Nuclear Power Is Not The Answer

by Helen Caldicott

New Press, 2006, paperback

 

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The current administration [George W. Bush] clearly believes that if it lies frequently and with conviction, the general public will be lulled into believing their oft-repeated dictums. As this book will show, no part of "efficiently, safely, and with no discharge of greenhouse gases or emissions" is true. Nuclear energy creates significant greenhouse gases and pollution today, and is on a trajectory to produce as much as conventional sources of energy within the next one or two decades. It requires massive infusions of government (read taxpayer) subsidies, relying on universities and the weapons industry for its research and development, and being considered far too risky for private investors. It is also doubtful that the 8,358 individuals diagnosed between 1986 and 2001 with thyroid cancer in Belarus, downwind of Chernobyl, would choose the adjective "safe" to describe nuclear power.

Nuclear power is not "clean and green," as the industry claims, because large amounts of traditional fossil fuels are required to mine and refine the uranium needed to run nuclear power reactors, to construct the massive concrete reactor buildings, and to transport and store the toxic radioactive waste created by the nuclear process. Burning of this fossil fuel emits significant quantities of carbon dioxide (C02)-the primary "greenhouse gas"-into the atmosphere. In addition, large amounts of the now-banned chlorofluorocarbon gas (CFC) are emitted during the enrichment of uranium. CFC gas is not only 10,000 to 20,000 times more efficient as an atmospheric heat trapper ("greenhouse gas") than CO 2' but it is a classic "pollutant" and a potent destroyer of the ozone layer.

While currently the creation of nuclear electricity produces only one-third the amount of CO2 emitted from a similar-sized, conventional gas generator, this is a transitory statistic. Over several decades, as the concentration of available uranium ore declines, more fossil fuels will be required to extract the ore from less concentrated ore veins. Within ten to twenty years, nuclear reactors will produce no net energy because of the massive amounts of fossil fuel that will be necessary to mine and to enrich the remaining poor grades of uranium. (The nuclear power industry contends that large quantities of uranium can be obtained by reprocessing radioactive spent fuel. However, this process is extremely expensive, medically dangerous for nuclear workers, and releases large amounts of radioactive material into the air and water; it is therefore not a pragmatic consideration.) By extension, the operation of nuclear power plants will then produce exactly the same amounts of greenhouse gases and air pollution as standard power plants.

Contrary to the nuclear industry claims, smoothly running nuclear power plants are also not emission free. Government regulations allow nuclear plants "routinely" to emit hundreds of thousands of curies of radioactive gases and other radioactive elements into the environment every year. Thousands of tons of solid radioactive waste are presently accumulating in the cooling pools beside the 103 operating nuclear plants in the United States and hundreds of others throughout the world. This waste contains extremely toxic elements that will inevitably pollute the environment and human food chains, a legacy that will lead to epidemics of cancer, leukemia, and genetic disease in populations living near nuclear power plants or radioactive waste facilities for many generations to come.

Nuclear power is exorbitantly expensive, and notoriously unreliable. Wall Street is deeply reluctant to re-involve itself in any nuclear investment, despite the fact that in the 2005 Energy Bill the US. Congress allocated $13 billion in subsidies to revive a moribund nuclear power industry. To compound this problem, the global supplies of usable uranium fuel are finite. If the entire world's electricity production were replaced today by nuclear energy, there would be less than nine more years of accessible uranium. But even if certain corporate interests are convinced that nuclear power at the moment might be a beneficial investment, one major accident at a nuclear reactor that induces a meltdown would destroy all such investments and signal the end of nuclear power forever.

In this day and age, nuclear power plants are also obvious targets for terrorists, inviting assault by plane, truck bombs, armed attack, or covert intrusion into the reactor's control room. The subsequent meltdown could induce the death of hundreds of thousands of people in heavily populated areas, and they would expire slowly and painfully, some over days and others over years from acute radiation illness, cancer, leukemia, congenital deformities, or genetic disease. Such an attack at the Indian Point reactors, thirty-five miles from Manhattan, for instance, would effectively incapacitate the world's main financial center for the rest of time. An attack on one of the thirteen reactors 2 surrounding Chicago would wreak similar catastrophic medical consequences. Amazingly, security at U.S. nuclear power plants remains at virtually the same lax levels as prior to the 9/11 attacks.

Adding to the danger, nuclear power plants are essentially atomic bomb factories. A 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor manufactures 500 pounds of plutonium a year; normally ten pounds of plutonium is fuel for an atomic bomb.

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When nuclear proponents say that nuclear power can be used reduce the United State's insatiable reliance on foreign oil, they are simply wrong. Oil and its by-product gasoline are used to fuel the internal combustion engines in automobiles and trucks. Oil is also used to heat buildings. But oil does not power the electric grid. The grid, which is used to power electric lights, computers, VCRs, fans, hair dryers, stoves, refrigerators, air conditioners, and for industrial needs, is powered primarily through the burning of coal, other fossil fuels, and, currently, through nuclear power. (Oil does generate an infinitesimal amount of electricity-2% in the United States.)

