The Energy Net
Why a Nuclear Free World is Important
We are now facing an energy crossroad as a culture. Everyone was effected by the price of gas that peaked during the summer of 2008. The world has fallen into a consumer trap where a growing number of people around the world are using finite oil resources to drive to work. The energy it takes to drive a car is like having 700 human slaves pushing that vehicle for a few cents per hour. The era of oil is rapidly coming to an end as the entire planet hunts down the last accessible oil reserves. At the same time, the burning of fossil fuels is polluting the air and water. There is a global shift to move away from oil driven cars. This means electric cars or better, redesigning our communities so we work close to home.
Thirty years ago, energy and environmental activists warned Americans about this coming crisis but were drowned out by the energy industry and the media's failure to be honest with the public. In 1992, one half of the world's Nobel Laureates signed onto a call that the world had 20 years to deal with our growing global energy and population crisis. That call was ignored by America's leaders and the media. Some experts say we only have a few years to keep from being bankrupted by energy costs and global carrying capacity collapses.
The nuclear power industry has been claiming that it can rescue us from climate change and the coming energy crisis. Wrong! The arguments from this failed industry should not be trusted and in fact, represent a disastrous misuse of economic resources at such a critical moment. Their last experiment in Science Fiction has left the world neck deep in deadly wastes and economic boondoggles.
The nuclear agenda is at the heart of the military industrial complex. The promoters of Weapons of Mass Destruction have rationalized these unusable weapons to threaten opponents, yet its biggest victims have been Americans.
The use of nuclear fission to generate electricity could never exist without the nuclear weapons infrastructure. The nuclear weapons industrial complex is joined at the hip with nuclear power where uranium is mined and turned into either bombs or fuel. One estimate suggests that we have spent $5 trillion for nuclear weapons since 1942. Once known as the Manhattan Project, it is managed today by the Department of Energy (DOE). The primary purpose of the 200,000 DOE workers is the design and construction of ever more sophisticated nuclear weapons and reactors. This is done at dozens of government laboratories across the country that were hidden in cold war secrecy and vicious propaganda.
During the early cold war this giant infrastructure was the single
largest industrial operation in the world using vast amounts of
water and energy. Thousands of uranium mining operations dug up
billions of cubic yards of ore that then processed it into concentrated
uranium, leaving behind sick workers and a contaminated environment.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union much of their budget has
gone to clean up the toxic disaster left behind at sites around
the country. But the Bush administration has launched a new push
to rebuild the nuclear weapons infrastructure that will cost hundreds
of billions of dollars. Funny coincidence that there is a push for
new nuclear weapons and power at the same time!
Radiation that comes from nuclear weapons and power production is deadly. This country's nuclear industry has spent decades covering up untold scandals around its failure to protect the public. Radiation standards increased throughout the 20th century until the arrival of the anti-nuclear movement and the Chernobyl disaster. Nuclear power was killed due to accidents and economics but there was also a push to shut down the nuclear weapons infrastructure after the Soviet collapse. Rather than shutting down, nuclear scientists covered up the call for increased safety standards from 4-16 fold. This male dominated subculture of right-wing WMD warriors, led by Edward Teller have had secret scandals exposed like the following:
Only a few media outlets in this country like the Seattle Times, Rocky Mountain News or the Tennessean have ever fully covered this colossal maelstrom. Not since the Seattle Times week long multipage investigative report in the late 1980's has there been an attempt to lay out the full scope and numerous details of this radioactive nightmare. Hiding behind claims of scientific credentials untold numbers of people have had their health damaged by the misuse of nuclear fission.
The nuclear fuel cycle is the Achilles heel of the nuclear fission culture. From the mining of uranium to the growing plague of nuclear wastes, we have watched the attempts to deal with the nuclear Pandora's box fail. The nuclear fuel cycle infrastructure is vast and mostly hidden from the public for a reason. The nuclear power people like to brag about how nobody has ever died from radiation exposure at a nuclear power plant. Yet, this is kind of like the car industry just looking at the fatalities while pumping gas, excluding all the deaths that have taken place on the highway. The real damages to the earth are all hidden from the public within the nuclear fuel cycle.
