The terms of the nuclear power debate seemed to have been settled in the Cold War 1980s: the green argument was against it and the corporate war mongers were for it. However with renewed debate on climate change and with fuller costings on wind and solar factored in, the debate has reopened on the left. Here are three arguments, the first from Bhaskar Sunkara of Jacobin magazine, the second from Simon Butler of Green Left Weekly and a third from Dr Martin Goodman.

If we want to fight the climate crisis, we must embrace nuclear power

Bhaskar Sunkara, Mon 21 Jun 2021. Original post here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/21/fight-climate-crisis-clean-energy-nuclear-power

A powerful form of clean energy already exists – and it is far more reliable than wind and solar

A recent paper found that the

                                  last two decades of phased nuclear

                                  closures led to an increase in CO2

                                  emissions of 36.3 megatons a year.

A recent paper found that the last two decades of phased nuclear closures led to an increase in CO2 emissions of 36.3 megatons a year. Photograph: Seth Wenig/AP

On 30 April, the Indian Point nuclear power plant 30 miles north of New York City was shut down. For decades the facility provided the overwhelming majority of the city’s carbon-free electricity as well as good union jobs for almost a thousand people. Federal regulators had deemed the plant perfectly safe.

New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, a key figure behind the move, said that the shuttering of Indian Point brought us “a big step closer to achieving our aggressive clean energy goals”. It’s hard to reconcile that optimism with the data that’s recently come out. The first full month without the plant has seen a 46% increase in the average carbon intensity of statewide electric generation compared to when Indian Point was fully operational. New York replaced clean energy from Indian Point with fossil fuel sources like natural gas.

It’s a nightmare we should have seen coming. In Germany, nuclear power formed around a third of the country’s power generation in 2000, when a Green party-spearheaded campaign managed to secure the gradual closure of plants, citing health and safety concerns. Last year, that share fell to 11%, with all remaining stations scheduled to close by next year. A recent paper found that the last two decades of phased nuclear closures led to an increase in CO2 emissions of 36.3 megatons a year – with the increased air pollution potentially killing 1,100 people annually.

Like New York, Germany coupled its transition away from nuclear power with a pledge to spend more aggressively on renewables. Yet the country’s first plant closures meant carbon emissions actually increased, as the production gap was immediately filled through the construction of new coal plants. Similarly, in New York the gap will be filled in part by the construction of three new gas plants. For the Germans, investment in renewables did eventually pay dividends, but it largely replaced the old nuclear plants’ output rather than reducing existing fossil fuel consumption. The carbon intensity of German electricity is higher than the EU average.

However, even a more aggressive investment in renewable energy wouldn’t have solved Germany’s problem. There are just a handful of large economies that have already mostly decarbonized their grids; all of them have a foundation of nuclear or hydroelectricity (or both), and then to greater or lesser degrees add renewables like wind and solar on top. This is because nuclear and hydro are able to provide electricity whenever we need it. These “firm” sources of clean electricity do not need to wait for the sun to shine or the wind to blow to power the ventilators in our hospitals. Batteries and other forms of energy storage are great, and we need much more funding of research and development to make them even better, but until huge technological leaps occur, sustainables are hindered by the need for cooperative weather.

Elsewhere around the world, even where we’ve been investing in renewable technology, without nuclear or the right geography that allows hydroelectricity, we’ve had no choice but to rely on fossil fuels to fill the gap.

So why, given the stakes of global warming, is there still so much hostility to nuclear power?

Some of the paranoia is no doubt rooted in cold war-era associations of peaceful nuclear power with dangerous nuclear weaponry. We can and should separate these two, just like we are able to separate nuclear bombs from nuclear medicine. And we should also push back against popular narratives around Chernobyl and other disasters that simply aren’t replicable with modern technology. Advanced reactors and many existing ones are designed with passive safety systems – they don’t need active intervention by humans or a computer to deactivate in case of emergencies. Instead these plants use natural forces such as gravity to disable them, while maintaining active monitoring as a backup. As the science journalist Leigh Phillips puts it, “it is no more physically possible for them to melt down than it is for balls to spontaneously roll up hills.”