... hydropower (which accounts for 7% of the electricity generated in the United States, the momentum of falling water is converted into electricity. For most of the remaining 93%,[l (50%), natural gas (18%), nuclear power (20%), and oil (2%) are used to produce immense amounts of heat. The heat boils water, converting it to steam, which then turns a turbine, generating electricity. So, in essence, a nuclear reactor is just a very sophisticated and dangerous way to boil water - analogous to cutting a pound of butter with a chain saw. At the moment, hydro provides 7%, and unfortunately wind is only 2% of the total US. mix, while solar is less than 1%. Globally, coal supplies about 64% of the world's electricity, hydro and nuclear each provide 17%, and renewable sources again make up 2%.

 

THE COSTS OF NUCLEAR POWER

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What exactly is nuclear power? It is a very expensive, sophisticated, and dangerous way to boil water. Uranium fuel rods are placed in water in a reactor core, they reach critical mass, and they produce vast quantities of heat, which boils the water. Steam is directed through pipes to turn a turbine, which generates electricity. The scientists who were involved in the Manhattan Project creating nuclear weapons developed a way to harness nuclear energy to generate electricity.

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Although a nuclear power plant itself releases no carbon dioxide, the production of nuclear electricity depends upon a vast, complex, and hidden industrial infrastructure that is never featured by the nuclear industry in its propaganda, but that actually releases a large amount of carbon dioxide as well as other global warming gases. One is led to believe that the nuclear reactor stands alone, an autonomous creator of energy. In fact, the vast infrastructure necessary to create nuclear energy, called the nuclear fuel cycle, is a prodigious user of fossil fuel and coal.

The production of carbon dioxide (CO 2) is one measurement that indicates the amount of energy used in the production of the nuclear fuel cycle. Most of the energy used to create nuclear energy-to mine uranium ore for fuel, to crush and mill the ore, to enrich the uranium, to create the concrete and steel for the reactor, and to store the thermally and radioactively hot nuclear waste comes from the consumption of fossil fuels, that is, coal or oil.

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One of the best [nuclear energy studies] is a study by Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith titled "Nuclear Power-the Energy Balance." ...

To quote the final conclusion of their lengthy analysis, "The use of nuclear power causes, at the end of the road and under the most favourable conditions, approximately one-third as much carbon dioxide (CO 2) emission as gas-fired electricity production. The rich uranium ores required to achieve this reduction are, however, so limited that if the entire present world electricity demand were to be provided by nuclear power, these ores would be exhausted within nine years.

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The high-grade uranium ores are finite-global high-grade reserves amount to 3.5 million tons. Given that the current use of uranium is about 67,000 tons per year, these reserves would supply fifty more years of nuclear power at current production levels but only nine years ... if all the world's electricity needs were met by nuclear energy. the total of all the uranium reserves, including high and low grade, is estimated to be approximately 14.4 million tons, but most of these ores would be extremely expensive to mine, and the ore grades would be too low for electricity production. Many uranium mines are therefore out of use already.'

The mining and milling of uranium is a complex process. The rock itself must be excavated by bulldozers and shovels and then transported by truck to the milling plants. All these machines use diesel oil. Furthermore, the maintenance shops that service this equipment consume electricity and hence fuel oils. The uranium-bearing rock is then ground to a powder in electrically powered mills; the powder is treated with chemicals, usually sulphuric acid; then several other chemicals (many of which are highly corrosive and poisonous) are used to convert the uranium to a compound called yellow cake. Fuel is also needed during this process to create steam and heated gases, and all the chemicals used in the mills must manufactured at other chemical plants.

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If the mill tailings that remain after the extraction of the uranium[ were to be subject to remediation, as they should be, massive quantities of fossil fuel would be required for this process as well. Millions of tons of radioactive material that is currently dumped on the ground, often on native Indian tribal land, emitting radioactive elements to the air and water, need instead to be buried deeply in the ground where the uranium originally emanated. This single remediation process, which should be scrupulously observed, by itself makes the energetic price of nuclear electricity unreasonable...

The energy expenditure for adequate remediation is estimate to be 4.2 gigajoules per metric ton of tailings, four times the 1.06 gigajoules per metric ton expended on the original mining. The remediation process also involves the extensive use of fossil fuels and the production of more carbon dioxide.

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Before uranium can be enriched, it must be converted to uranium hexafluoride gas, because it is in this form that the fissionable uranium 235 can be separated from the non-fissionable uranium 238. Uranium hexafluoride is the only uranium compound that is gaseous at low temperatures and therefore is easy to work with. The specific energetic requirements for this conversion are 1.478 gigajoules per kilogram of uranium.

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Enrichment of uranium 235 from 0.7% to 3% is also a very energy-consuming process. Specific energy expenditures for enrichment include construction, operation, and maintenance of the enrichment plant. Uranium can be enriched using one of two basic methods-gaseous diffusion and ultracentrifuge-both of which require very large amounts of energy.

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The specific energetic costs of enrichment are measured in joules per separative work unit (SWU). Averaging the current world use of the two different processes-3O% gaseous diffusion and 70% ultracentrifuge-the energetic costs are 0.0055 petajoules per 1,000 SWU. (A petajoule is 1 million billion joules.)

