Tuesday, March 15, 2011

nuclear power

Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
March 15, 2011
Jill, our 9-year-old Katy, and I were in Warsaw in 1986 when Chernobyl blew up. It was Jill’s first return to her birthplace since her family emigrated to Montreal in 1965. Poland was behind the Iron Curtain. Medical services and drugs were nominally free, but in times of scarcity reportedly came at a price.
When Chernobyl exploded, I don’t remember which colleague or family member did it, but I distinctly remember sitting with our benefactor as Katy took her dose of iodine. Ironically, the cloud bypassed Warsaw on the east, and at the Arctic Circle, circled back and delivered a much larger plume of radiation to our then home in Oslo than where we were.
When the International Peace Research Association met in Kyoto in 1992, Jill and I went with an IPRA sponsored trip to Hiroshima, where among other thing a survivor guided us through the war museum.
There are survivors of 1945 in Japan now facing radiation poisoning from a country so advanced that it now depends as heavily on nuclear power as any country I suspect (is France far behind? I don’t know). In this grandparents will be sharing stories with their descendants as Japan faces its largest disaster since, and when nuclear power comes back to haunt them.
I anticipate that the Japanese will show the world an example of the resilience of a people who “unconditionally” lost a global war. Now there is certainly lots of seriously valued work for youth to do to rebuild their homeland once again. As I finished grad school in the early seventies, Japan was known as the managerial miracle of the post-WWII world. What goes down can come up.
The problem of nuclear power is the conceit of trying to control it whether you call it power weapons of mass destruction or atoms for peace. So Japan took the kind of hit nuclear production takes maybe only 500 or 5,000 years. Like landfills and carbon emissions, production of energy is entropic; it creates heat/waste. In nuclear plants, we are talking about waste that can’t be safe to humans for any kind of exposure—as in air, food and water—for a hundred thousand years or so. Talk about saddling our heirs with debt. May the tragedy in Japan help humanity come to our senses on what constitutes “clean energy.” Love and peace--hal

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