There are some legitimate concerns about nuclear waste, but the public perception is driven by outdated information. The amount of waste produced by plants has been reduced dramatically, and most of what remains can be recycled to generate more electricity. These worries are not particularly unique to nuclear, either. Renewable energy produces waste of its own – solar, for example, requires heavy metals like cadmium, lead and arsenic, which unlike nuclear waste don’t lose their toxicity over time. As an article in Science points out: “Current electric vehicle batteries are really not designed to be recycled” and could pose public health problems as battery cells decay in landfills.

Other objections to nuclear power, like its reliance on mining, are also not unique to nuclear. Renewables require destructive extraction to unearth lithium and other critical minerals. The answer to those concerns is simple: we should demand environmental and labor regulations from the state and defend good working conditions as our primary consideration. But opposing socially necessary extraction as a matter of principle simply isn’t compatible with wanting to live in a world that can meet basic human needs.

I’m not alone in expressing these sentiments. Beyond just preserving existing nuclear facilities, Americans’ support for constructing new plants is now at 50%, markedly higher than in years past. On the political left, in particular, where opposition to nuclear first catalyzed decades ago, there seems to be a shift underway. After initial hesitation, Alexander Ocasio-Cortez has said her Green New Deal leaves the door open for nuclear power. More unabashed was the backing from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Bolivia’s eco-socialist former president Evo Morales.

Nuclear is an idea whose time came and seemed to have passed, but may indeed have a future. For those of us looking for a solution to climate change, the least we can ask is that no plants like Indian Power close until we have a clean, dependable and scalable alternative already in place.

Bhaskar Sunkara is the founding editor of Jacobin magazine and a Guardian US columnist. He is the author of The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality

——————

Ten reasons climate activists should not support nuclear

Original post here: https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/ten-reasons-climate-activists-should-not-support-nuclear

Simon Butler

Edinburgh, June 24, 2021

Issue 1313, Scotland

Nuclear power plant waste

About 70% of the uranium used for nuclear power plants worldwide is mined from the lands of Indigenous peoples.

In a recent Guardian article, Jacobin magazine’s founding editor Bhaskar Sunkara declared that “If we want to fight the climate crisis, we must embrace nuclear power.” He praised nuclear as clean and reliable and suggested that opponents of nuclear power are either gripped by “paranoia … rooted in Cold War associations” or are relying on “outdated information”.

I disagree entirely. Here are ten reasons why nuclear power is still no solution for climate change.

Leave uranium in the ground

Farmers, Traditional Owners fight radioactive waste dump

1. Nuclear is dangerous. Building many new nuclear power plants around the globe means a higher risk of unpredictable Fukushima-type accidents. We know more extreme weather events are locked in due to climate change, adding to the danger as time passes.

What if a nuclear power plant had been in the path of Australia’s huge bushfires in 2020? What nuclear power plant could withstand super typhoons like the one that flattened Tacloban City in the Philippines in 2013? What if a nuclear plant was submerged by unexpectedly massive floods, like those in Mozambique for the past three years in a row?

Planning for a hotter future means switching to safer, resilient technologies. Building more nuclear power plants in this context is reckless.

2. Nuclear wastes water. Nuclear power is an incredibly water-guzzling energy source compared with renewables like solar and wind. We know climate change-induced droughts and floods will make existing freshwater shortages a lot worse. So it’s a bad idea to waste so much water on more nuclear.

Uranium mining can also make nearby groundwater unusable forever. Half of the world’s uranium mines use a process called in-situ leaching. This involves fracking ore deposits then pumping down a cocktail of acids mixed with groundwater to dissolve the uranium for easier extraction. This contaminates aquifers with radioactive elements. There are no examples of successful groundwater restoration.

3. Nuclear is slow. Nuclear power plants take a very long time to build. Since 1981, the median construction time for nuclear reactors has been 7 to 10 years. In 2017, two-thirds of new nuclear power plants being built had long delays.