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The enriched uranium hexafluoride gas is then made into solid fuel pellets of uranium dioxide, the size of a cigarette filter. These uranium pellets are put into zirconium fuel rods which are twelve feet long and half an inch thick. A typical 1,000 megawatt reactor contains 50,000 of these fuel rods-about one hundred tons of uranium. Again fossil fuel is used in the fabrication process, and the specific energy expenditure is 0.00379 petajoules per ton of uranium.

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All nuclear power plants in the United States were constructed between the years 1980 to 1985 or before, and no new plants have been ordered since 1978. The construction of a nuclear power plant requires an immense aggregate of goods and services. Nuclear technology is a very high-tech process, requiring an extensive industrial and economic infrastructure. A huge amount of concrete and steel is used to build a reactor. Furthermore, construction has become ever more complex because of increased safety concerns following the meltdowns at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

Estimates vary for the energetic costs of reactor construction from 40 to 120 petajoules. The mean value of 80 petajoules has been used in the study of Storm van Leeuwen and Smith. -

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When the reactor is finally closed at the end of its working life, t intensely radioactive products-cobalt 60 and iron 55 formed inside the reactor vessel from neutron bombardment-must be allowed to decay considerably before the reactor can even be entered. (Additional residual contaminating radioactive elements, which are also very dangerous, include tritium, carbon 14, and calcium 41, among others.") Thus, these huge, intensely radioactive mausoleums must be guarded and protected from damage or unwarranted intrusion for a period of ten to hundred years before the actual process of mantling can begin.

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After sufficient time is given for the radioactive decay period, the reactor must be cut apart into small pieces either by humans or by remote control, and the still-radioactive pieces must be packed into containers for transportation and final disposal at some distant location. There is very limited experience available on which to base energetic cost estimates for decommissioning and dismantling, because a large nuclear power plant has never actually been dismantled completely after a long operational lifetime. However, based on the scarce available data, the energetic debt for this exercise is estimated to be in the range of 80-160 petajoules, the high end of the range being the most probable." Traditional coal- or gas-fired plants can be dismantled in the conventional way as any building, because they are not radioactive and therefore do not pose a risk to the public health and safety. The discarded materials, rubble, and scrap from conventional buildings can be reused. For comparison: Construction and dismantling of a gas-fired plant require about 24 petajoules together. The energy requirements of construction and dismantling of a nuclear power plant may sum up to about 240 petajoules.

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At the end of its lifetime, the reactor will need to be cleaned of extensive quantities of accumulated radioactive material called CRUD (Chalk River Unidentified Deposits, so named because these materials were first found in the Chalk River reactor). CRUD is a collection of radioactive elements that come from the reactor itself-from the cooling system and the highly radioactive fission and "actinide" elements that have escaped from leaking and damaged fuel rods. This process, which is separate from decommissioning, may be energetically very expensive and will need as much energy debt as 50% of the original energetic construction costs, which is 20 to 60 petajoules.

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The water that cools the reactor core becomes heavily contaminated with tritium, or radioactive hydrogen, and with carbon 14, the long-term medical and ecological effects of which are not well understood and are rarely discussed or addressed by the nuclear industry or anyone else. The radioactive life of tritium is more than 200 years, and the radioactive life of carbon 14 is 114,600 years. A sustainable energy system would necessitate a closed loop for tritium and carbon 14, such that they never enter the ecosphere. Theoretically this water should be stored, immobilized into drying agents or into cement, and placed in appropriate long-lived containers. Instead, it is routinely and blithely discharged into seas, rivers, or lakes, from which people obtain their drinking water. Implementing proper disposal techniques would require a huge number of waste containers and massive energy expenditure.

The fact that there is thus far no adequate knowledge of the long-term biological dangers and because of the absolutely immense expense associated with sequestering the tritium and carbon 14 from nuclear power plants, there is no adequate estimate of the energetic costs required to prevent the release of these isotopes. Hence, the true energetic and economic costs of nuclear power are presently grossly underestimated.

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In the United States alone, for the first fifteen years of i1 development, the nuclear sector received thirty times as much financial support-$15.3 per kilowatt hour (kWh) compared with a measly $0.46 per kWh for wind energy development . For the same amount of investment, wind power creates five times as many jobs and generates 2.3 times as much electricity as nuclear power.

... the actual costs of nuclear energy are consistently misstated and incomplete. Nuclear power is(also)heavily subsidized by taxpayers (through programs that benefit the industry, but are excluded from their cost estimates). Developed countries ostensibly wedded to the principles of economic rationalism and the "free market," are inexplicably enthusiastic about nuclear power, which cannot be sustained without huge government subsidies and handouts from its very inception. This socialization of electricity within a capitalist society has never been called into question, nor has it been critically scrutinized by the general public and their elected representatives.

