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Guardian ignores facts about nuclear dangers

By Hattie Nestel

Posted May 17, 2007

Most articles, including the one written by Shay Totten (Vermont Guardian, May 4) avoid any mention of the insurmountable danger of all nuclear power production, which John Gofman,, a professor emeritus of medical Physics of the University of California, Berkley, called the “irreversible contamination of the Earth by radioactive poisons. Nuclear power is simply incompatible with human health.”

The potential health risks from nuclear power are mostly ignored but well known by credible physicists throughout the world. The National Academy of Science reported in its Biological Effects of Radiation Report V11, 2005, that there is no threshold beneath which exposure to radiation is not dangerous. Extensive data on cancers and radiation-induced transmissible mutations exists in mice and other organisms. It may take 10 to 20 ayears for cancers to manifest in humans, but the body of scientific studies recognize harmful effects from even very low doses of radiation. “Permissible levels” do not equal “safe levels” of exposure.

According to credible physicists such as Joseph Mangano, national coordinator of the Radiation and Public Health Project, nuclear reactors release more than 100 chemicals into the air. These chemicals are created only in nuclear weapons and reactors. They are radioactive and cause cancer by damaging cells. Each chemical enters the body through breathing and food and affects the body in a different way. For example, Iodine-131 attacks the thyroid gland, Strontium-90 seeks out bone and Cesium-137 disperses through the soft tissue. The fetus and infant with rapidly dividing cells are most affected. Studies of reactor communities have shown increased deaths in babies and increases in childhood cancers.

Totten also ignores the connection of nuclear power to nuclear weapons proliferation. This issue is extremely well presented in the 2005 book published by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, a well-respected scientific think tank headed by Arjun Makhijani. Insurmountable Risks: The Dangers of using Nuclear Power to Combat Global Climate Change by Brice Smith addresses the historic connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons from its inception in the forties with the Manhattan Project. This important connection should not be ignored.

Comprehensive articles on nuclear power should include the fact that beginning with uranium mining, milling, processing, enrichment, and fuel fabrication, as well as the construction of nuclear plants, storage of waste, and decommissioning, there are significant carbon emissions related to nuclear power.

Every one of these processes is heavily dependent on coal, oil, and gas. Nuclear power production should never be depicted as emission free since every stage of its development creates emissions that contribute heavily to global warming. Whether these processes take place in Vermont or in New Mexico, where uranium is mined, or in Peducah, KY, where the uranium is processed by coal, is irrelevant.

Totten does bring the finite supply of uranium to light. Not only are uranium deposits being quickly depleted, but they are becoming exorbitantly expensive. In July 2006 it was reported that uranium prices have risen 600 percent in the past five years. It is doubtful that uranium will continue to be available for all the reactors that would be needed if the world were to depend on nuclear energy. Given the finite nature of the uranium necessary to fuel a reactor, is this really a sustainable and reliable source of future power?

Generating electricity by wind and solar are seen as solutions to our energy needs, but only if governmental policies are changed to fund them instead of costly nuclear power plants.

Entergy’s profits of $216 million in the first quarter of this year from its nuclear operations are gained at the cost of our health and the health of untold generations to come. No source of power comes at such a great cost.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, has introduced a bill calling for an independent safety assessment similar to one completed on Maine Yankee in 1996, and which caused it to close due to problems deemed too costly to fix. Sen. Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, is certainly on track with taxing Vermont Yankee to establish the necessary funds for energy efficiency and conservation to replace Vermonters’ reliance on fossil fuels. William Sorrell, Vermont’s attorney general has signed on to the Massachusetts attorney general’s lawsuit requiring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to change its rules, making it mandatory that the vulnerability of the spent fuel pool be included in consideration for license extension. This lawsuit is co-signed by attorney generals of nine states and is now awaiting a hearing in the U.S. District Court in Boston.

Finally, it is beyond time to stop referring to Patrick Moore as a founder of Greenpeace. Greenpeace was founded in 1966 by Quakers Dorothy and Irving Stowe, Marie and Jim Bohlen, Ben and Dorothy Metcalfe and Bob Hunter. Moore applied for a job in 1971, worked with the organization until 1985 when he was thrown off the board. One of the founders, Bob Hunter called Moore, “The Judas of the ecology movement.”

Moore, portrayed as a credible scientist by Entergy and the NRC, has never had a peer-reviewed article published. How he happened to testify as some kind of expert for the Vermont Legislature and the NRC is really the question. He exaggerates his role in Greeenpeace to serve him and the industry where he is on the payroll as a public relations expert.

James Riccio, a nuclear policy analyst for Greenpeace states, “Nuclear power is an expensive and dangerous distraction from real climate solutions.” Greenpeace stated that building new U.S. nuclear power plants is too costly and would take too long to replace fossil fuels, even with billions of dollars worth of financial subsidies.

Throughout the country and the world, people are working to establish safe, renewable, and sustainable energies. I am sure Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire will join the exciting nuclear free movement that will create safe jobs, thriving economies and a harmonious way of life for all.

I anticipate the closure of Vermont Yankee in the near term, energy efficient homes and businesses, lots of windmills dotting the hills of Vermont and solar seen on rooftops as a safe legacy we can leave as a sustainable legacy for future generations .

Hattie Nestel lives in Athol, MA, and is active in anti-nuclear issues.