The Nuclear Energy Paradigm “Has No Clothes.”
An important new book strips it bare.
By James Heddle
A Review of “FUKUSHIMA: Dispossession or Denuclearization?”
The Dispossession Publishing Group, 2014
Edited by Majia Nadesan, Antony Boys, Andrew McKillop and Richard Wilcox
Contributors – Harvey Wasserman, Christopher Busby, Paul Langley, Adam Broinowski, Christian Lystback, The Fukushima Five.
As Fukushima continues to pour its genotoxic effluent into the planetary biosphere four years on and counting, a recent BBC article tells us that the global proliferation of nuclear reactors is now at an all-time historic high with 70 reactors under construction and 500 on order in countries around the world. We have the spectacle of Nobel laureate and Nuclear-Salesman-in-Chief Obama sealing a new nukes deal with nuclear-armed India, sanctioning non-nuclear Iran for even thinking about developing nuclear energy, risking nuclear war with Russia over Ukraine, and ordering a $30 billion upgrade in the US nuclear arsenal (even as he lays flowers on Gandhi’s grave). Are decision-makers madmen and morons? How to explain this lemming rush to oblivion…or worse: a malformed genetic future distorted by massive global radioactive pollution. This review and the book it treats look at some of the forces and factors shaping the delusional worldview driving this societal madness.
[ For our video interviews with Prof. Nadesan, please see: Japan, Fukushima & Our Radioactive Future ]
The case against the nuclear energy-weapons establishment’s worldview is embarrassingly easy to make. Harvey Wasserman does it hands down it in his succinct centerpiece contribution to this excellent anthology. That’s why the global conglomerate of industry-government-bureaucratic-financial institutions known as ‘the Nuclear Village’ has invested so much for so long in propaganda to keep that easily-made case out of the public mind.
Here’s how the Nuclear Slight-of-Hand trick works:
• Don’t look at the joined-at-the-hip nature of the nuclear weapons-energy complex.
• Don’t look at the massive accumulated evidence of devastating environmental and human health effects that are already the lasting legacy of the ‘Atomic Age.
• Don’t look at the violations and distortions of so-called ‘free market’ doctrines and mechanisms represented by the infrastructure of subsidies, tax breaks, investment incentives and liability protections that always end up passing the buck and the liabilities to the public.
• Don’t notice the spreadsheets on the total nuclear ‘life’ cycle that show conclusively that – from mining & milling, to transport, construction, operation, and decommissioning to perpetual maintenance of waste storage facilities into the deep future – the costs of the nuclear enterprise are astronomical, unsustainable and can never be repaid.
• Never mind the huge carbon footprint of the full nuclear cycle.
• Deny or ignore the massive accumulated evidence of irreversible genetic damage to the entire planetary biome – and the human DNA pool – caused by past and ongoing radioactive contamination of the global environmental commons.
PR’s Greatest Triumph
Already as far back as 1986, no less an authority than Forbes Magazine itself labeled America’s failing nuclear power program “the largest managerial disaster in business history.” Now, with climate disruptions, seismic upheavals, and world-wide breakdown of technospheric infrastructures upon us – including the aging, 40-year-old, corroded, embrittled, shoddily built, mechanically stressed reactors themselves – the picture is even plainer to see…and grimmer.
What a stunning triumph of the propagandists’ craft and methods that so much of the population has yet to awaken from the decades-old ‘nuclear thrall’ that began with ‘Atoms for Peace’ hype and continues with the Washington-supported push to restart earthquake-prone Japan’s fleet ot Fukushima-idled reactors and to jumpstart a globalized ‘nuclear renaissance’ reactor building boom. This book is a clarion call for us to awaken from that thrall while there is still time to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of The Great Nuclear Mistake.
An Undistorted Look at the Objective Evidence…
…should be enough to convince any reasonably rational planet-loving person that the Nuclear Energy Paradigm (NEP) – which has and continues to dominate global energy policy decisions – is an irrational, illogical, suicidal, anti-democratic, ecocidal, sociopathic delusion which must urgently be replaced by a reality-based energy vision. Or else!
‘We Must Not Turn Away from the Ongoing Nuclear Damage to our DNA and Biosphere.’
That would be one way of summarizing one take-away message from this important and deeply compassionate book. Seen through the collective eyes of its contributors, the tragic, enduring, planet-wide impact and legacy of the 60+ year dominance of the NEP becomes a source of deeply moral outrage tempered by compassion.
Victims Pay, Perpetrators Walk Away
The resonant tone of appropriate consternation is set in the two contributions by co-editor Majia Nadesan, whose previous book, “Fukushima and the Privatization of Risk” (Palgrave, 2013), explored a theme she returns to in this anthology, namely, the unjust and unconscionable shift of liability and costs for the damages done by nuclear operations and accidents away from reactor owners, operators and administrators that cause them, and onto the backs of the public who are already suffering the health, environmental, economic and trans-generational genetic consequences.
“The atom is the apple of our fall.”
