Animal Rights/Antinuclear Connections
The disaster at Fukushima suggests perhaps Japan (and the industrialized
nations in general) shouldn't have nuclear power at all?
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory scientists estimate that if the U.S. became as energy efficient as Japan, it would save $220 billion per year on its energy bill.
Nuclear power has proven to be a disaster: 116 plants have been canceled in the United States since 1973 and no new plants ordered since 1978. This has been an economic waste of more than $50 billion.
Nuclear power suffers from uncontrollable expenses due to construction, operation, maintenance and radioactive waste management. The nuclear waste that comes from nuclear power generation is deadly, and contains isotopes that remain toxic for up to 220,000 years. There is no safe way to dispose of it.
In June 1989, the citizens of Sacramento voted to shut down the Rancho Seco nuclear plant after 15 years of operation. The plant may be converted to solar power. The New York’s Shoreham nuclear plant will never operate due to public opposition. The nuclear industry ignored the public outcry, and it now costs the taxpayers and the industry $6 billion.
The nuclear power industry is an industry plagued with safety hazards, routine radiation releases, mismanagement, cost overruns, increased maintenance costs, extended outages and a dependence on federal subsidies.
Forbes magazine has called the failed nuclear power program “the largest managerial disaster in U.S. business history,” costing as much as the space program and the Vietnam War combined.
According to the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, moving from fossil fuel to nuclear power on a global level would require building a new reactor every one to three days for the next 40 years, at a cost of $200 billion per year. This would result in 300,000 tons of radioactive waste in the United States alone.
Reasonable alternatives exist.
Solar energy is abundant, non-polluting and dependable.
Electricity-producing wind turbines exist in 95 countries, with an installed capacity of 1,450 megawatts. They can be installed alone or in clusters. A coal or nuclear plant can take a decade or longer to plan or construct, whereas wind turbine clusters have been built in under 90 days. New wind systems generate power at six to nine cents per kilowatt hour, while electricity from new nuclear power plants costs 13 cents per kilowatt hour.
According to United Nations energy statistics, hydroelectric power supplies 21 percent of the world’s electricity, more than nuclear power.
Hydroelectric power provides the most efficient, most reliable and lowest cost source of electricity, with production costs generally one-tenth those of nuclear power.
Geothermal energy projects cost less than half the cost of nuclear reactors, and can be built in one-fifth of the time.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, nuclear power has become the least competitive of conventional electricity sources. Costs of $2 to $3 billion per plant are now commonplace, with some plants costing upwards of $5 billion.
In contrast, while the price of electricity generated by solar energy is not yet as low as that from coal-fired plants, some technologies are already cheaper than nuclear-generated electricity. (This is not an endorsement of coal!)
The average output of nuclear plants is only about 60 percent of designed capacity, because many plants are forced to shut down frequently for repairs and maintenance. In the 1980s, the time required for construction of a nuclear reactor typically ranged from 8 to 14 years. The real roots of this problem lie in faulty and incomplete design work, inadequate quality control during construction and poor management.
General safety issues plague the nuclear power industry. These include the capability of safety control systems to survive fires, earthquakes or hydrogen explosions; the capability of reactor systems to respond to an emergency shutdown command; and the capability of a plant to withstand the loss of power needed to operate safety systems.
A typical nuclear power plant generates over 30 metric tons of highly radioactive material, which remains hazardous to humans for thousands of years. There is no easy solution to the disposal of nuclear waste.
According to Greenpeace, a 1989 Lou Harris poll found 62 percent of U.S. citizens strongly opposed to nuclear power.
Like the environmental movement, the animal rights movement, and the fair trade movement, the antinuclear movement has grown in past decades from a radical fringe element into a mainstream public concern. Questions to ask proponents of nuclear power are as follows:
1) How will the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) define safety standards for new reactors?
2) Will the quality of construction be better than in the past?
3) Where and how will the additional nuclear wastes generated by new plants be disposed of?
4) Will the nuclear industry be more willing to accept stringent regulation and enforcement than it has been in the past?
Until these questions are answered satisfactorily, nuclear power remains a risky solution to the energy crisis.
A pamphlet put out by Compassion Over Killing says raising animals for food is one of the leading causes of both pollution and resource depletion today.
According to a recent United Nations report, Livestock's Long Shadow, raising chickens, turkeys, pigs, and other animals for food causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks and other forms of transportation combined.
Researchers from the University of Chicago similarly concluded that a vegetarian diet is the most energy efficient, and the average American does more to reduce global warming emissions by not eating animal products than by switching to a hybrid car.
It takes nearly one gallon of fossil fuel and 5,200 gallons of water to produce just one pound of conventionally fed beef. (Mother Jones)
The Worldwatch Institute estimates one pound of steak from a steer raised in a feedlot costs: five pounds of grain, a whopping 2,500 gallons of water, the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, and about 34 pounds of topsoil.
Thirty-three percent of our nation's raw materials and fossil fuels go into livestock destined for slaughter. In a vegan economy, only two percent of our resources will go to the production of food.
According to the editors of World Watch, July/August 2004:
"The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future -- deforestization, topsoil erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease."
As an alternative to nuclear power: energy-efficient technology, conserving energy, recycling, veganism, and becoming energy and environmentally conscious are steps we can all embrace towards a sustainable world.