Power – One of Humankind’s Biggest Mistakes
Power was a mistake and remains a mistake. If the human family survives it,
our descendants will wonder what we were thinking to justify leaving them
nuclear power’s toxic legacy -- a legacy they will be dealing with for
hundreds if not thousands of generations.
why did we do it? To power our lights, TVs, radios, stereos, air conditioners,
etc. and the tools we used to make them.
creation of nuclear power will be especially difficult for our descendants to
understand because they will know that in the nuclear era, we already had all
the technologies and know-how needed to power everything in ways that are
perpetually recyclable, powered by free solar energy and which leave zero
harmful residues in their wake.
its own, nuclear power’s toxic radioactive legacy should be enough to give
any thinking person sufficient reason to want to eliminate it as quickly as
possible and do everything to protect our descendants from the
radioactive wastes already created.
human family has been at war with itself for the majority of its history.
Human history is full of successful, advanced and sophisticated civilizations
that utterly collapsed. To the informed, even our current civilization(s)
don’t feel very solid. Plus there are earthquakes, tsunami’s volcanoes,
severe weather, terrorism, and just plain human error. This given, who can
guarantee that anything as dangerous and long-lived as nuclear waste can be
kept safe for even 100 years much less the hundreds to hundreds of thousands
of years it will take before some of these wastes are safe to be around.
even if an insurance company did guarantee its safety, what is their guarantee
worth? What could they do to protect us and future generations if San
Onofre’s spent fuel storage pond lost its coolant water. If this happened an
almost unquenchable radioactive fire would spontaneously erupt, spewing
radioactive materials wherever the wind blew for weeks if not months --
rendering Southern California a dangerous place to live for thousands if not
hundreds of thousands of years.
the above, the nuclear industry is lobbying the public and the government to
continue supporting them politically and economically so the industry can
latest rational is that nuclear power will produce fewer greenhouse gases than
what would be produced using fossil fuels to make electricity. This is true if
one only looks at what happens inside a reactor. It’s not true when
accounting for all the fossil fuel energy consumed during nuclear power’s
fuel cycle, and what it takes to build, operate and dismantle plants when they
wear out. Additionally, even if nuclear power was ended today, fossil fuel
energy must be consumed for millennia in order to protect the public from the
radioactive residues that nuclear power has already generated.
increasing number of former industry and non-industry experts are saying that
at best nuclear power releases slightly fewer greenhouse gases to the
atmosphere than if the fossil fuels embodied in it had been burned to make
his 2002 book, Asleep at the Geiger Counter, p. 107-118, Sidney
Goodman, (giving the industry the benefit of the doubt on a number of fronts
and assuming no serious accidents or terrorism), concludes that the net output
of the typical nuclear power plant would be only 4% more than if the fossil
fuels embodied in it had been uses directly to produce electricity. This
means, best-case scenario, replacing direct fossil fuel generated electricity
with nuclear generated electricity will only reduce the carbon dioxide
released per unit of electricity produced by 4%. Goodman is a long practicing
licensed Professional Engineer with a Masters Degree in Mechanical
experts believe that nuclear power will produce about the same amount of
energy as was, is, and will be consumed to create, operate and deal with its
aftermath. This case was made in an article published in Pergamon Journals
Ltd. Vol.13, No. 1, 1988, P. 139, titled “The Net Energy Yield of
Nuclear Power.” In their article the authors concluded that even without
including the energy that has or would be consumed to mitigate past or future
serious radioactive releases, nuclear power is only “the re-embodiment of
the energy that went into creating it.”
its July/August 2006 edition, The Ecologist Magazine, a respected British
publication, featured an16-page analysis of nuclear power. One of the
conclusions was that nuclear power does not even produce enough electricity to
make up for the fossil fuels consumed just to mine, mill and otherwise process
uranium ore into nuclear fuel, much less all the other energy imputes required
This is not surprising given that at typical U-235 ore concentrations of 01%
to 02%, requires mining, crushing and processing a ton of ore to end up with
1/2 oz to 1 oz of nuclear reactor fuel.
put this in perspective, the typical 1,000 MW nuclear power plants uses around
33 tons or over 1 million oz of nuclear fuel each year.
a teenager I saw a TV program that showed a man holding a piece of metal in
the palm of his hand. He was saying that if what he held was pure uranium it
would contain as much energy as the train full of coal that was passing by him
on the screen. I became an instant “true believer” in nuclear power. I
thought if something that small can produce the same amount of energy as all
that coal, there will be plenty of energy and therefore plenty of money to
address any dangers that using it might pose.
to get that level of energy from a small amount of pure or near pure uranium
it would require that it be exploded as an atomic bomb. Of the uranium used in
a reactor, only a fraction of the energy in pure uranium gets used. That’s
why we have depleted uranium and other long-lived wastes.
nuclear industry says that nuclear power is safe, a big net energy producer,
and that it will be cheap and easy to keep its wastes out of the environment
and out of the hands of terrorists.
if these claims are true, why has an industry that supplies only 8% of our
country’s total energy and 20% of its electricity consumed hundreds of
billions of tax dollar subsidies since its inception? The 2005 Federal
Energy Bill continues this trend. According to U.S. PIRG, Taxpayers for Common
Sense, Public Citizen and the Congressional Research Service the recently
passed 2005 Federal Energy Bill includes “a taxpayer liability of $14 to $16
billion” in support of nuclear power.
nuclear power is so safe and wonderful, why does it require the Price Anderson
Act? The Price Anderson Act puts taxpayers on the hook if the cost of a major
radioactive release exceeds $10.5 billion. According to a Sandia National
Laboratory analysis, this puts taxpayers on the hook for over $600 billion to
cover the damage that a serious radioactive release would cause. Another
Sandia Laboratory study focusing just on the Indian Point nuclear power plant
in New York, concluded the damage caused by a serious release from that plant
could cost up to a trillion dollars. Needless to say, any serious radioactive
release from any U. S. plant would wipe out any net energy gain by nuclear
power if -- there ever was one.
the potential cost of a serious radioactive release, manufacturers, insurers
and utilities, were unwilling to build, insure or order plants. They only got
seriously involved after the Congress assigned these cost to the taxpaying
page 7, a report by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research titled
The Nuclear Power Deception, they included the follow 1996 quote from
then NRC Commissioner James Asselstine,
“given the present level of safety being achieved by the operating nuclear
power plants in this country, we can expect a meltdown within the next 20
years, and it is possible that such as accident could result in off-site
releases of radiation which are as large as, or larger than the released
estimates to have occurred at Chernobyl.”
Bare in mind, a meltdown is only one of several things that could happen with
nuclear power to cause a serious radioactive release.
I said in the beginning, nuclear power is a mistake. Especially considering we
already have all the technologies and know-how needed to make us completely
and abundantly renewable energy self-sufficient. Solar energy leaves no
radioactive residues for our children or future generations. Additionally,
although not completely environmentally benign yet, solar energy collection
systems can be designed to last generations, be perpetually recyclable and
leave zero toxic residues behind.
San Diego County covered 24% of its roofs and parking lots with PV panels, it
would produce more electricity than the county consumes. This assumes that 3
million resident use, on average, 10 kWh per capita per day after installing
cost-effective electricity use efficiency improvements. For details read my
free books at www.jimbell.com. They are also available in most local
ourselves, our children and future generations, let’s move into the solar