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Re: E-M:/ Nukes



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Enviro-Mich message from Rane Curl <ranecurl@engin.umich.edu>
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On Wed, 10 Jul 2002, Patrick Diehl wrote:

> To Rane Curl et al:
>
> It makes us cringe whenever nuclear power proponents start talking about how
> safe it is to generate and transport nuclear waste.  While the possibility
> of a catastrophic nuclear accident might be small, the human and
> environmental toll when one occurs is unfathomable.  The Chernobyl
> accident which occurred on April 26, 1986, in the Ukraine is blamed for the
> deaths of some 2,500 people.  It has affected millions and displaced
> hundreds of thousands, many of whom have still not been able to return to
> their homes 16 years later.  How safe is that?!

The real point of my comment was to suggest that one must choose carefully
what battle one wishes to fight. To play with number we can observe that
nuclear power in the United States has an exemplary safety record:
automobile accidents kill an order of magnitude more people annually in
the USA than did Chernobyl, once. But, as Patrick Diehl says

> This debate cannot be based on risk analysis anyway.  There are legitimate
> risks associated with nuclear energy generation and nuclear waste transport.
> Period.  This is really a value judgment, pure and simple.  Why would anyone
> want to generate and transport high level nuclear waste that can be harmful
> to life on this planet for tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands years
> when non-toxic renewable alternatives like wind, hydrogen, and solar exist
> that can adequately meet our needs today?

I strongly favor the development of wind and solar energy sources
(hydrogen is only a means of storage or transport, not a primary source of
energy), but even with an intensive development program of the same
magnitude that has been devoted to nuclear energy, they will not supplant
nucelar power economically probably in our lifetime. It is therefore
necessary to be realistic at the same time one is advocating alterntive
energy sources.

I sense that the objections to safer storage of nuclear waste at Yucca
Mountain seem to be based in objections to nuclear energy itself, with the
idea that if nuclear power is made safer in any manner it may encourage
its proliferation. I therefore recommend that the policy battle be fought
on the issue of nuclear power itself, rather than trying to hamper the
development of greater safety in dealing with the nuclear waste we now
have and are likely to generate while alternative energy sources are
developed and proven economical.

--Rane Curl




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