Recently at a Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center gathering, my friend Matt Nicodemus sang and played a wonderful composition he wrote about caring for the world. The chorus goes:
“This is our world, we’re gonna do what we need to take care of it.”
Being with others after a delicious picnic, under a gorgeous sunset, singing this together was powerful. Yes, we must take care of our world.
Many people think that one way to take care of our world is to use nuclear power. But with the nuclear industry’s history of radioactive leaks, accidents, its connection to weapons production — and the fact that production of electricity from splitting apart uranium atoms is an inherently unstable process that is liable at any moment to become out of control — it certainly doesn’t seem to be safe, clean or logical.
There is also the problem of nuclear waste; there is no place on earth where waste from nuclear reactors that produce nuclear power can be stored safely.
And, the intimate connection between nuclear power production and nuclear weapons is inescapable.
“Because nuclear weapons are designed to be the Hammer of God, the ultimate arbiter of power, any country that is under external threat will logically seek to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent — which was their stated benefit and contribution to world peace,” according to environmental organization Friends of the Earth — which also points out the polluting and dangerous mining and refining of uranium that’s necessary to run nuclear plants, as well as the thousands of tons of CO2 the plants emit.
And, the group has stated that one in five uranium miners in the Southwest has contracted some form of cancer.
It may be possible that the U.S. government and other governments around the world are attracted to nuclear power, not for its supposed “environmental benefits,” but for its connection to nuclear weapons production. For example, North Korea — a country that didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction — watched the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and quickly drew the logical conclusion that it needed to develop and test its own nuclear weapon as fast as possible. This fact is well understood by the U.S. government, which is doing all it can to prevent a nuclear power program developing in Iran, despite Iran having the legal right to do so.
So those in the anti–nuclear power movement have always argued that it is the link between military and civilian nuclear programs, which drives a new and even more terrifying arms race.
There are four states with undeclared stockpiles of nuclear weapons developed from civil programs, and it is no coincidence that they are in some of the most volatile, militarized — and hence dangerous — areas of the world: Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea. Experts estimate 40 more countries are capable of developing nuclear weapons as the nuclear club continues to expand.
In a 2005 New York Times opinion piece, former President Jimmy Carter accuses the United States of being at the forefront of efforts to undermine the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). After setting up a nuclear technology exchange with India in 2005, it was revealed that the United States was committed to a “first strike” policy — even against countries without nuclear weapons.
“The United States is the major culprit in the erosion of the NPT,” Carter said in the piece. “While claiming to be protecting the world from proliferation threats in Iraq, Libya, Iran and North Korea … the U.S. has also abandoned past pledges and now threatens first use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.”
Pueblo activists Velma Campbell, Jane Fraser and Jamie Valdez, who oppose plans for a nuclear power plant in Pueblo, wrote a guest column for the Aug. 29 Pueblo Chieftain newspaper:
“Pueblo, and its residents face many challenges, but nuclear energy is not the solution to any of them. A nuclear plant would pose a series of extreme risks to our community in both the near-term and distant future.”
“Just as proponents of coal promote ‘clean coal’ (there is no such thing), nuclear proponents describe nuclear technology as clean and renewable. It is neither. A nuclear plant generates electricity from radioactive material that must be replaced at least every 24 months because it wears out. This spent fuel is radioactive waste and must be isolated for thousands of years. The vessels in which the waste is stored can corrode and leak over a much shorter time with the potential for contamination of water.”
As Matt had us all recently singing, “This is our world, we’re going to do what we need to take care of it.” Amen.