The corporate media just won't cover the true scale of the fuel cycle. The Atoms for Peace PR campaign is how they have rationalized the nuclear agenda. Anyone who has ever watched any of the historic nuclear snow jobs will remember seeing a "Mr. Know it all" hold up a small black nuclear fuel pellet and claim that there was more energy in it than a ton of coal. Funny how they don't mention the fact that there is a huge industrial process to create that pellet. That pellet requires about 400 pounds of raw ore and the use of toxic chemicals that contaminate huge volumes of water. For example the 23 square kilometer Rossing uranium mine in Namibia uses 1/3 of that country's water supply and over 220,000 tons of acid a year to produce uranium yellowcake. A large nuclear power plant creates over 100,000 tons of uranium tailings a year!
It starts with the mining of raw ore. The ore is crushed into a fine powder and then chemicals are used to extract uranium yellowcake. Most of that powder (120 million cubic meters of it for the US) were then abandoned in huge dry or wet tailings piles or ponds. In the largest nuclear accident in US history one such pond broke destroying the Rio Puerco River in the southwest in 1979. Over 300,000 tons of tailings were used as concrete mix in the streets and foundations of buildings of Grand Junction Colorado resulting in a huge removal undertaking costing nearly 1.5 billion dollars (the feds paid for 1/3 of the cleanup costs). Why, because these tailings still retain over 80% of the radiation primarily from long lived Radon after removing the uranium. There is no real long term way to truly secure these dangerous tailing piles from contaminating the environment. Much of them have been blowing around on the indigenous people's lands endangering their health. .
The US uranium mining industry collapsed in the late 1980's due to cheaper more plentiful uranium from other parts of the world. Clean up estimates for the uranium mining fiasco with several thousand abandoned mines yet to be dealt with could cost up to $30 billion. But wait, that is just the first step in creating that pellet. There are two major industrial scale steps even before uranium Yellowcake is turned into those fuel pellets. It must first must be converted into a gas and then enriched. The 2nd step of enrichment is where the real scandalous story plays out.
The first enrichment facilities in the world were for producing nuclear bombs. The Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge is a mile long gaseous diffusion plant that would have two other similar sized operations that use immense amounts of water and energy to produce the concentration of uranium for bombs or power plants. At one point these facilities were using at least 3% of the country's entire electricity output as well as contaminating large quantities of water. One of the former waste streams known as depleted uranium is now being used in conventional weaponry and sparked a global safety outcry after its use during the Gulf War. Bush used the false claim that Iraq was enriching uranium to invade in 2003 and has been pushing the same tactic against Iran. We spent billions of dollars to construct the first enrichment facilities in the world. The gigantic Y-12 facilities is being torn down this year and is seeking a budget of $50 million to do so. Far more will be spent on decontamination and cleanup. But we are still not done.
More facilities like the Rocky Flats facility where a deadly plutonium fire exposed the area, eventually leading to a $350 million settlement and a long running battle to compensate the facility's workers who were badly contaminated. Up until 1963 those bombs were tested above ground mostly in Nevada and then underground. Millions of Americans were contaminated by the construction and testing of these weapons. All kinds of wastes were produced at every stage of the process but the worst were taken to the 360,000 acre Hanford reservation that will likely take between $50 to $80 Billion to clean up.
Cleanup of the DOE's operations will be far over $270 billion and take decades to do. Nearly $5 billion in payments to workers who have had their lives destroyed has been handed out in an adversarial process that pits the government against the workers. In 2007, the DOE was caught dumping the records of health workers at one facility in Ohio into a nuclear waste dump. There are similar fights taking place across the country, all with no or little national media coverage.
Attempts to resurrect the long dead uranium mining industry is again focussing mostly on native lands. Over 50% of commercial reactor fuel comes from former Soviet weapons. Uranium throughout the world is mostly found on indigenous lands and has spawned political battles in Africa, Canada and Australia and the US. a massive push to renovate the nuclear infrastructure came right at the end of the Bush administration. Coverage of this renovation is being Pr'd using a whole variety of tactics with most coverage coming out of the major DOE facilities where pork politics reign.
The back end of the fuel-cycle is the planets nuclear nightmare. What to do with the hundred's of manmade radioactive isotopes that have been produced by nuclear reactors here and around the world. As of this writing, The 25 year old, $100 billion plan to store the most deadly wastes at an underground repository at Yucca Mountain Nevada is now dead. In 1982, the pronuclear industry passed legislation demanding that 13 regional nuclear waste dumps be opened and paid for by the public. None of the 13 regional compact projects was able to build a dump even though federal law ordered them to be open by 1994. With the closure of the Barnwell South Carolina dump in 2008, much of the country had no place to dump their nuclear waste. But, lo, in a scandal in mid 2007, it was discovered that n-waste was being dumped at commercial landfills in Tennessee.
