Nuclear greenwashing - Page 3

Global warming has suddenly put nukes back on the agenda — but there's a lot the industry isn't telling you
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He's steadily convincing them we need more nuclear power by trading the classic doomsday scenario of a massive radioactive explosion for the creeping killer global warming.

"I'm aghast," Dr. Helen Caldicott, an Australian who helped found Physicians for Social Responsibility and is one of the most prominent international critics of the dangers of nuclear energy, told us.

Caldicott, who's authored several books on the subject, most recently Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer (2006), said, "I've never seen a propaganda exercise which is so fallacious. Both the politicians and the media are buying it."

She and other nuclear watchdogs who've been patrolling the industry for more than 30 years say it's anything but a safe, reliable, economic, and emissions-free silver bullet.

Let's look at the facts.

SAFETY

When it comes to safety, Moore told us, "US nuclear power plant employees enjoy the so-called healthy worker effect: people employed at the plants have lower mortality rates from cancer, heart disease, or other causes and are likely to live longer than the general population."

To support this claim, he cited a 2004 Radiation Research Society study of 53,000 workers. After reviewing it, Caldicott said, "I'm very suspect. There's nothing here about people who are living with cancer."

Caldicott admits there's a void of data about the health of nuclear workers and people who live near plants. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission doesn't mandate baseline studies of cancer rates in areas surrounding the sites of nuclear facilities.

But people living near Three Mile Island, the Pennsylvania plant that came within minutes of a catastrophic meltdown in 1979, demanded studies, which found evidence of increases in thyroid cancer in the region. And Caldicott, in her recent book, pointed out that there are a number of things the government doesn't want to admit. "To this day there is no available information about which specific isotopes escaped nor the actual quantity of radiation that was released," she wrote, going on to detail how, for lack of sufficient data about the distance the radiation may have spread, scientists studied the rates in the livestock of nearby fields and found supporting evidence that the plume of poison spread as far as 150 miles away.

And of course, there's Chernobyl, where a 1986 nuclear-plant disaster caused lasting health problems and contaminated a huge swath of what was then the Soviet Union.

The unavoidable fact is that the industry thus far has had two terrible, nightmarish accidents, one of which was catastrophic and the other very nearly so.

And every part of the nuclear-power cycle involves serious health risks.

"You want to get really sad?" asked Molly Johnson, a lifelong environmental justice activist and San Luis Obispo County resident. "Go to New Mexico, go to Arizona, see the families that are dying because of the uranium mining. Their water is irradiated from the uranium tailings that are still there.... Why would we continue that?"

These days intentional attacks are even more of a concern. But Moore isn't sweating. He said he thinks a plane colliding with a power plant is unlikely, even though the 9/11 Commission Report found that al-Qaeda operatives at one point considered aiming for the Indian Point reactor in New York.

Even if a jet hit a plant, Moore insists, the plant would be strong enough to withstand a collision. "If you drove an airplane into that, it would just be one messed-up airplane you'd have to deal with," he said.

Not exactly, say the critics.

"He is just dead wrong about reactor security. Breathtakingly misinformed," said Dan Hirsch of Committee to Bridge the Gap, a public interest group that's been studying nuclear power and proliferation issues for nearly four decades.