Science says we need to replace fossil fuels rapidly and completely but nuclear power does not allow for a fast transition. Solar and wind can be deployed much more quickly.

4. Nuclear is not green. The claim that nuclear is emissions-free relies on not telling the whole story. If you measure greenhouse gas emissions over the whole process — mining, refining, construction, decommissioning and waste storage — then nuclear is far worse for the climate than renewables.

A 2017 report by WISE International estimated nuclear lifecycle emissions at 88–146 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour. By contrast, estimates of lifecycle emissions for wind power sit at about 5–12 grams. Carbon emissions from uranium mining will also rise over time as the most easily recoverable ores are mined out.

5. Nuclear is not renewable. There’s not enough high grade uranium available for nuclear power to make a big dent in carbon emissions. If we trebled the number of nuclear plants worldwide recoverable uranium reserves would run out in a few decades.

If we replaced 70% of global energy use with nuclear power we’d run out of uranium in about 6 years. Nuclear reflects very short-term thinking. We need long-term sustainability.

6. Nuclear is expensive. Producing energy with nuclear power is a lot more expensive than renewables. Nuclear power’s already high construction costs routinely blow out, going billions over budget. Britain’s Hinkley Point C reactor cost estimates have risen from £18 billion in 2016 to £22–£23 billion today. It won’t open until June 2026 at the earliest.

Cost does matter, even if part of an emergency climate action plan like a Green New Deal. The higher cost of nuclear power reflects the higher amount of human labour time and natural resources it consumes.

If renewables were built instead of nuclear, the labour and resources saved could be better deployed in the other areas we need to bring about a future based on climate justice, such as housing, healthcare, sustainable farming or climate reparations.

7. Nuclear power means nuclear weapons. A big rollout of nuclear power would mean a big expansion of fissile materials that could be used for nuclear weapons. It would multiply the facilities such as enrichment and reprocessing plants that these weapons need. The spread of civil nuclear programs to more countries would make more states capable of quickly producing nuclear weapons.

In countries such as the United States and Britain, keeping civil nuclear power is a strategic military choice, not a savvy green policy. Consumers pay a higher energy price to maintain nuclear power infrastructure, which subsidises nuclear weapons programs.

8. Nuclear waste is forever. The most hazardous nuclear waste decays so slowly that it won’t be safe for millions of years.

Ramping up nuclear power will produce a lot more waste and there is no safe way to store it. It’s irresponsible to make this waste a problem for our descendants.

In some places nuclear waste is a very present problem. In the 1970s, the US army built a concrete cap to seal away 3.1 million cubic feet of radioactive waste on Runit Island, which is part of the Marshall Islands. Today, rising sea levels threaten to bring down the entire structure, releasing the radioactive waste into the lagoon. The US government has refused to help, saying it’s the Marshall Islanders’ problem now.

9. Uranium mining is unsafe. There is no safe way to mine uranium or other radioactive elements. Building more nuclear power will result in more leakage of radioactive materials into the environment and more workers exposed to unsafe conditions and preventable deaths.

10. Nuclear means dispossession. About 70% of the uranium used for nuclear power plants worldwide is mined from the lands of Indigenous minorities. For too long, Indigenous peoples’ lands and culture have been treated as nuclear industry sacrifice zones. We should not support any expansion.

Mirarr Traditional Owners, whose country lies in the north of Australia’s Northern Territory and encompasses the Ranger and Jabiluka uranium deposits, released a statement in March that “expressed their continued sadness” at the ongoing disaster at Fukushima. The uranium for the Fukushima reactor came from the Ranger mine on Mirarr lands, which they had always opposed.

In a 2011 open letter to the United Nations, Mirarr senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula said that the Mirarr believe uranium mining globally “constitutes an unfair impact on Indigenous people now and into the future. We suffer the dangers and long term impacts of the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle so that others overseas may continue to enjoy lives without the awareness of the impacts this has on the lives of others.”

What’s the allure of nuclear?

It’s obvious why people connected with the failing nuclear industry will keep desperately pushing the “nuclear is a climate solution” argument. But there are also other people genuinely worried about climate change who might still stubbornly back nuclear power despite the arguments put above. There are several reasons for this.

