Nuclear Energy Vs. Self Reliance

By , April 5, 2011

I wrote a short version of the piece below for the Self Reliance Exchange about a year ago. I try not to comment on political issues, but considering that we heard on Wednesday’s news that radioactive fall out from the Japanese nuclear reactors had reached Alaska the week before, I thought it might be rather timely to reiterate the reasons I feel that nuclear power is not a good idea:

America is pursuing nuclear power once again. Apparently, the decades-long media blitz calling it the “safest, cleanest energy” available is so convincing that many people support the move.

I have two reasons for opposing nuclear power. First, I’m an Alaskan. I remember the oil industry’s assurances about the safety of transporting oil from our North Slope. Not one drop of oil would be spilled. If it ever did, the industry would clean it all up, restore any environmental damage, and compensate for affected livelihoods. Eleven years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, ExxonMobil went all the way to the Supreme Court to avoid paying court-ordered damages.

Perhaps I may be forgiven for being skeptical of safety claims made by corporations. The Nuclear Power Commission assures us that despite past problems, nuclear power is now safe. Do I believe that? No.

(Before you dismiss me as a hypocrite because I receive an Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, please read this.)

Secondly, I lived in Washington and Oregon long enough to become familiar with the distinctive cooling towers of nuclear power plants, the majority of which were never commissioned. Power companies found that they could profit by planning reactors. This allowed them to charge customers higher rates to pay for the eventual “cheap” power to be produced. They never had to actually deliver that power—they merely had to eventually announce that they couldn’t do it after all. They walked away with the profits, leaving the counties and states with very large clean up projects.

But, I don’t expect you to care about these two points. Few do. Most people feel that such concerns are easily dismissed by those who “know better.” It’s useless to argue with people who believe that science will soon find something “really useful” to do with nuclear waste, or will figure out how to neutralize its potential to remain deadly eons into the future. Even people who distrust the government are inexplicably willing to believe assurances of safety on this particular issue.

So, here’s why I really oppose nuclear power: it threatens self reliance.

If you’re self reliant, you can make your own power. You can build a wind generator yourself. You can build your own solar components, such as water heaters, air circulators, dryers, and stoves. You can even create your own hydroelectric power. On your own, you can power your home with just about any method of generation known to man. But, can you build your own nuclear reactor? I doubt it.

Nuclear power will only benefit you if you’re willing to rely on the grid, the government, and private corporations. As soon as you take responsibility for your own power, nuclear power becomes a liability to you. You may choose to opt out of the benefit, but you cannot opt out of the liability.

As long as a nuclear power plant in your area exists, you must continue to rely on the government and private corporations to keep you safe from any ill affects. You can’t keep yourself or your family safe from it. Should the owners walk away, should the government fall, should an epidemic carry away those responsible or knowledgeable, could you and your neighbors safely decommission a nuclear power plant? I doubt it.

The only security you can have from a nuclear power accident is to believe that it’s not dangerous. That, clearly, is no security at all.

So, advocate for nuclear power if you like. Lobby for your local utility to start building today! Forget all the overthinking, the worrying, the doubt. Let’s get ‘er done!

Me, I’d rather try to be self reliant.

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