Published on Wednesday, April 26, 2006 by the Freepress (Columbus, Ohio)
Chernobyl Kills While Bought ex-Greenpeacer Shills
by Harvey Wasserman
While children continue to die twenty years after the Chernobyl catastrophe, an out-of-touch (and often corrupt) fringe advocates a "rebirth" for the failed technology that is killing them.
These pro-nuke die-hards seem unable to face the solution to both global warming and our economic future: the exploding revolution in renewable energy and efficiency. Their last-gasp attempt to revive the dead reactor dinosaur may be the last barrier to a truly green-powered planet.
The 1986 explosion at the reactor outside Kiev was the world's worst industrial disaster. It spewed at least 200 times more radiation than the bombing of Hiroshima. It's a fitting tombstone for the most expensive technological failure in human history.
Chernobyl happened exactly 20 years ago. But it is 49 since the first commercial reactor opened at Shippingport, Pennsylvania, in 1957.
That day the nuke makers said it was "only a matter of time" before private insurers would protect the public from a Chernobyl or Three Mile Island-style accident, both of which they said were "impossible."
In the meantime, Congress passed the Price-Anderson Act, which shielded reactor makers from liability against what did happen at TMI and Chernobyl, and what could be happening as you read this.
A half-century later, we taxpayers are still holding the bag. Not one private insurer will guarantee you or your family against the financial consequences of a reactor disaster. Check out any US homeowner's insurance policy and you'll see their duck and cover in black and white.
In pure economic terms, nukes are a horrendous investment. The electricity they unreliably generate is expensive, with huge hidden ecological costs. Their waste problems remain unsolved, meaning their true price tag can't really be calculated.
And further Chernobyl disasters, through error or terror, are clearly inevitable. No reactor can be guaranteed not to melt. Nor can any be protected from terrorism, by land, sea or air. Continued reactor operations are the equivalent of handing Osama bin Laden an arsenal of pre-deployed nuclear weapons. Building new ones can only be termed an act of treason.
In 1980 I reported extensively from central Pennsylvania on the consequences of the radioactive emissions at Three Mile Island, a year earlier. To this day it is not precisely known how much radiation escaped, or where it went.
But I saw the deformed animals. I spoke to the sick children and their dying parents. America has been fed some big lies lately, but the biggest ever told remains "no one died at Three Mile Island."
A quarter-century later, some 2400 central Pennsylvanians still can't get their day in court. TMI's victims and their families have sued the power company that irradiated them, but the federal courts refuse to hear their case. Why?
Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster gives an indicator. Compiled by Svetlana Alexievich, this slim award-winning volume contains just a few of the thousands of heart-breaking stories from downwind of Chernobyl. They could just as easily come from central Pennsylvania. They make you wonder how humans could ever be insane enough to continue with an experiment so obviously, insidiously murderous. What other machine continues to kill its victims and their progeny generation after generation?
What's most ironic about the attempt to foist even more of these grim reapers on us all is that they simply cannot compete with new green technologies. Wind power, solar, biomass, increased efficiency and a myriad more "Solartopian" renewables are leaving nukes in the radioactive dust. With a level playing field, the green power revolution is poised to rapidly transform our global economy. Instead, massive subsidies feed a failed technology by gouging taxpayers, then irradiating them.
The true dangers of US nukes are exposed in "An American Chernobyl: Near Misses at US Reactors Since 1986," by Jim Riccio. A widely respected researcher, Riccio documents the terrifying times the US has barely dodged reactor mega-disasters.
Riccio is a long-timer campaigner for Greenpeace, which has published his report, and which leads us to Patrick Moore. A bit player in the original founding, Moore is cashing in on his stale, marginal association to Greenpeace for the benefit of his polluter-employers.
There is always room for honorable debate, even on nuclear power. But Moore has crossed several lines. His long-ago dalliance with one of the world's vanguard eco-crusades does not give him the right to speak as one who has "seen the light."
In perhaps the saddest line in the entire nuclear debate, Moore has termed the Three Mile Island accident "a success," apparently because it didn't explode like Chernobyl. But in a matter of moments, the TMI melt-down turned a $900 million asset into a $2 billion (or more) liability, with an unknowable final price tag or death toll. Not until 9/11/2001 would there be a similar "success" on our soil.
Moore's service to the nuclear industry is hardly his only calling. He shills for a tawdry crew of corporate eco-thugs, including forest clear-cutters and chemical polluters. In making himself a conduit through which pro-nukers and rich polluters can conjure the Greenpeace name, Moore is merely practicing the oldest profession in phony green garb. But even that won't outlast the killing power of the atomic reactors he and his cohorts are attempting to revive.
Eco-opponents of nuclear power know better. We are still committed to the principles of a naturally harmonious planet, pushing deep into the clean, sustainable prosperity of an energy economy based wind, solar, biomass, increased efficiency and more.
Trying to revive nuke power is like trying to refloat the Titanic. There is neither need nor room for a technology that can't compete or be insured, whose radioactive wastes can't be managed, that kills with daily emissions, that remains the ultimate terror target, and that obliterates whole regions in a matter of moments while killing for countless generations to come.
Atomic energy died for good reason, and so will the phony hype surrounding it. Nukes are not now and never will be green or peaceful.
Harvey Wasserman has served as senior advisor to Greenpeace USA and the Nuclear Information & Resource Service. His Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030 is available at www.harveywasserman.com.
© 2006 The Free Press