Private attempts to create a spent fuel storage facility at Skull Valley Utah was stopped, but another private contractor called Energy Solutions has been importing wastes from outside the country as well as other states, while Texas just licensed the first low-level waste dump in years.
The US has one of the poorest nuclear waste disposal standards of countries that handle nuclear waste. Canada for example, is also trying to open up a spent fuel repository, but currently stores all of its waste in monitored, retrievable above ground storage facilities. The US allows wastes to be dumped into the ground and covered over with dirt with no long term monitoring of contamination. Every nuclear waste dump this country has ever operated has leaked, was forced to be shut down and cleaned up at public expense.
The largest source of nuclear waste in the country by volume comes when the nuclear industry mines uranium. There are some 120 million cubic meters of long lived tailings that haven't been properly disposed of, with an estimated cleanup cost over over $30 billion. Then there is low-level wastes, which can be dumped in the ground, yet include any and all of the most deadly, long lived wastes that can stay radioactive for millions of years. Most of this is produced by nuclear reactors, a small percentage of the radiation comes from medical wastes. There have long been attempts to recycle wastes back into commercial use not to mention incinerating it or using it to irradiate food as a way to sterilize it.
High level nuclear waste is classified as only that waste that comes from spent nuclear reactor fuel. This is the smallest volume of waste but is the most deadly and must stay isolated from the environment hundreds of thousands of years.
There is also a military grade of waste called Transuranic wastes which are being shipped to a salt dome repository in New Mexico called WIPP. The military wastes, especially those at a massive liquid tank farm in Hanford represents the most dangerous wastes next to the spent fuel.
There is no real acceptable standards or methods on how to deal with wastes at this time. The industry's claimed solutions the first time around all failed, resulting in the massive contamination of nuclear facilities that are currently estimated to cost at least $270 billion to cleanup. A recent warning at the long closed West Valley reprocessing facility said that unless $13 billion is spent to clean up the site soon, the deadly wastes there will escape into Lake Erie, causing an even larger cleanup fiasco that cost $27 billion.
The industry has been claiming that it could burn up nuclear wastes or safely store them in glass are more than likely failed or way too expensive. Would you trust a nuclear car saleman like Bush to promote a whole new round of this stuff? The state of Nevada was able to show that the DOE's environmental protection from the deadly spent fuel would last at best 500 years if that. Nuclear waste scandals regularly hit the press around the world but are only covered locally. Nuclear waste alone should have been enough to stop any further expansion of nuclear fission, but thanks to the media, little is known by the public. How is the public to make a real decision when the media like NBC which is owned by General Electric is a major nuclear conctractor! There is no greater scandal than how this issue has been hidden from the public over the last 60 years!
The nuclear industry made many claims to the public upon its inception including that it could produce nuclear energy "Too Cheap to Meter". Yet in 1984 it was Forbes Magazine who wrote the epitaph of the nuclear industry calling it the most expensive financial disaster in U.S. history. And then the Bush Cheney team tried to sell us a brand new version of the same old deal. Billions of dollars of federal money was handed to the nuclear industry to hype and jump-start its "Nucular Renaissance" in 2005. They promised once again to be able to deliver the cheapest power around, claiming that they could build a KW of installed nuclear power for between $1,200 and $1,800. By the end of 2009 estimates had rose five fold and will likely double to ten fold before a single reactor is ever built!
Only massive federal subsidies can pay for the true costs of nuclear power. Prior to its collapse it had been getting the lions share of federal energy subsidies, most of it hidden within the DOE nuclear weapons infrastructure.
This new push will undermine renewable energy funding which has become the leading source of new electricity in the country today.
The Bush agenda of reprocessing uranium (GNEP), creating a global plutonium infrastructure would cost hundred's of billions of dollars.
Insurance and decommissioning costs are hidden sinks.
Nuclear waste costs will cost humanity lives and money far into the future.
A weakened economy could open the culture to poorly maintained reactors and infrastructure supports.
The giant nuclear corporations like GE, Westinghouse, Bechtel and the private electric power industry have long fought against renewable energy and conservation. These giant combines feed off of government money and nuclear is one of their most profitable operations. The bigger the project the more profits.
This country has been captured by corporatists who believe that consumption is the holy grail of human existence and that includes the sale of energy. This country represents 5% of the global population but uses nearly 25% of the world's energy. It is physically impossible for the rest of the world to misuse energy so poorly as we do today. The invasion of Iraq by Cheney-Bush's corporate oil interests will be the first of this world's growing energy wars if we don't quickly break our addiction to fossil fuels. The idea that nuclear could save the world is patently insane as the expansion of nuclear fuels would create a global off the shelf marketplace for nuclear technology that will fuel the growing fights to come. These Strangelovians are pushing to create a global nuclear security state, 1984 style.
