Japan, America, India, World: Say No to Nukes, It's a Matter of Life and Death

Posted by: Jennifer Scarlott on

For an incisive overview of the history, and perils, of nuclear power, you can do no better than to read Jonathan Schell, author of The Fate of the Earth, Abolition, and The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger.

 Interested in following the post-Fukushima (not that the crisis there is over!) nuclear debate in the United States? The Nuclear Information Research Service has a comprehensive site at: http://www.nirs.org/

 In his March 15, 2011 article in The Nation (http://www.thenation.com/article/159238/hiroshima-fukushima), Schell wrote: 

... in Japan, the nuclear power industry has a record of garden-variety cover-ups, ducking safety regulations, hiding safety violations and other problems. But which large bureaucratic organization does not? And if these happen in Japan, as orderly and efficient a country as exists on earth, in which country will they not? When the bureaucracy is the parking violations bureau or the sanitation department, ordinary mistakes lead to ordinary mishaps. But when the basic power of the universe is involved, they court catastrophe.

Having studied and written about nuclear power for decades, Schell has a personal sense of the clinginess of the atom, as indicated in his conclusion:

 Some have suggested that in light of the new developments we should abandon nuclear power. I have a different proposal, perhaps more in keeping with the peculiar nature of the peril. Let us pause and study the matter. For how long? Plutonium, a component of nuclear waste, has a half-life of 24,000 years, meaning that half of it is transformed into other elements through radioactive decay. This suggests a time-scale. We will not be precipitous if we study the matter for only half of that half-life, 12,000 years. In the interval, we can make a search for safe new energy sources, among other useful endeavors. Then perhaps we’ll be wise enough to make good use of the split atom.