With the Department of Energy offering the first of almost $20 billion in loan guarantees to an aging nuclear industry with lax oversight, Art Levine, News Analyst for Truthout reminds us of the startling reality of all aspects of nuclear energy. In his Meltdown, USA piece he artfully brings us along the life cycle of a nuclear plant, focusing on the perils of uranium mining and the apathy of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the midst of near meltdowns. Starting with Nuclear Energy’s image of itself, the “clean air energy” meme comes with nature-inspired images of the nuclear icon surrounded by leaves and flowers, and a happy family frolicking in a flowery green field. But, as Greenpeace bluntly points out,
“This isn’t just misleading. This isn’t just misinformation. This is a lie. Nuclear energy is not clean energy. One need only look at the environmental destruction caused by uranium mining… The accumulation of radioactive isotopes in edible plants. The lead, arsenic, uranium and radium downstream from the mines… The ruined lives, the contamination, the cover-ups… As for ‘nuclear is non-emitting’ – it just takes five seconds to Google ‘nuclear power’ and ‘emissions’ to show that statement for the ridiculous falsehood that it is.”
In fact it is the mining of uranium, followed by its “enrichment” – using carbon-polluting complex centrifuges or gaseous diffusion processes to separate it into fissionable U-235 isotopes – that industry propagandists are working hard to vanish from the image of nuclear power. According to them, the whole process starts by turning on the reactor. But there’s another story describing the pollution, contamination and the exploitation of communities surrounding the mines that often goes untold. All of this adds to the ongoing problem of finding a safe repository in the United States for nuclear waste still kept at their sites. Each 1,000 megawatt plant produces at least 30 tons of radioactive, cancer-causing, nuclear waste per year. With no viable plan for safe disposal of this waste, analysts like Art Levine are asking how we can begin to think about creating more of it?
Image Arkansas Nuclear One by Topato on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.Tweet