This country has been trapped by the military industrial complex as warned by Eisenhower. These giant corporations are driving the nuclear agenda. For example nearly 200,000 DOE jobs are contracted out to giant corporations like GE, Bechtel and Westinghouse, most of it delivered to right wing cold war centers of pork like Hanford, Oak Ridge, Livermore or the Los Alamos Labs etc.
During the 2001 energy crisis in California it was exposed how the electric power companies fought against renewable and energy conservation, refusing to support its development. Only legislation ordering them, carrot stick style worked at bringing them around and only to a modest extent.
It is time to bring out the long censored history of public power and how it played the primary role in bringing most Americans into the electric era, against the will of the private companies. The public vs. private fight was at the center of FDR's election and massive public works projects that finally brought electricity to farmers and poor people across the country. If America had relied on the corporate agenda rather than public's much of this country would still not have access to electricity.
If we are not careful the country will end up with an AT&T of electric power that will be unregulatable.
Anyone that dares question the corporate consumer mindset is attacked by the media's propaganda machine. The media played a central role in promoting the Iraqi invasion. They are doing the same with the nuclear renaissance. The media's "renaissance" supported frame should be replaced by one that gives the nuclear stage an 8 second soundbite followed by a shift away to more important issues.
Nuclear fission is a failed technology that should not be trusted. From huge historic scandals, deadly health and environmental consequences or economic boondoggles, this technology is being pushed by those who have a dominator agenda of the world. Here's Greenpeace's answer to the French spin. These people are the ultimate terrorists in the world, using threats of global war to promote their agenda. Japanese nuclear promoters were recently ordered to remove the word clean from their advertisements. The nuclear industry has tried to steal many of the major terms once used against it, like "alternative", "clean" or "safe" in its PR campaigns. NOT! Don't trust public polls that are financed by the nuclear industry or the corporate media. There has been no real conversation with the public just a PR push, thus the public will likely have few if any real facts to make a decision.
The corporate media has protected the Machiavellian nuclear agenda from serious scrutiny or the call to replace it. The most blatant example of this is General Electric's (GE) ownership of NBC. GE, which is part of the JP Morgan economic empire has long played a key roll in electricity issues going back to Morgan's attempt to create an AT&T of electric power companies with their massive Electric Bond and Share Co. It has been the Morgan-GE-NBC front line media strategy that completely removed any historic memory of the biggest public policy debate during the first quarter century in this country over whether we should have public vs. private ownership of electric power. Few today realize that FDR's most important campaign issue was the development of Public Power and that the giant holding company scandals of the private electric companies played a central role in the 1929 collapse. It was FDR's public works projects that brought electricity to the poor people of this country and passed laws breaking up the giant electric power agenda of Morgan. If you wish to find out more, read this online book. GE today is one of the largest nuclear contractors in the world.
In summation, there is really only one issue left in this country and that is how to deal with the corporate media propaganda machine. Only an online education campaign that exposes the true scope of how the biggest media companies have played the key role in corrupting this country. Their advertising tactics have trapped us in consumption behaviors that has endangered our entire planet. They are the primary opponent of political finance reform as they are the primary economic beneficiary from TV's control over how political campaigns play out. A generation ago, the antinuclear movement watched the media manipulate and push the nuclear agenda. The dirty tactics and disgusting pronuclear bias was to be found everywhere in the media just as it is today. The citizen's online journalist movement is the most important battle ground there is today. Turn off your TV news and tune into the alternative online news community.
Alternatives to nuclear fission are far more clean and less costly. The primary problem with getting them put in place is that the electric power industry is opposed to them. The most important step is to pass legislation that pays these companies to implement conservation programs or nationalizes them. The corporate media has censored the national battle over public vs. private electricity during the first half of the 20th century. Its about time that history is brought back and the benefits of public power be promoted.
A combination of wind power and energy efficiency programs could quickly help to shift us on the road to energy independence. The biggest key is dumping the private gas guzzling car and working towards redesigning our society so that most people live within a short distance of where they work.
The US no longer can afford to use energy as if there was no tomorrow. Living simpler doesn't have to mean discomfort or poverty. It is absolutely urgent that anyone that wants to understand the complex shift to a truly sustainable culture must realize that our current economic model is unacceptable and will collapse.