“A puzzle for our time: how is it possible for a person to be smart enough to make plutonium, and dumb enough actually to make it?” –C. Douglas Lummis.
In his article, “Plutonium and People Don’t Mix,” Dr. LeRoy Moore points out that the half-life of plutonium-239 is 24,110 years; and that it remains dangerously radioactive for more than a quarter of a million years. He writes that plutonium emits radiation in the form of alpha particles that pose little danger outside the body, but if particles are inhaled or otherwise taken into the body, especially via an open wound (say, a child’s scraped knee or elbow), they can cause cancer, malfunction of the immune system or genetic defects that can be passed on to future generations.
Right this moment the world has nuclear radiation seeping steadily into the Pacific Ocean from three crippled and melting nuclear reactors in Fukushima, surrounded by land that will probably never be suitable again for habitation. The thousands of Japanese families who have been displaced will probably never be able to go home. And, just like the Chernobyl disaster, the land will be ‘off limits’ for human beings forever and plant and animal life will be eternally distorted.
Other existing sources of nuclear radiation include thousands of nuclear bomb tests performed around the world, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US and depleted uranium shells used to fire bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Marc Schuler, former nuclear engineer, now activist, wrote, “Here in the US, as a result of our past nuclear weapons work, we have several areas of the country that are fenced off and deemed unsafe for human occupation. And, we’ve taken hundreds or thousands of casualties amongst the workers of the bomb plants, and the general citizens who’ve been dosed with radiation from accidents, tests, and just normal life and transportation.”
Marc adds, “These acts weren’t caused by an enemy. We don’t have a fence around the old Rocky Flats site because Soviets or Al-Qaida set off a dirty bomb there. The workers from Rocky Flats aren’t seeing higher rates of cancers and other problems because of an enemy attack. We did this to ourselves.
“A nation that prepares for nuclear war attacks itself, destroys portions of its land, and kills its own citizens. How is it possible that we can be both smart enough to design nuclear weapons and dumb enough to actually build them?’
And I would add that goes for nuclear power as well.