Here are my notes from a speech by Helen Caldicott, author of the book Nuclear Power is not the answer.
The most carcinogenic industry in the history of the world is the nuclear industry, much more so than the tobacco or asbestos industry. It is a carcinogenic industry which over generations will produce random genetic compulsory engineering and epidemics of malignancy, particularly in children for the rest of time. Quite simply, it is a killing industry. Once moribund, after Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, it has recently received attention because of global warming and increased oil and gas prices.
A map of Europe shows that 40% of Europe is still radioactive, from the effects of Chernobyl. Even food that is considered ‘organic’ in Europe can be radioactive. This is a good reason to not buy food from Europe, on principle alone. The incubation time for cancer once you are exposed to radioactive material is 5 or 6 years. Cancers do not usually denote their origin.
From the beginning, we have known radioactivity causes cancer. During the Manhattan project, the scientists who worked with Plutonium became vividly aware of the toxic effects of Plutonium. When they tested Plutonium and injected it into Beagle dogs, they couldn’t find a low enough dose that didn’t give all the dogs cancer.
What is nuclear power? Albert Einstein once said: “nuclear power is a hell of a way to boil water”. It is a crazy way to boil water.
Some propose nuclear power as the answer to global warming. When you dig up Uranium, it is done so with huge machinery and trucks, all fueled by fossil fuels. This alone contributes massive amounts of CO2, the main global warming gas. Mining Uranium is dangerous. 20% to 50% of all men who have mined die of lung cancer. How does this happen? Uranium consistently emits radon, which is a radioactive gas. Radon gas gets into the lungs, radiating a tiny amount of cells, and later on those men get lung cancer.
Another material associated with uranium is radium. It is the daughter of Uranium. Radium is a cacium analog. If you ingest radium in dust, it goes straight to your bones, and irradiates a tiny volume of cells. It often leads to bone cancer or leukemia. Those men who mine Uranium are at risk for lung cancer, bone cancer, and leukemia. They are also exposed to gamma radiation, like an X-ray. Low doses, but the whole body receives the radiation dose in the case of gamma radiation, including the testicles. In a male, these are the most crucial organs, from an evolutionary perspective. If your testicles are irradiated, you have damaged children, or you can pass genetic abnormalities on to your offspring. There are currently over 16,000 genetic abnormalities described, including diabetes, mental retardation, and cystic fibrosis. People often don’t know they carry these genes until they or their decedents mate with someone who shares the same gene. Because it is a recessive gene, genetic abnormalities such as cystic fibrosis may take as many as 20 generations to express itself.
How does radiation cause cancer? Your body is made of trillions of cells. In every cell there is a gene that controls the rate of division. It that gene is damaged by radiation, via X-rays. Radiation damages the regulatory gene in a biomechanical way, the DNA molecule. The cell will then sit latent quietly, anywhere from 5 to 60 years. That is called a latent period of carcinogenesis. Then one day, instead of the cell dividing itself by mitosis, into 2 daughter cells, it goes berserk, and produces millions and trillions of cells. That is a cancer. That is cancer. In other words, it takes a single mutation in a single gene in a single cell to kill you. Another thing is that in the eggs and sperm of all future generations, and cause genetic abnormalities or deformities in their offspring.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if all electricity today was generated by nuclear power, we would only have enough on planet earth for about about 9 years of use. It is a very finite resource that leaves radioactive waste that lasts for over a 500,000 years.
When uranium is mined, you crush the uranium with big crushers(more fossil fuels used, more co2 emissions), then it’s taken to Padooka, Kentucky, and it is converted to a gas called Uranium Hexafloride. That gas is forced through tiny little nickle pores in a large nickle plate. It requires so much electricity to do this, that the uranium enrichment plant has 2 huge coal fired plants to supply the electricity. When you burn coal it burns more co2. 93% of the CFC gas in America that is released comes from that enrichment plant from leaking pipes. CFC gasses destroy the Ozone layer, which leads to increased skin cancers through Melanoma. That is why CFC gasses are banned under the Montreal Protocol. However, the nuclear industry for some reason has been “grandfathered” out of the Montreal Protocol. CFC is is 10,000 to 20,000 times more potent as a global warmer than co2.
Nuclear power also requires a huge reactor, made of concrete, which requires more co2 emissions. After about 24 years of operation, you have to decommission a nuclear power plant, because it becomes so radioactive that it is not safe for people to go into it anymore because of the huge doses of radiation they will be exposed to. So they have to let it cool for decades, then cut it apart piece by piece using robotic machinery(more co2 emissions). Then the radioactive waste has to be cooled for decades. circulating water through it(more co2 emissions). Then it has to be packed into trucks and transported to a place nobody can decide on; nobody seems to be sure what to do with the waste. It must then be stored for 500,000 years.
The nuclear power industry’s answer to the problem of what to do with the radioactive waste is essentially this: “Trust us, we’re good scientist, we’ll figure out a solution in the future”. It’s like a doctor saying to a patient: “You’ve got a pancreatic carcinoma, You’ll probably die in 6 months, but trust me, I’m a fantastic scientist and in 20 years time I’ll find a cure.”
The men who are creating the nuclear power and nuclear waste have no proof they will find a cure, and they will all be dead relatively soon. In science, you develop a hypothesis that you can either prove or disprove in your lifetime. You don’t simply pass it down to the next generation. This is an issue on which the nuclear power industry lies with impunity. They continually say they know what to do with radioactive waste, when the reality is they do not. Most of them are simply unconcerned with the long-term results of the problem they are creating. They are more consumed with creating energy, sometimes with seemingly good intentions(reduce co2 emissions),and which they will profit from handsomely from. Scientist’s are not supposed to lie, especially when it comes from from an industry that will produce so much death, disease, and tragedy. When anti-nuclear advocates talk about treating a child dying of cystic fibrosis or leukemia, they are accused of using emotional arguments. It’s as if they are saying you cannot be credible if you allow your right brain to enter the equation, and show some emotion. When these people see loved one’s die from the effects of radiation, do they not show emotion?
At the moment, a nuclear power plant creates 30% of the amount of co2 as a similar size gas-powered plant. But as the concentration of uranium in the available ore declines, within 10 or 20 years nuclear power will produce the same amount of global warming gasses as a fossil fuel plant. So you may as well burn the fossil fuels.
When the Uranium is made, it is enriched into Uranium-235, which is made into little pellets like chalk, and packed into fuel rods 1/2” thick and 12’ long, and then is taken to a reactor. There, 100 tons of the Uranium is packed into the core, and is submerged into water. As you pull out the moderating rods, the mass of Uranium reaches critical mass, and the process of E=mc2 occurs. Energy equals the mass by the speed of light squared. Tremendous heat is produced, and the heat boils the water, and the steam is taken off, which turns the turbine, which produces electricity. When you generate electricity from nuclear power, 200 elements are created which never existed before that never existed before we fisioned Uranium. Among them is radioactive Iodine, which produces cancer.
Did I mention there is nowhere to store the waste. Nobody wants it, but anyone who is in favor of nuclear energy doesn’t want to talk about that. They would rather sidestep that crucial issue and suggest irresponsible solutions such as shooting it up into space or developing promising “new technology” to take care of the radioactive waste that will still be here poisoning future generations long after they are gone.
Since nuclear power is not a responsible solution, what are some better ideas for providing ourselves with clean energy in the future?