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RADIOACTIVE WASTE

... Each regular 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant generates 30 tons of extremely potent radioactive waste annually. And even though nuclear power has been operational for nearly fifty years, the nuclear industry has yet to determine how safely to dispose of this deadly material, which remains radioactive for tens of thousands of years. Most nuclear waste is confined in huge cooling pools, euphemistically called "swimming pools" at reactor sites, or in dry storage casks beside the reactor. But there are many other locations in the United States and other countries where huge quantities of reprocessed toxic material and other radioactive waste from nuclear power plants are left unconfined, leaching, leaking, and seeping through soils into aquifers, rivers, lakes, and seas, where it enters and concentrates in the food chains of plants, fish, animals, and humans.

Plutonium

A typical alpha emitter is plutonium, named after Pluto, the Greek god of hell. Said by its discoverer, Glen Seaborg, to be the most dangerous substance on earth, it is so toxic and carcinogenic that less than one-millionth of a gram if inhaled will cause lung cancer. It is translocated from the lung by white blood cells and deposited in the lymph glands in the middle of the chest where it can mutate a regulatory gene in a white blood cell or lymphocyte causing lymphoma or leukemia. From there it can be solubilized, and, because plutonium resembles iron, it is combined with the iron transporting protein, transferrin, and taken to the bone marrow to be incorporated into the hemoglobin molecule in the red blood cells. Here the alpha particle irradiates bone cells to cause bone cancer and white blood cells made in the bone marrow to cause leukemia. It is stored in the liver where it causes liver cancer, and it is teratogenic, crossing the placenta into the developing embryo.

Plutonium is also stored in the testicle adjacent to the precursor cells, spermatocytes, that form the sperm. Here it will cause mutations in the reproductive genes and increase the incidence of genetic disease in future generations. It also causes testicular cancer. Every male in the Northern Hemisphere has a tiny amount of plutonium in his testicles from radioactive fallout that is still falling on the earth from the upper atmosphere, which was polluted by the atmospheric weapons tests conducted by the United States, the Soviet Union, China, France, and Britain in the 1950s and 1960s.

The half-life of plutonium 239 is 24,400 years, so it remains radioactive for half a million years. Therefore, plutonium lives on to enter and damage reproductive organs for the rest of time, and the genetic mutations it causes are passed on successively to future generations for thousands of years. To give an indication of the length of time involved, it takes up to twenty generations for recessive mutations to come together to express themselves as a specific disease entity, such as cystic fibrosis.

Plutonium is so carcinogenic that the half ton of plutonium released from the Chernobyl meltdown is theoretically enough to kill everyone on earth with lung cancer 1,100 times if it were to be uniformly distributed into the lung of every human being."

Though only 10 pounds of plutonium-a lump the size of a grapefruit-will make an effective atomic bomb, literally hundreds of tons of plutonium are lying around the world, some of it relatively unguarded. The design for an atomic bomb can easily be found on the Internet; some basic materials purchased at the local hardware shop will complete production. The fact that plutonium is a by-product of nuclear power explains why any country that owns a nuclear power plant has access to atomic bomb fuel. Therefore, nuclear power is integral to the ever-growing problem of fluproliferation...

Iodine 131

Radioactive iodine 131, with a half-life of eight days, is a very volatile isotope, meaning that it is usually released from nuclear reactors as a gas, either from routine or accidental emissions. It is both a beta and a high-energy gamma emitter, and as such it is very carcinogenic. When humans and animals are exposed to this pollutant in the air, they inhale it into their lungs, where it is absorbed through the lining of the alveoli or air sacs and enters the blood stream. Iodine 131 also deposits onto the soil near nuclear reactors, where it is taken up by grass and the leaves of plants and concentrated by orders of magnitude in grass and vegetables.

When cattle eat this radioactive grass, iodine 131 is concentrated again in their milk. Radioactive iodine enters the human body in one of two ways-either via the gut when dairy products from cows eating this grass are consumed or via the lung when radioactive gases are released routinely or accidentally into the air from the reactor. Iodine 131 circulates in the human blood stream and is avidly absorbed by the thyroid gland at the base of the neck. Children are at special risk from this isotope because their tiny thyroids avidly absorb iodine from the blood like a sponge.

Strontium 90

Strontium 90 is an isotope released from reactors in small amounts on a daily basis, mostly in the waste water but sometimes in air. It is often released in larger quantities when accidents occur at nuclear power plants. It is a beta and gamma emitter with a half-life of twenty-eight years-radioactively dangerous for 600 years. As a calcium analogue, strontium 90 mimics calcium in the body. After release from a nuclear power plant, it lands on the soil, where it is taken up and concentrated by orders of magnitude in grass, concentrated further in cow and goat milk and in the breasts of lactating women, where it can induce breast cancer many years later. Babies who drink this contaminated human breast milk or cows' milk will be exposed to strontium 90, which enters the gut, is absorbed and carried in the blood stream, and laid down in teeth and bones, there to induce bone cancer or leukemia years later.

Cesium 137

Cesium 137 is an isotope with a half-life of thirty years, radioactive for 600 years. As a potassium analogue, it is present in every cell of the body. Cesium 137 tends to concentrate in animal muscle and fish, and it deposits in human muscles where it irradiates muscle cells and other nearby organs. It is a dangerous beta and high-energy gamma emitter and is very carcinogenic. An old, dirty reactor at Brookhaven National Labs in the middle of Long Island in the 1970s and 1980s released large amounts of radiation for many years, and an epidemic of a very rare form of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma appeared in children living near that reactor in the 1980s. This very malignant muscle cancer could be caused by exposure to um 137...