For some, the mistake is to short-sightedly treat lowering greenhouse gas emissions in isolation from other concerns. This leads them to dismiss objections, which point out nuclear power’s close ties with environmental racism, militarism and the poisoning of Indigenous lands. Their mistake is to think of nuclear power, which is bound up in social systems of production, in a non-social way.

For others, nuclear power appeals because it aligns with fixed notions of progress and modernity, in which technological know-how is meant to lead to human mastery over nature. This ecomodernist outlook tends to treat nature as an enemy to conquer rather than a complex living system to defend and nurture. Their mistake is to think of nuclear power, which is an expression of capitalism’s alienation from natural needs, in a non-ecological way.

For others still, support for nuclear power may best be explained as a studied lack of solidarity. When corporate executives, professors or journalists say we should build more nuclear power plants, they never volunteer to work in uranium mines, live near nuclear power plants, or host radioactive waste in their neighborhoods. Those burdens will always be borne by others.

[Reprinted from Climate and Capitalism. Simon Butler is co-author, with Ian Angus, of Too Many People? Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis and a former editor of Green Left. He lives in Scotland.]


Martin H. Goodman MD replies to Simon Butler’s response to Bhaskar

1.  “Nuclear is Dangerous”  [Actually, nuclear is overwhelmingly and THE MOST safe.]

This is an outright total falsehood.  Nuclear power has been assessed as THE SINGLE SAFEST means of making electricity of all means humanity has… safer by factors of 500 to 5000 than fossil fuel power plants, and safer even than wind and solar in terms of death and illness count per unit of electrical energy made.  This in assessments from many highly credible sources, including the UN World Health Organization.    This is currently as well established as it is that the earth is round, not flat.    In 60 years of operation of 300 nuclear power plants around the world, there has been only one major accident involving such plants that has killed ANYONE due to radiation.. Chernobyl… and there the death count as assessed by credible sources varies between 200 and 2000.     That’s for the entire history of use of nuclear power.   Compare to 20,000 deaths per year from mining and burning coal in normal operation, in the USA.  200,000 to 1,000,000 such direct deaths world wide.   Compare this single lethal nuclear power plant operation accident that has minor lethal consequences in all of 60 years world wide to the many lethal hydro power accidents involving dam breaks.  Some involving hundreds to thousands of deaths.  One in Banqiao, China alone that entailed 100,000 to 240,000 immediate deaths, and made 1,000,000 immediately homeless.    Nuclear power, in contrast, as measured by its LONG track record in operation, is overwhelmingly safe.

Some of the big lie level  falsehood in Simon’s article is no doubt prompted by Simon (who lacks any qualifications to judge matters of medicine or physics) believing in the falsehood that radiation itself is dangerous.  In fact, radiation is (at worst) nearly entirely harmless to human beings below threshold doses so high that near no one among the 9 billion on the planet have any chance of encountering such.   This is established beyond the slightest doubt by every single one of the major studies of the actual real world effects of radiation on humans done over the last 100 years.   With no exceptions.   A good presentation of all such major studies can be found in Wade Allison’s book “Nuclear is for Life”, which any who still believe the big lie that radiation in small doses increases one’s risk of getting cancer, if only a small amount… any who believe the lie that radiation is a “silent deadly killer” that poses a risk to all but a dozen people per year, on average…  should read.

2.  “Nuclear waste water”  Nonsense!

Current mature technology nuclear power plants DO need water for cooling (future generation ones will likely not)  but this in no way impacts on available water.   The ocean’s water is used in many cases.    

The claims in this section regarding “radioactive contamination”… presented (as is usually the case with science and medicine-ignorant, faith-driven anti-nuclear true believers) are made without a single reference to measurement of radiation levels in any real world situation… are 100% false.  Tho uranium is chemically toxic (about twice as toxic as lead), as are all heavy metals, it presents zero threat to health from radiation, contrary to the hysterical and unsupported claims by Simon.   U238, which constitutes 99.3 % of natural uranium, has a half life of 4.5 billion years.  Meaning it’s near not radioactive at all.   U235, the remaining 0.7% of natural uranium, is only slightly more radioactive, with a half life of 3/4 of a billion years.   Thus essentially equally non-radioative, and posing absolutely zero threat to health from such.     There is not a single documented case of anyone getting ill, let alone dying, from uranium’s radioactivity in all of history.

