Saturday, March 20, 2010

Birthday Climate Changes and small town nuke reactions

Thomas Henry Culhane has woken up a year older and wiser and is ready to join ranks with the "global warming skeptics" and "climate change naysayers" to try and form a stronger coalition against nuclear proliferation and an atomic energy renaissance; viz. "we don't need radioactive-rock-powered carbon free energy, thankyou very much!"


ngm.nationalgeographic.com
They’d be carbon free, relatively cheap, and according to the industry, inherently safe. An underground mini-nuke could power a village.


This is perhaps the most frightening and, in my opinion, irresponsible article National Geographic has ever published, making our beloved magazine appear for the first time like a shil for the centralized energy lobby. After three pages of glowing commentary (pun not intended) for this terrible idea they toss off the ...unresolved issue of highly radioactive waste in one glib sentence and say nothing about how a massive deployment of "small town nukes" will affect proliferation and increase terrorist threats, to say nothing of the dangers of having radioactive material shipped to every Bedford Falls in the world. They don't talk about the health of thorium and uranium miners and plutonium process factory workers and their families (we saw the consequences and the horrible deformities of babies and children when we met with the doctors studying this in India). And they don't talk about how this initiative to "decentralize" nuclear energy through micro-nuke deployment, while keeping centralized control of the manufacture, sale, installation, servicing and fueling of the reactors will affect the true decentralized distributed energy sector which is working with safe, clean, renewable energy sources. The "carbon free, relatively cheap" mantra, using climate change scare tactics to get environmentally concerned citizens to approve these horrible devices, is a red herring since we already have plenty of net carbon zero technologies if we are really concerned with global warming that are safe and can be immediately deployed and the nukes will be subsidized by tax payer money so that they can outcompete nascent idustries with large start-up and capital costs.

Quite frankly, as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer who is working on small town renewable energy issues I am deeply disappointed, dismayed, disturbed and depressed, not only by the push that the U.S. and France and others is making for this, but by the fact that National Geographic is publishing such uncritical material that sounds more like an advertisement or a piece of industry propaganda than a report. As we used to say in Dobbs Ferry New York, to express shock and concern "hey, Nat Geo, what's the big idea?"


 Comments:

Charles F. Munat
What the f#ck is wrong with them? Maybe a big influx of energy corp. dollars? This is awful -- and I speak as a former reactor operator.
March 20 at 10:55pm · 

Sherry Kerr
shocking!!!
March 21 at 5:42am ·
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thomas Henry Culhane
Charles, we NEED YOU now, as a former Navy nuclear reactor operator, to speak out in every medium possible. This sad and out of character National Geographic article deliberately compares the mini-nukes being proposed for the rest of us to the small reactors on nuclear subs, as if that somehow makes them okay. The public has this weird warped impression from a backwards hijacked "small is beautiful" campaign that somehow our military's ship-based nuclear reactors are safe and have never had accidents and don't create unmanageable toxic waste. Can you tell the world about the frightening and irresponsible things you saw and learned when you were on the submarine working on the reactors and why it made you want to leave the armed forces?
March 21 at 1:07pm · 
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thanks for expressing that Sherry. I'm shocked too. If you read Hayden White's "Tropics of Discourse" and deconstruct the trope of this Nat Geo article it is clear that it is a linguistic subterfuge. The dangers are glossed over with such finesse and utopian optimism you would think we were reading General Electric propaganda from the 1950during the shrewd "atoms for peace" campaign that started atomic proliferation. India trumped us all in 1974 by signing up for atoms for peace and turning around and making and detonating a nuclear bomb, spurring Pakistan to do the same. What I fear now is making towns and cities dependent on ubiquitously distributed radioactive energy sources that demand high security everywhere. Talk about setting up conditions for a climate of fear that will justify police-state fascism!
March 21 at 1:13pm · 
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thomas Henry Culhane
The thing is I normally really admire Chris Carrol's writing and articles. His article on "Hi-Tech Trash" and its impact on the health of African villagers who are on the receiving end of the environmental insult was a real eye-opening (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/01/high-tech-trash/carroll-text) and he has always covered issues with fairness, compassion and a leaning toward sustainability and health. This is uncharacteristic of him and the magazine.
March 21 at 3:20pm ·
Lara Morrison
Lara Morrison
TH, I think people with vested interests in a lot of the current structure are so afraid they see nuclear energy as a way out of changing our life styles with Peak Oil. I think the decline of cheap oil production is much more advanced than is acknowledged in the MSM but they know and they know how fragile the things are. I have more faith in people and want to open their imaginations to see how things could be better.
March 21 at 7:23pm ·
Charles F. Munat
Charles F. Munat
I never saw anything particularly frightening while operating a Navy reactor, but accidents, of course, happen all the time. The Navy can claim an accident-free record only by redefining the term. Anything less than really catastrophic gets renamed an "incident." And there are lots of "incidents."

