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New Times / Commentary

The following article was posted on April 17th, 2013, in the New Times - Volume 27, Issue 38 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 27, Issue 38

Radio-phobia

The planet is literally dying for clean nuclear power

BY DAVID DEICK

Let me start by saying I am a card-carrying, tree-hugging environmentalist, opposed to nuclear power for 30 years. I cannot sit back and watch our planet be destroyed to enrich those who control our energy. Global warming is not a hoax; having stuck our head in the sand for 30 years, we now have a crisis. The planet needs more energy, more than solar panels and wind generators will ever provide. If environmental groups don’t start advocating for clean, safe nuclear power, we will continue to get more tar sands oil and fracking—there is no alternative. Damaging our planet in search of carbon-dioxide-producing fossil fuels is insane when an alternative is at our fingertips.

I grew up during the cold war, when atomic bombs threatened global destruction. We survived that threat, cooler heads prevailed, and the bomb was never used again. Fear of radiation remained—every nuclear power plant emergency a cause for alarm, the threat of meltdown grabbing media attention. I had no direct negative experience with the impacts of radiation; doctor’s offices with fluoroscopes or X-rays marked my closest encounter. I was against nuclear energy because I was told it would be disastrous.

On the other hand, growing up during the ’60s in Los Angeles, I had direct experience with smog. As a kid, we were not allowed outside on certain days when the air was un-breathable. My eyes watered and my chest hurt if I went out to play. I don’t know if I suffered any long-term effects; I smoked for 30 years. If you believe statistics, more people die from fossil fuel than were killed by the bomb at Hiroshima. Nobody has been killed from direct exposure to radiation at a nuclear power plant (except at Chernobyl). In fact, evidence shows health benefits for nuclear power plant workers. To this day, nobody has died as a result of the tsunami at Fukushima Daichi; even workers who went inside the reactor containment are alive and doing well!

I believe Big Oil realized the potential splitting the atom would have on power generation, and a plan of deception was put in place not unlike Big Tobacco’s efforts to deceive and deny the effects of smoking. The same propagandists are hard at work playing down the reality of climate change caused by burning oil and coal: That’s deception, their need for profit kept Radiophobia alive.

When the computer age began, Moore’s Law dictated the development of computers. The understanding is “every 10 years a product will be half the size, or twice as fast.” This has reduced a computer the size of a house to a device enormously more powerful that will fit in your pocket. It only took 50 years. In that same amount of time, we have done nearly nothing to improve our nuclear energy technology. Despite supercomputers to design them, and modern materials to build them, a new-age nuclear reactor has not been built for commercial use.

At this stage, the world needs nuclear energy. It is the greenest and cleanest source of energy available on the planet. The sun is a nuclear power source, tapped into with solar panels when the sun is shining. It may be that a better power source will be discovered in the future, but we have come a long way in 50 years. Why not green-flag nuclear power? Nothing else will get us the power we need, and it will take time to develop. We need to stop rubbing sticks together for heat, crawl out of our caves, and unleash the power under our feet.

How long did it take men of medicine to acknowledge washing hands saved lives? Germ theory was around for 100 years before doctors of their day swallowed their pride and admitted dirty hands killed people. Will we continue to harm our planet because of ignorance? A modern nuclear device is around the corner if only we give up our stubborn paranoia about radiation and learn the truth.

We have radioactive devices in our homes and on our bodies with no ill effect; if anything, we have regressed into fear. Now radon gas detectors are required in homes like smoke detectors. Radon gas is a naturally occurring by-product of decomposition of elements in dirt and rock; it contributes to background radiation, which varies across the country. Statistics show states with the highest background radiation levels seem to be the healthiest.

Thorium is an abundant rare earth element with stockpiles in reserve around the world, enough to power the planet for hundreds of years. It is in the dirt we walk on. A shovelful could power a city with a new-age reactor causing no radiation difference and giving useful nuclear by-products as waste. Accepting the possibility of clean nuclear power gives scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and inventors the willingness to develop new technology. The planet is dying for it!

Concerned groups need to change their attitude about nuclear energy and advocate for the development of new-age reactors, learn the truth about radiation, and educate their loyal followers not to live in fear of old ideas. It is time to mobilize the troops in a new direction—not protest the status quo. Big Oil will fight New Nuclear; they don’t want to lose one dime or drop of profit.

A new energy product, like a compact nuclear device, would change the economy of the world. Roddenberry foresaw the cell phone; it is time for Asimov’s vision to be realized. What would have happened had the United States not started the computer age? Can we afford to let another country capture the energy future because our greedy Oil Giants influence energy policy through our fear of radiation? The next great idea is already in our collective consciousness because the need is there. The world was ready for Columbus, and he appeared. We were ready for the Wright brothers when they came along, When Bill Gates and Steve Jobs arrived, they couldn’t be stopped.

Now is the time for energy freedom and a new world of harmony. Radiophobia is a myth! It’s time to allow a renaissance in nuclear energy. Clean coal is impossible; clean nuclear is inevitable.

David Deick lives in Atascadero. Send comments to the executive editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.