Ironically, in this section, Simon says he wants to see “resilient” technologies.  He either is ignorant of, or is deliberately deceitfully, ignoring the following:

NOTHING that makes electricity is more resilient in the face of extreme weather or climate change than nuclear power plants of current mature gen 3 / PWR and BWR techmology.  Nothing even comes close.    One nuclear power plant in Florida not that many years ago continued making electricity at full output / full power operation as a category 4 hurricane passed right over it.   Try doing that with the fragile frauds that are solar or wind farms!

3. Nuclear is slow (to build out).

This is a favorite big lie / gross falsehood  of the science, medicine, and simple historical fact denying faith-driven anti-nuclear camp. One merely needs to look at the rapid de-carbonization and conversion to large scale nuclear power use achieved by France and by Sweden to see what total falsehood that claim is.   Within 10 years France went from 0 to 50% nuclear.  Within 20 years it got to 80% nuclear.    [One should also note that electricity in now 75% nuclear France is 1/2 the price of electricity in solar and wind relying neighbouring Germany.    And that the CO2 emissions per kw-hr of electricity made in France are ONE TENTH those of neighbouring Germany, and that Germany’s CO2 emissions have deceased very little since their insane anti-nuclear pro solar and wind fraud experiment.

4.  Nuclear is not green.

This is a lie.  Pure and simple.   Just because those widely discredited big liars / quacks (Helen Caldicott MD) in the medical community and other sources… thoroughly discredited shameless liars and frauds / dishonest junk scientists like Joe Mangano… and hacks, yellow journalists, lunatics like Harvey Wasserman, Karl Grossman, and Robert Hunziker…  repeat the same lies over and over for decades does not make it so.  

The statistics cited for France vs Germany prove what complete falsehood is Simon’s claim here.    But such incessant telling of big lies DOES cause the ignorant, credulous, and gullible to believe them.  “Comrade” Stalin wisely observed this, when he wrote “Paper will take any ink you put on it.”  Nuclear power is THE lowest of all CO2 emitting technologies for making electricity.  The only places on earth where truly substantial decreases in CO2 output from the making of electricity has been achieved, it has been achieved by primarily using nuclear power (France), or by adding nuclear power to moderate existing installations of hydro power (Sweden and the province of Ontario).  Nowhere on earth have remotely significant reductions in CO2 emissions been achieved by investing in solar and wind farms… especially in Germany, which has invested 1/2 trillion dollars in that scam, farce, and con.

5.  Nuclear is Not Renewable.

First off, “renewability” is of no significance.  Those stupid or ignorant of science and logic have been made to assume that “renewable” means “good”.  No such thing is remotely true.   What we need is not “renewable” power, but rather economical and sustainable (and clean and safe) power.   That is nuclear power.   There’s enough uranium and thorium know and available to power our civilization for the next 10,000 years at least.    With existing gen 3 power plants.   Gen 4, soon to be available, is more efficient, and will make this fuel last much longer.   We’re close to being able to extract uranium from the ocean, which will provide enough to power civilization for the next million years or more.   10,000 years (let alone a million years) is plenty of time for science and technology to find other means of making the energy we need… or reshaping civilization or us, physically, so that the energy is not needed.

But getting back to Simon’s parroting of the meaningless politically correct buzz word “renewable”…  by any reasonable definition, nuclear power IS renewable:  Uranium can be extracted from the ocean, and the ocean’s supply of  it is constantly being RENEWED by more being washed into it via rivers going into the sea.  

To be sure, ultimately the amount accessible on earth is finite… but so is the amount of rare elements needed to make solar panels and windmills.  