But that's really beside the point. There's nothing mystifying about Navy reactors. They are better designed than civilian reactors, and smaller and more manageable, but then the Navy doesn't need to make a profit. How do you replicate that in a profit oriented industry? (Big subsidies, obviously.) Of course, Navy reactors are also mostly located on mobile platforms which are then transported to battle zones where there are people with very good reason to blow up or sink those platforms. That doesn't seem so smart, does it?

But every reactor, whether it is a military reactor or a civilian reactor is busy creating large amounts of the most deadly toxic waste known to humanity. A teaspoon of the stuff could kill huge numbers of people. And it's toxic forever. And its radioactivity embrittles the containers you put it in, making leaks more likely. And there's the transport problem. And there's the guard-it-forever problem.

Nuclear power is simply the stupidest idea humans have ever had. It is not even remotely clean -- even aside from the radioactive waste concerns, there is all the waste produced in building and fueling and decommissioning them, and then there is the enormous thermal pollution from cooling them. To say that nuclear power is a clean source of energy is like saying shit is good to eat because it doesn't contain cyanide. And there is nothing renewable about nuclear energy, either, neither are the deposits of uranium any more conveniently positioned than the remaining deposits of oil and gas, thus ensuring continued energy wars for decades to come.
March 21 at 9:08pm · 
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thomas Henry Culhane
Can I quote you in my blog, Charles? Your expertise and insight is very valuable. Thanks so much for posting (and thanks for your comments too Lara!)
March 21 at 9:57pm · 
Lara Morrison
Lara Morrison
did you see my post with T Boone Pickens talking about Peak Oil?
March 21 at 9:58pm · 
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thomas Henry Culhane
Yes indeed, thanks Lara. And it is because oil is peaking and will not become cheaper that I am confident the free market will replace in rather quickly with better alternatives -- if and only if we can keep the centralized energy industry from artificially making it seem as though the nuclear option is better. They will do this by using climate change scare tactics and by subsidizing the price of nuke-generated-electricity for the end user until the other options have been killed off. I would rather risk continued global warming as we transition to carbon neutral fuels (with investment in rapid carbon sequestration technologies -- like massive tree plantings and urban greening -- for example) and foregoe the nukes completely. Carbon the earth can handle, radioactivity we don't do well with. I say that as a carbon-based lifeform :)
March 21 at 10:07pm · 
Charles F. Munat
Charles F. Munat
Sure, you can quote me.
March 21 at 10:16pm · 
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thanks, I just did so in the comment section on the blog post. I appreciate it (and your eloquence)!
March 21 at 11:14pm · 
Lara Morrison
Lara Morrison
Are you familiar with Albert Bates' work on biochar? He thinks it is key to bringing down co2 levels.
March 22 at 5:51am · 


March 21, 2010:

Had a great time giving a presentation to the "green team" at Ben Franklin Elementary in Glendale. They seem on board with the idea of doing renewable energy projects at the school and I hope to help them. Care to lend some of your legal skills to helping stop this horrible movement toward ubiquitous nuclear deployment? It really concerns me, especially when the public erroneously thinks radioactive waste is somehow easier to deal with than carbon dioxide, which is harmless and can easily be recycled and sequestered in the biosphere. What do you think about all this?

  Big thanks to everyone for the kind birthday wishes; received as gift a beautiful energy saving 37" LCD TV from Sybille and the Fruetels so I can now get to work editing our "everyone can make their own small-scale garbage-using-biogas-reactor" documentary; have to get the message out before dangerous mini-nuclear reactors are deployed everywhere.

March 20 at 10:36pm

1 comment:

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