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NUCLEAR ACCIDENTS

Three Mile Island

Before Three Mile Island melted down, the nuclear industry used to say that the chance of a meltdown occurring was the same as that of a person being hit by a bolt of lightning in a parking lot.

Beginning at 4 A.M. on March 28, 1979, lightning struck. A meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania was triggered when a mechanical failure and an automatic shutdown of the main feedwater pumps in the secondary coolant system closed some valves, causing water in the primary coolant system covering the radioactive core to overheat. This quickly cascaded into a series of automated events and human misinterpretations, which caused the reactor core of 100 tons of uranium to overheat and to melt. Throughout the accident, highly radioactive cooling water was being pumped through a valve onto the floor of the reactor and thence into a tank in an adjacent auxiliary building where large quantities of radioactive gases were vented from a leaking valve into the external atmosphere.

Warm weather at the time of the leak compounded the crisis, with low winds and a cold upper air mass preventing the warm air from rising, producing ideal conditions for trapping the radioactive emissions.

We know for a fact that large amounts of radioactivity escaped from the Three Mile Island accident.

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Chernobyl

On April 26, 1986, when Unit Four of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, however, almost all the contents of the deadly radioactive fission products were spewed into the environment. This medical catastrophe will continue to plague much of Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine, and Europe for the rest of time.

... These are some of the medical and ecological consequences of Chernobyl that we know today:

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Of the 650,00 people called "liquidators" involved in the immediate cleanup, 5,000 to 10,000 of them are known to have died prematurely.

o Large areas of the breadbaskets of the Ukraine and ByeloRussia became heavily contaminated and will remain so for thousands of years. In all,% of the land area of Belarus, of the Ukraine, and 0.5% to 1% of Russia-100,000 square miles-were contaminated. In total, this area is equivalent to the state of Kentucky or of Scotland and Ireland combined. Five million people live in these areas, over 1 million of whom are children, who are inordinately sensitive to radiation. The incidence of cancer among this population has increased. Many of the genetic abnormalities and diseases caused by this accident are generations away and will not be seen by anyone alive today.

o Heavy radioactive fallout occurred over Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, East and West Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Britain, the Baltic States, and Yugoslavia. Small amounts also landed on Canada, the United States, and all other countries in the Northern Hemisphere." Because cesium 137 and other isotopes such as strontium 90 and plutonium 239 have such long half-lives, some of the food in Europe will be radioactive for hundreds of years, depending upon the hot spots that were contaminated when the radiation fell to the earth as rain.

o In Britain, twenty-eight years post-accident and 1,500 miles from the crippled reactor, 382 farms containing 226,500 sheep are severely restricted because the levels of cesium 137 in the meat are too high. Before the sheep are sold for meat, they must be transferred to other less radioactive grazing sites so that their levels of cesium decrease before sale." Meanwhile, people in Britain are still eating low levels of cesium in their meat.

o In the south of Germany, very high levels of cesium in the soil persist; hunters are compensated for catching contaminated animals, and many mushrooms and wild berries are still too radioactive to eat.

o The French government initially insisted that the radioactive fallout stopped exactly at the French border. Recent documents reveal, however, that the government knew that radioactivity in France surpassed all safety levels at the time of the accident. Other European countries ruled that fresh vegetables and dairy products could not be sold for several months and that children were not to play outside for a similar short time span, but the French government denied that France was affected. Only now do they admit that cesium 137 in some parts of France is as high as some extremely contaminated areas in Belarus, the Ukraine, and Russia. A country that loves its food, mushrooms, and wild boar shows very high levels of contamination, mainly in the form of cesium 137.89 Perhaps the fact that France has fifty-eight nuclear reactors and derives 80% of its electricity from nuclear power is related to the government's cover-up.

 

The reindeer as far away as Scandinavia were contaminated with cesium after the Chernobyl meltdown, because the lichen in the Arctic Circle avidly concentrated the cesium as it landed on them from the fallout... Signs in Bavarian forests warn people not to eat the mushrooms-this is because they are very efficient concentrators of radiation, particularly cesium

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In 1994, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs made a tragic statement of remembrance, almost like statements made to memorialize wars:

Eighteen years ago today, nearly 8.4 million people in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia were exposed to radiation. Some 150,000 square kilometres, an area half the size of Italy, were contaminated. Agricultural areas covering nearly 52,000 sq km, which is more than the size of Denmark, were ruined. Nearly 400,000 people were resettled but millions continue to live in an environment where continued residual exposure created a range of adverse effects.

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Eighteen years after the accident, 70% to 90% of the cesium 137, 40% to 60% of the strontium, and up to 95% of the plutonium and its alpha-emitting relatives remain in the upper root-inhabiting layers of the soil in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and parts of f Europe.

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS PRODUCTION

The term nuclear weapon encompasses several varieties of bombs, each of which employs different explosive mechanisms. An atomic bomb can be fueled by either plutonium or uranium. An atomic bomb works by either imploding its plutonium trigger with chemical explosives, which exerts tremendous symmetrical forces upon the plutonium, or by exerting huge pressures upon a mass of highly enriched uranium 235. The plutonium or uranium reaches critical mass, causing an explosion equivalent to the explosion of thousands of tons of TNT.

