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Issue 267
July/August 2011
Once Upon A Time

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Inconvenient Truths
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www.sxc.hu/profile/OeilDeNuit

www.sxc.hu/profile/OeilDeNuit

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Inconvenient Truths

Fritjof Capra outlines the truths surrounding nuclear power.

1) Nuclear energy creates significant greenhouse gases and pollution. When the entire fuel cycle is considered, a nuclear plant emits 27% of the CO2 emitted from a coal plant. Within only one or two decades, it will produce as many emissions as conventional sources of energy, as the concentration of available uranium ore declines and uranium becomes more and more difficult to extract and refine.

2) Global uranium supplies are finite. If the world's total electricity demand were met by nuclear energy today, the accessible uranium would last less than 9 years.

3) If nuclear power were to actually replace fossil fuels, this would require the construction of one nuclear reactor per week for the next 50 years. Considering the 8-10 years it takes to build a new reactor, such an enterprise is simply not viable.

4) The nuclear industry has never taken responsibility for the massive amounts of lethal radioactive waste that it produces continually. In spite of the global consensus on the appropriateness of storage in geological sites, no nation in the world has yet opened such a site.

5) Historically, as well as technically, nuclear power and nuclear weapons are inextricably linked. Nuclear plants are essentially bomb factories. Al Gore: "During the 8 years I worked in the White House, every nuclear weapons proliferation problem we faced was connected to a reactor program."

6) Nuclear power requires massive infusions of government (i.e. taxpayer) subsidies, relying on universities and the weapons industry for its research and development, and being considered far too risky for private investors. According to The Economist (1998), "Not one [nuclear power plant] anywhere in the world makes commercial sense."

7) "New generations" of reactors are not only decades too late but exhibit all of nuclear energy's inherent economic, environmental, safety, and proliferation problems.

8) In 2008, the world invested more in renewables than in fossil fuels. Worldwide, distributed renewables added 40 billion watts and got $100 billion of private investment. Nuclear power added zero watts and got zero investment, despite its far larger subsidies and generally stronger government support.

Fritjof Capra is physicist and systems theorist, and is a founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California

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