Nuclear Hubris

What gets me is the time frames involved with the radioactivity and toxicity of  nuclear power.  The time frames that we are monkeying around with.   Plutonium remains dangerous to any life form for 500,000 years. It’s “half-life” is 24,400 years. “And even 24,000 years is 15 times as long as something called civilization has existed.” (Rebecca Solnit commenting in YES Magazine)

Last week a CBC science reporter came on TV to say “Oh, fossil fuels are more dangerous than nuclear power.”  Oh, really??? You’re really going to try and sell us that??  From which imaginary cupboard in your mind do you pull out the perfect human beings who can watch over pools of plutonium for 500,000 years till it stops being toxic?

“Plutonium is one of the most carcinogenic substances known. …One-millionth of a gram (an invisible particle) is a carcinogenic dose.  One pound, if uniformly distributed, could hypothetically induce lung cancer in every person on earth.” — Dr. Helen Caldicott, Nuclear Madness, W.W. Norton: New York (1978, 1994) page 80.

Bascially, with the exception of a few minute traces of the stuff in a remote region of Africa, there was no plutonium anywhere else on earth before 1945.  Now we spew out 400-500 pounds of plutonium every year at reactors all over the world–including the Fukushima reactor in Japan–reactors that use uranium 238 (which includes plutonium in its mix).  And what do these super hi-tech fancy reactors do?

They boil water.

When I first learned this I was stunned by the deliberate mystique and arrogance surrounding the nuclear engineering clique.  I couldn’t believe that what they put on their white lab coats to do basically boiled down to this:

Nuke. Hot. Boil. Water.

Boil Water. Make Steam. Turn Turbine. Make electricity.

Yup. We are creating the most toxic substance on earth–a substance that has never existed in quantities like this on earth–we are making tons of it, which will remain toxic for 500, 000 years, and we are doing all of this—

to. boil. water.

400-500 pounds of plutonium per year; when one pound is sufficient, hypothetically and if adequately distributed, to kill every person living animal on earth.  And somehow, in order to boil water to turn turbines to make electricity to run our air conditioners and malls we are saying we will commit to isolating all of this virulently toxic material from any and all life forms for the next 500,000 years?

“Nuclear power is a hell of a way to boil water.” –Albert Einstein

Aren’t we smarter than this? I think we are a smart enough species to figure out how to use less electricity, and how to produce what we need in ways other than nuclear.


TOKYO (Reuters) – Tuesday March 27, 2011:  “Plutonium found in soil at the Fukushima nuclear complex.”


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