A hydrogen bomb is made of three components: a primary composed of an atomic bomb, which explodes first with a fission reaction; a secondary composed of deuterium and lithium, which then produces a fusion reaction similar to the reaction in the sun; and a tertiary mechanism produced when the uranium capsule of the bomb undergoes fission and explodes. A hydrogen bomb is relatively cheap for a country to build compared to deploying thousands of soldiers on the battleground, and the explosions can be of megaton range-equivalent to millions of tons of TNT. Most bombs today are hydrogen bombs.

America made three atomic bombs in 1945. The first was named Trinity after the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost and was exploded at Alamogordo in New Mexico in July 1945. The second, a uranium bomb called Little Boy, was exploded over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and the third, a plutonium bomb called Fat Man, was exploded over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Little Boy and Fat Man killed over 200,000 people, initiating the age of nuclear genocide.

The United States continued to make nuclear weapons after the end of the Second World War. Russia soon discovered the secret and joined the nuclear club in 1949; then Britain, France, and China got on board. In 1970, these five nations decided in theory that nuclear weapons should be abolished in the long-term and that, in the short term, only they should have the bomb; all others must be excluded from the nuclear club. To that end they drafted the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which stated categorically that the nuclear nations would disarm and that nonnuclear weapons nations could not develop nuclear weapons. As compensation, the non-nuclear nations would be given access to "peaceful nuclear technology"-research reactors, nuclear power plants, and nuclear technology. The NPT, therefore, essentially gave non-nuclear countries the capacity to produce their own nuclear weapons, even as it forbade them to do so.

Under Article VI of the NPT, the nuclear armed nations also undertook not to enlarge their nuclear arsenals and to negotiate in good faith to secure their abolition. Since 1970 when the NPT was signed, the nuclear weapons nations have done the opposite, increasing their arsenals significantly.

The overall state of world nuclear proliferation today is as follows:

* Eighteen countries now own uranium enrichment facilities which enable them to produce highly enriched uranium- ( the fuel for nuclear weapons. These countries include Pakistan, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, China, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, and Russia." It is not clear what uranium enrichment facilities Israel or North Korea now possess.

* Under the legal auspices of the NPT, seventy countries now have small research reactors, most of which are fuelled with highly enriched uranium, a fuel also suitable for nuclear weapons production." These small research reactors also manufacture plutonium, making nuclear bomb materials available at each end of the research reactor's operation. Civilian nuclear power plants are mostly fuelled with low enriched uranium, unsuitable for nuclear weapons, but they manufacture plutonium-over 200 kilograms per year. And although some say that it is well nigh impossible to make a nuclear weapon from reactor-grade plutonium, in 1962 the United States tested such a nuclear weapon, and it worked very well. 14 Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is extremely worried about this situation and says that these widely distributed nuclear facilities are "latent bomb plants."

* Nine countries now possess nuclear weapons, including the) United States, Britain, France, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel, China, and North Korea-an increase from the original five nuclear nations that signed the NPT.

* ElBaradei estimates that within a decade as many as forty more countries will have the ability to make nuclear weapons, and this may be an underestimate."

* The United States has 10,500 nuclear weapons; Russia has 20,000; Israel has 110 to 190 or more; China has 400; France has 450; Britain has 185; India has 65; Pakistan has 30 to 50; North Korea has 2 to 9.

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In summary, seventy countries that now have the ability to develop their own nuclear arsenals are constantly being provoked as they observe the "nuclear club" refusing to disarm while the United States constructs even more nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the United States and Russia still maintain thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, 2,500 on the Russian side and over 5,000 on the US. side. This means that hydrogen bombs are constantly mounted on their missiles, which are maintained in launch mode, and a command from the president of either country could launch a nuclear war within minutes.

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Joseph Rotblat an original member of the Manhattan Project, August 2005
"If the United States, the mightiest country in the world, militarily and economically, feels that it needs nuclear weapons for its security, how do you deny this security to countries that really feel vulnerable.

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Nuclear Power and "Rogue Nations"

If the correct definition of a rogue nation is a state that possesses nuclear weapons and the ability to vaporize millions of people within seconds, eight or nine nations currently qualify: the United States, Russia, France, China, Britain, Israel, India, and Pakistan. North Korea may have two to nine nuclear weapons.

Because the United States and Russia possess the vast majority of nuclear weapons in the world-97% of the total arsenal of 30,000 bombs-and because these two countries continue to maintain thousands of these extraordinary weapons on "hair-trigger" alert, a nuclear exchange between them would kill billions of people and could induce nuclear winter and the end of most life, certainly in the northern hemisphere and much also in the southern hemisphere. Yet we persist in leaving them off the rogue roster.

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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran referring to the United States
"Who do you think you are in the world to say you are suspicious of our nuclear activities?... What kind of right do you think you have to say Iran cannot have nuclear technology? It is you who must be held accountable."