So (a) “renewable” is a meaningless politically correct buzz word used by those ignorant of science, medicine, and logic.   And… (b) You either MUST define nuclear power AS “renewable”, OR, if you don’t, then you must assess solar and wind as NON RENEWABLE power, too.   (Note, too, that solar and wind power get their energy  from the sun, which has a finite amount of fusion fuel, and will after using that up bloat to a red star that swallows the earth, then collapse into a neutron star.  It’s energy source is totally NON RENEWABLE.)

Simon’s claim:

If we replaced 70% of global energy use with nuclear power we’d run out of uranium in about 6 years. Nuclear reflects very short-term thinking. We need long-term sustainability.

is explicitly a HUGE OUTRIGHT FALSEHOOD.   All credible assessments of available uranium and thorium show we’ve at a BARE MINIMUM enough to last 10,000 year.   At a very bare minimum.

We’ve got enough mined and refined uranium lying around to last decades.  A while ago the Soviet Union / Russia sold to the US the decommissioned fissionable material from some  thousands of its nuclear weapons.   This was used to power US nuclear power plants for 20 years, producing 10% of all the electricity used in the USA  during that period (1/2 of all the nuclear power generated electricity used in the USA during that period.   The program was called “Megatons to Megawatts”, and was by many many many many orders of magnitude the biggest case of beating swords into ploughshares in the history of our species.

6 Nuclear is expensive.

No…  as noted above, in France electricity from nuclear power costs HALF as much as the electricity from Germany’s solar and wind fraud.  This is just another big factual falsehood /  lie by assertion.  Solar and Wind farms are HIDEOUSLY expensive… having to have all their power generating materials replaced every 20 to 25 years…  They also rape huge areas of wilderness and sea.   But nuclear power is inexpensive… and low… near zero…  impact on the environment and on human health.

It is factually false that nuclear power is expensive.  Indeed, it’s about the same price as that of most fossil fuel generated power.

However, electricity from the fraud and con Simon advocates… “renewable” (solar and wind) power…  is insanely expensive. 

Everywhere the egregious mistake of investing in solar and wind has been pursued (California, Germany) electric power costs have shot up immensely.   Whereas where nuclear power is relied on, electric power rates are lower.

What is true is that those seeking to sabotage development of nuclear power (particularly in the US) have over the years put in place insane and absurd “safety regulations” predicated on the (long shown entirely false) notion that radiation in any amount increases risk of cancer (when in fact it takes immense doses, acquired rapidly, to increase cancer risk).     These have created costs and paperwork that have significantly contributed to making building and running nuclear power plants 2 times as expensive as in France, or China, or South Korea (which have perfect safety records for managing nuclear power).   The “LNT Hypothesis” predicts increased risk of cancer at radiation exposures 100 to 1000 or more times lower than in fact is the case.   Such insane … frankly deadly… regulations need to be changed.   Note that one result of the lie of LNT hypothesis was the killing of 2000 Japanese due to a 100% entirely needless and prolonged evacuation in the face of entirely harmless (as assessed by the UN WHO AND by an independent team of researchers publishing in Nature within weeks of the Fukushima accident).

7 Nuclear power means nuclear weapons:

Another outright big falsehood / lie.  Pure and simple.  Over the last 60 years the number of nations using nuclear power has grown to about 40, steadily.   But the number of nations possessing nuclear weapons, after an initial spurt from 1 to 4 or 5, has topped off at 7 and not increased.

With only one brief and very minor exception, the material for making bombs has come from reactors dedicated to such… NOT from electric power making reactors.  The one exception is minor and trivial… India’s first nuclear bomb was made from material created i a power reactor.  But this was arduous and cumbersome, and India switched over immediately to using dedicated bomb material making reactors for its nuclear weapons program.     

Contrary to the hysteria-mongering and falsehoods asserted by Simon, the facts overwhelmingly show that the nuclear weapons and nuclear power technologies, while having a few things in common, are mostly HUGELY different and separate.  History demonstrates the truth of this.

8. Nuclear Waste is Forever  

A gross, hysteria-mongering falsehood / big lie in all respects.

