Say no to nuclear power

The governor sees atomic power as a response to global warming. We need to
look at the big picture.

Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2008


Californians might have thought the subject of nuclear power was laid to
rest in 1976, when the state banned construction of new plants. But 32
years is a long time, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can now be counted
among a rising number of people who think that the threat of global
warming provides a good reason to reconsider our distaste for radioactive

If he's sending up this idea as a trial balloon, we'd like to borrow
Schwarzenegger's Harrier jet from "True Lies" to blow it out of the sky.

In a recent speech in Santa Barbara, Schwarzenegger decried
environmentalists who use scare tactics to "frighten everyone that we're
going to have another blowup and all of those things." He was referring to
the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disasters, which thoroughly soured
Americans on the concept of nuclear power. It's true that Chernobyl was an
ill-maintained monstrosity, and nuclear safety has improved since the 1979
Three Mile Island meltdown. It's flatly wrong to conclude that this means
nuclear plants are safe.

Nuclear waste remains highly toxic not for a few years but for
millenniums; if the ancient Egyptians who built the Great Pyramid had also
built nuclear plants, the waste would still be deadly. This material is
being stored on-site at nuclear plants, including the two in California
(San Onofre and Diablo Canyon) because Congress has been unable to agree
on the location for a national repository. As these plants age, the chance
of a system failure increases.

"There's no greenhouse gas emissions" with nuclear plants, Schwarzenegger
told the Sacramento Bee. This is a constant refrain of the nuclear power
industry, but it isn't true. Nuclear plants are fueled by uranium, which
is becoming harder to find; uranium mining generates a good deal of
carbon, which increases as we dig deeper for the radioactive material.
Although nuclear power is considerably cleaner from a greenhouse-gas
standpoint than alternatives such as coal-generated power, those mining
emissions are nonetheless significant.

More compellingly, given the cost and time frame for building nuclear
plants, it would be impossible to build them quickly enough to make an
impact on global warming. There are safer, quicker, cheaper and cleaner
alternatives, such as solar and wind power, greater efficiency measures
and decentralized power generators that produce electricity and heat water
at the same time. Let's exhaust them before even considering the nuclear