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President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela
"It cannot be that some countries that have developed nuclear energy prohibit those of the third world from developing it. We are not the ones developing atomic bombs, it's others who do that."

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Tony Benn, a former member of the British Parliament, wrote in the Guardian,
"Many years ago when the Shah - who had been put on the throne by the US. - was in power in Iran, enormous pressure was put on me, as secretary of state for energy, to agree to sell nuclear power stations to him. That pressure came from the Atomic Energy Authority, in conjunction with Westinghouse, who were anxious to promote their own design of reactor."'

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George W. Bush
"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous .... Having said that, all options are on the table."

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Israel

Israel developed its nuclear arsenal using plutonium manufactured in a heavy water nuclear reactor called Dimona built in the Negev desert. France provided the bulk of the assistance to build this reactor, and it went on-line in 1964. This reactor was specifically a bomb factory, not a power plant.

Israel has a nuclear arsenal variously estimated between 100 and 400 nuclear weapons, according to many experts, although it has repeatedly refused to confirm or deny that it possesses them.

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India

The United States wants to accelerate India's rise as a global power to act as a regional counterweight to China. US. business plans intersect with strategic plans for India. When President Bush signed the joint statement, he said that, "as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology India should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states." These "benefits and advantages" signify that India would buy $15 billion worth of conventional military equipment from the United States including anti-submarine patrol aircraft to spot Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean and Aegis radars to assist Indian destroyers operating in the strategic Strait of Malacca to monitor the Chinese military."

Under the agreement, India may also purchase the Arrow missile system, developed by Israel with American technology, and the new AP-1000 nuclear power reactors made by Westinghouse. In this context, Dr. Singh, the Indian president, has also called for private investment in Indian nuclear power generation-a move that could open the door for U.S. companies to hawk their Generation III and IV nuclear reactors to India, with serious repercussions to India's strategic interests, national security, sovereignty and independence.

In summary, the main ingredients of the U.S.-Indian agreement are:

* The United States legitimized India's clandestine nuclear weapons program, setting a new and dangerous precedent that will justify clandestine nuclear programs in countries that have not signed the NPT or who are involved in the illegal production of nuclear weapons.

* The United States is imposing upon India the job of "containing" the Chinese, a move that could reignite old tensions that continue to simmer between India and China, and possibly Pakistan.

* The United States is encouraging India to buy massive quantities of military equipment, although millions of its people survive at a barely subsistence level.

* The United States is encouraging India to purchase new nuclear reactors and involving it in the development of the dangerous Generation IV reactors.

 

This agreement will seriously undermine US. and U.N. efforts to confront possible illegal weapons programs in North Korea and Iran. Will the United States next be offering nuclear power technology and advanced conventional weapons systems to countries such as Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, and others who may also be producing clandestine nuclear weapons?" This agreement effectively destroys the legitimacy of all international nuclear safeguard agreements, so carefully negotiated by the international immunity and the United Nations.

 

Pakistan

Pakistan has utilized various elements of its nuclear fuel cycle to create nuclear weapons-in large part from its uranium enrichment facilities and possibly from plutonium obtained from its research reactor.

The illegally nuclear-armed nations Pakistan and India came exceedingly close to nuclear war in 1999 during fierce fighting over Northern Kashmir. Their nuclear-armed missiles, which take several minutes to reach their target, remain on hair-trigger alert and can be launched at any time with the press of a button. Neither side retains an adequate early warning system.

Their mutual animosity is ancient and simmers along, despite some moves at reconciliation. Pakistan began its nuclear weapons program in 1972 under the leadership of Prime Minister Zulfiqar All Bhutto, but picked up the pace after India tested its first nuclear weapon in 1974. In 1975, a German-trained metallurgist named Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan returned to Pakistan from the Netherlands with a knowledge of gas centrifuge technologies used for enriching uranium, along with some stolen uranium enrichment technologies from Europe .

Khan was given the mandate to build, equip, and operate the Kahuta nuclear facility in Pakistan, specifically designed to enrich uranium. An extensive clandestine network was established to obtain the necessary materials and technology to develop Pakistan's uranium enrichment facilities. 46

By 1985, Pakistan was producing weapons-grade uranium, and by 1986 it had produced enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. In 1987, it exploded its first atomic bomb, and by 1998 it had conducted six nuclear weapons tests. These tests took place

two weeks after India had conducted five nuclear tests, and after Pakistan warned that it would respond to India's tests.

The creation of the Pakistani bomb was aided and abetted by China, which played a major role in the development of Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure at a time when Western countries were increasingly stringent on nuclear exports and assistance. In the 1990s, China supplied Pakistan with the heavy water for the Khusab research reactor, which produced weapons-grade plutonium, and the design of one of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. China also supplied components for Pakistan's high-speed uranium centrifuges, technical assistance and materials for their Chasma nuclear power reactor, and assistance to construct the Pakistani reprocessing facility in the 1990s. The former Soviet Union and Western Europe also contributed to Pakistan's nuclear weapons program by supplying dual use nuclear equipment." As a result, Pakistan is now the proud owner of thirty to fifty nuclear weapons, despite the fact that it has not signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and it maintains a first-use policy.