(a) Unlike toxic waste from all other means of making energy, which in fact DOES remain toxic literally “forever”, spent nuclear fuel (SNF… what faith and confirmation bias-driven anti-nuclear ideologues and liars like Simon Butler prefer to call “nuclear waste”) decays into harmlessness over time.    And there’s is many orders of magnitude LESS of it than there is waste from ANY other means of making power, including solar and wind.

(a) The total amount of SNF (“nuclear waste”) produced from the operation of all nuclear power plants running in the USA (producing about 20% of our yearly electric power)  for the last 60 years would not even half fill the volume of a CostCo Warehouse.  THIS ALONE makes dealing with it trivial.

(b) NO ONE has EVER gotten ill… let alone been killed… by exposure to radiation from SNF (“nuclear waste”) from USA power plants.   Not in ALL 60 years such as been produced in the USA.  Contrast that to the hundreds of thousands in the USA killed… and many more sickened… by exposure to particulate waste from burning of coal.

(c)  Of the tiny amount of SNF produced from US power plants, only about 2 or 3% of this is genuinely dangerously radioactive.   Most is radiologically harmless (due to its long half life) uranium and plutonium (with very long half lives) that can be re-used as fuel in more modern nuclear reactors driving power plants.   98% and more of the genuinely dangerously radioactive stuff in SNF is Strontium 90 and Cesium 137.   These are not hard to either isolate or sequestor.   Both of these isotopes have half lives of about 30 years.   Meaning after 300 years, 99.9% of them is GONE.  Decayed.    After 600 years, 99.9999% of the them is gone.   

Thus the radiologically dangerous part of “nuclear waste” is not only trivial to store safely… it GOES AWAY in 3 to 6 centuries.  NOT the thousands or tens of thousands of years science ignorant fools, true-believing frauds, and/or deliberate liars like Simon Butler claim.

Note that while most anti-nuclear liars and ignoramuses claim “nuclear waste” hangs around for thousands or tens of thousands of years, Simon Butler distinguishes himself by telling  a 100 fold or more GREATER lie, and claims it is dangerous for MILLIONS of years.

[To be sure, uranium 238, the biggest part by far… 90% or more…  of SNF (“nuclear waste”) does take not just millions, but many BILLIONS of years to decay.   But it’s also 100.000000% radiologically harmless.  In large part BECAUSE of that ultra long half life!  Simon Butler, profoundly ignorant of both medicine and physics, appears not to understand this.  Or else is deliberately lying.]

Simon refers to a favorite pack of hysterical lies regarding “nuclear fallout”  in the Marshall Islands.  I’ve examined this particular issue in some depth, and upon looking at the reports of measured levels of radiation involved in the light of what is known about biological effects of radiation (something liars and frauds like Simon Butler avoid doing when making lunatic and utterly false … by factors of 1000 and more…  claims of “danger” from radiation)  know there is zero danger of any harm or risk from the trivial levels of radiation remaining from the nuclear “fallout” there. EVERYTHING CLAIMED about risks to health from the radiation at the Marshall Islands is without an iota of doubt false.  

In fact, near all nuclear fallout is entirely, totally harmless to humans.  EVEN in the exceptional case where a Japanese fishing boat was covered with highly radioactive fresh fission products hours after a nuclear bomb test, although all of the fishermen on the “Fortunate Dragon” got acutely sick from the exposure, all recovered.  One died months later due to hepatitis contracted from contaminated blood given him while he was in the hospital being treated for acute radiation syndrome.   The rest went on to live normal lengths of life, and died of issues unrelated to radiation.  That “incident” (a product of a callous rush to do a particular bomb test and not wait for winds to be blowing in harmless directions, on the part of the US thermonuclear bomb testing program) actually proved that even in the face of a HUGELY HIGH DOSE exposure to radiation… enough to in fact cause acute harm… radiation… “nuclear waste” from fission in an atomic bomb…  STILL remains mostly without any long term increase in risk of cancer or other harm.

