant Cooling Tower photo image

I hadn’t intended to post more than one or two entries per month here, but stuff keeps coming over the transom. Bear with me. This is a first look at the embrace of nuclear by environmentalists and climate scientists.

Back in November I sent my wife Andrea Carney yet another TED Talk. By chance I would catch parts of these talks on public radio during my drive home from meetings. If something interested me I’d pull up the talk on YouTube. Michael Shellenberger’s topic, “Why I changed my mind about nuclear power,” struck me because I’d recently tracked down a hazily-remembered segment regarding nuclear power from years ago on Democracy Now! that featured columnist and environmentalist (and near-vegan) George Monbiot (I kept spelling his name wrong).1 And I’d forgotten it was a debate—with anti-nuclear (weapons and power) champion Helen Caldicott, who was considered a 20th century hero.

In his March 30, 2011 debate with Caldicott, Monbiot expressed sympathy for the people of Fukushima, who had experienced an earthquake-caused tsunami as well as the ensuing nuclear power plant failure. But he hoped the disaster wouldn’t cause a global retreat from nuclear and a return to coal.

In China alone, last year, 2,300 people were killed in industrial accidents to do with coal mining; purely by coal mining accidents, 2,300 killed. That’s six people a day. That means that in one week, the official death toll from coal in China is greater than the official death toll from Chernobyl in 25 years.

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