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The history between the United States and Pakistan is interesting and variable. Several times during its nuclear buildup, the US. imposed trade and military sanctions on Pakistan because of its clandestine weapons program, but the sanctions were suspended when the United States needed Pakistan as a strategically important ally. On the nuclear front, the United States has consistently failed to come down hard upon Musharraf because he is desperately needed as an ally.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979, the United States sent weapons, military training expertise, and intelligence services through Pakistan to the majahadeen, the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden to fight the Russians. However, after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, America quickly changed sides and exerted pressure upon Pakistan to fight its former allies in Afghanistan.

This is a very volatile area of the world, and although the United States maintains a close alliance and friendship with President Musharraf, many members of his military belong to al Qaeda and the Taliban and are dissatisfied with the current alliance. Should there be a successful coup against Musharraf, these military people would then gain possession of Paklstan's nuclear arsenal, which they could rapidly share with the Taliban and al Qaeda.

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Renewable Energy: The Answer

... in the United States, just over 2% of the electricity is provided from renewables, whereas nuclear power provides 20%. These figures, however, exclude hydropower electricity. If this is taken into account, 2004 figures show 9.06% of US. electricity came from renewables, and 18.60% came from renewables worldwide.'

But American politicians lack the political will, at least at the federal level, to resist the coal, oil, and nuclear industries demands to shift their focus from these tired and dangerous technologies to explore the alternatives. Vice President Cheney devised the 2005 energy bill behind closed doors, consulting exclusively with top executives of the coal, oil, and nuclear industries including Ken Lay from Enron who is currently under indictment , all of whom had contributed significant funds not only to the Bush campaign, but also to the campaigns of most of the important Republican players in the House and Senate. Thus, American politicians are bought and sold, and global warming continues unabated.'

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Wind Power

Wind power, already used extensively in Europe, is rapidly becoming the energy of the future. It is cheap, fast to produce, and attractive to farmers and U.S. rural communities. In 2004, wind power globally outpaced nuclear power sixfold in annual capacity additions and threefold in annual output additions. Wind power is very attractive because it is benign, its development has short lead times, its mass production is economically very efficient, its technological development is rapid, and it is easy to site windmills on available land. Furthermore, the speedy deployment and lack of regulatory fuss will always support the growth of wind power compared to the long lead time and delay-prone, complex, and contentious technology of nuclear power, which could experience a meltdown or terrorist attack at any time.

A recent study, which collated more than 8,000 wind records from every continent, found a potential global wind power resource of 72 terawatts-forty times the amount of electricity used by all countries in 2000. If just 20% of this wind energy were to be tapped, all energy needs of the world could be satisfied (one terawatt of electricity would power 10 billion 100-watt light bulbs)...

The most powerful wind forces in the world occur in the North Sea in Europe, the Great Lakes of North America, the northeast and northwest coasts of North America, and the southern tip of South America." Archer and Jacobson found that, although wind generation has increased at a remarkable rate of 34% annually over the last five years, becoming the fastest growing source of electricity production, wind currently provides a mere half percent of the world's energy."

Stimulated by the world's oil crisis in the 1970s, Denmark decided to develop wind energy. In 1988, two years after the Chernobyl accident, the Danes passed a law forbidding the construction of nuclear power plants. This country is now the world's leader in a large, lucrative wind energy technology and is pursuing the fourth generation of wind turbines.

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Other countries such as China, with its hugely growing energy needs, have also begun to invest in wind power. In Huitengxile, on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, a 68-megawatt wind farm has been established, which is expected to grow to 400 megawatts by 2008. Similar wind farms are being developed in many heavily populated provinces, and the cost per kilowatt of wind electricity is fast becoming competitive with China's abundant coal industry. Wang Zhongying, the director of China's Center for Renewable Energy Development, said that China has huge goals for wind power development, reaching 4,000 megawatts by 2010 and a staggering 20,000 megawatts by 2020.

China supports the production of wind power and other alternatives with tax incentives for developers, while imposing standardized electricity rates as a subsidy for wind power, because it is still somewhat more expensive than coal. China has also ruled that provinces will be required to purchase electricity from alternative sources even if the cost per kilowatt hour is more expensive than conventional sources, a move that supports the suppliers of wind power.

In England, wind farms are now providing megawatts of electricity to the national grid at a more rapid rate than those currently being lost as a result of nuclear power plant shut downs.

 

Solar Power

Hypothetically 10 trillion to 20 trillion watts of solar power provided by photovoltaics could take the place of all conventional energy sources currently in use. Consequently, it has been estimated that a rather inefficient photovoltaic array covering half a sunny area measuring 100 square miles could meet all the annual US. electricity needs. Although this is a vast amount of electricity, there are probably enough feedstocks-adequate and appropriate materials-to meet this gigantic challenge.

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... Germany which plans to phase out nuclear power by 2025, is moving rapidly toward alternatives. It now generates over 8% of its electricity from wind and biomass and is the world's largest user of photovoltaic cells. Because half its energy requirements will be generated from renewable sources by 2050, it predicts that carbon emissions will be reduced to oazne-fifth of its 1990 levels.


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