9.  Uranium mining is unsafe.  (implying there is some threat for the radiation from uranium)

TOTAL HOGWASH.   There is absolutely zero more risk to health from mining uranium, pound for pound, than there is mining ANYTHING else.   NOT ONE death among miners can be credibly attributed to radiation exposure.  All is accounted for by high percentages of cigarette smoking and by (especially in times past) poor protection from silica dust… a problem for all miners… and poor ventilation in the mine.  

This is exactly what we’d expect given the trivial amounts of radiation uranium produces.  

Again, this outright big lie / gross falsehood  is being told in the absence of a single presentation of measurement of radiation levels miners are or were exposed to.    This is not surprising, because if such reporting were provided, it would be obvious radiation posed zero threat.  Not low, not very low.  Zero.

Actually, mining uranium fuel for nuclear reactors is especially harmless because uranium is 1,000,000 times more energy dense a fuel than fossil fuel, so mining it to supply our power has an  impact on human health and the environment is minuscule and insignificant.

10  Uranium mining “dispossesses indigenous minorities”

This is truly ludicrous politically correct  hypocrisy and hogwash.  Capitalism exploits people all over the world for ALL of its resources.   The difference is that mining uranium is especially harmless and without health implications because so very little of it is needed, compared to amounts of materials to burn in fossil fuel plants or materials to build and periodically replaced the rare elements in solar panels and wind turbines.

a note regarding qualifications to discuss energy policy, biological effects of radiation, etc.

I’ve a degree in biochemistry (and was trained in chemistry, physics, and mathematics)  at Harvard College.  I’ve an MD from UCSD School of medicine.  I’ve years of experience evaluating research and clinical reports and distinguishing between likely valid, well-constructed, and intellectually honest science and medical research and reports, and quack medicine, junk science / worthless reports.   I’ve also specifically studied the biological effects of radiation on humans, going over in detail every single major study of such on which our current knowledge is based, and many of the analyses of same.

And I’ve been a socialist, a fighter for social justice, all my life.  Identifying as a Marxist and a revolutionary.

What qualifications to assess this subject has Simon Butler, other than a belief on faith in politically correct dogma and big lie type falsehood?   I’ve read and analyzed for their integrity thousands of scientific and medical papers.  What ability in terms of education, training, and experience has he to separate fact from fiction in research reports?  To distinguish between quack MDs and competent MDs?   Between frauds and junk scientists, and competent, intellectually honest scientists?     I suspect Simon Butler’s only “qualifications” to write the hysterical rant that contained one outright bald factual falsehood after another are only his ability is to parrot an anti-nuclear politically-correct drivel.

To the extent Simon Butler claims to be a “socialist”, Simon Butler is one HUGE embarrassment to socialism, offering apparent confirmation of the frequently alleged (sadly, in Simon’s case, with a lot of truth) slander made by anti-communists that socialists and communists are brainwashed, party-line-following robots.

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addenda:

Simon serves up lies told about [actually non-existent] danger from radiation from old nuclear bomb testing in the Marshall Islands:

Simon’s reference to the Marshall Islanders and existing radiation issues is a lie, pure and simple.   The radiation levels in question measured there now show there to be zero threat to human health.  Period.  End of discussion.   But liar and true believer Simon is full of the many hysterical radio-phobic articles about threat from radiation to present day Marshall Islanders, and unable to make any sense of the reported measured radiation levels in the clams and such like in the region, which are absurdly low… 100 to 1000 fold below levels of concern.

From this article about radiation levels in the Marshall Islands: https://www.pnas.org/content/116/31/15425

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The predicted value spread across the island was 7.4 milirem/y (mrem/y) or 0.074 milisievert/y (mSv/y; Figs. 2 and 3). Because of the small number of measurements made relative to the size of the island, we did not perform an interpolation for Japtan Island. Enjebi Island, in northern Enewetak Atoll, had the highest external gamma radiation levels in the whole atoll, presumably because the majority of the nuclear weapon tests were performed in this region and the cleanup in the atoll had been focused on the southern islands. The mean value for Enjebi is 69 mrem/y, with a maximum of 272 mrem/y .