With her professional knowledge of risk assessment and as a university professor and parent, Nadesan does not hesitate to express her concern for nuclear pollution’s impact across the generations and across all species. Tracking the history of the ‘atomic insanity’ Nadesan calls for the acknowledgement of the ‘terrible costs’ wrought by the reign of the NEP, which “now risks destroying the eco-system’s carrying capacity for humanity, while simultaneously deconstructing human DNA itself. We surge toward apocalypse with disasters such as Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Hanford.”
Pointing out the inseparable connection that has always existed between nuclear weapons and energy production, Nadesan observes, “The push for atomic bombs and energy despite the known risks illustrate man’s hubris and technocratic disregard for life. The atom is the apple of our fall.” [ see MajiasBlog.blogspot.com for her frequent insightful posts. ]
No Return to a Post-Nuclear Eden
The genetic genie is out of the bottle and the radioactive caca has hit the fan. Facing the fact that there can now never be a truly ‘nuclear free future’ is even harder than facing up to clear and present nuclear dangers in the first place. The collaborators on this anthology are in a sense ‘initiates’ in the contemporary spiritual path known as denuclearist activism. It has several initiatory stages:
1. Awakening to the true history of the ‘Atomic Age’ and the reality of the dangers to DNA, the environment, democratic choice and human civilization itself posed by nuclear technologies and their world-wide technocratic ruling institutions.
2. Facing the tragic impacts already documented as a result of six decades of nuclear madness and trans-generational irresponsibility.
3. Wanting to shutdown and clean up nuclear technologies and their waste products.
4. Realization of the transnational power over public perception and policy wielded by the global ‘nuclear village,’ the supra-national network of investors, managers, engineers, financiers, government officials, public relations firms, international institutions and agencies dedicated to maintaining the Nuclear Energy Paradigm at any price.
5. Recognition of serious challenges facing any serious attempt to isolate existing tons of accumulating radioactive waste from the environment for longer than human civilization has yet existed.
6. Witnessing the post-Fukushima denials, cover-ups and dictatorial suppression of dissent and press freedom and resolving to seek out and disseminate the truth.
7. Committing to shutdown nuclear weapons and energy, work to mitigate unending legacy of their impacts, securely sequester their waste and residue and actively seek establishment of sustainable post-nuclear political, economic and energy institutions.
The articles in this useful book span this initiatory range.
Global Nuclear Octopus
Australian policy analyst Adam Broinowski looks at how the ‘global nuclear village’ guides and supports the re-militarization ambitions of Japan’s current Abe administration as it sits on one of the world’s largest stockpile of weapons grade plutonium – which constitutes an implied ‘nuclear deterrent’ to Japan’s neighbors in itself.
He argues that, “In order to continue to represent the powerful vested interests of the transnational nuclear village, the Japanese government must either persuade the people to act against their own interests and give their consent to the resumption of nuclear activities, or proceed unilaterally. In short, it must convince or force the people to desire or accept their own continued repression.”
He contends that, “…unless state-corporate policies which prioritize geopolitical ambitions and economic interests can be held accountable to the rights of civil society and international law, such policies will continue to be based on criteria which fundamentally destabilize the essential structures which comprise planetary life.”
Japan-based commentators Richard Wilcox and Tony Boys analyze the political challenges involved in denuclearizing Japan and getting it to apply its genius and resources to leading the way to a renewable energy future. They point out three main obstacles in the way of a clean energy path . (1) the vested interests of money, power and livelihoods of the members of the ‘nuclear village’ itself. The cozy relationships of these ‘players’ trump the interests of the rest of society.
“The terms ‘lobby,’ ‘cartel’ or ‘nexus’ could be used interchangeably to refer to the collective of power companies, nuclear plant makers, nuclear plant service companies, academics and researchers in the nuclear field and everyone who has a direct of indirect interest in nuclear power. In addition, politicians who receive donations and the media who receive advertising revenues and program sponsorships are all happy member….”
(2) The costs of fossil fuels being imported in the short term to compensate for the nations idle reactors “dragging Japan’s trade balance into deep red ink.” Thus the push for an early restart.
(3) Nuclear nations like the US, Britain and France fear that an abandonment by Japan of the ‘Peaceful Atom’ ideology for safety reasons will not only damage their nuclear power industries, but cast into doubt their continued deployment and development of their own nuclear weapons, “since it robs them of their only rational ground for maintain the production of fissile materials. Without this, they fear, overwhelming public pressure to be finally rid of civil and military nuclear applications would force power holders to relinquish the very bedrock of their military power – their nuclear arsenal.”
As Nadesan explains, this has led to creation by the Abe government of a climate in which criticism of the nuclear energy paradigm is ‘unpatriotic,’ and protest is equated with ‘terrorism.’ The recently passed Secrecy Law essentially criminalizes free speech, putting Japan’s democracy in a deep crisis.
Urinating in the Global Gene Pool – Bad for DNA
European professor Christopher Busby lays out the catastrophic genotoxic health effects of on-going radiation exposures to affected populations worldwide and denounces what he call “the greatest public health scandal in recorded history,” the dominant and bogus, ‘risk’ assessment model which represents a “marriage between the particular methodologies of reductionist physics with the needs and desires of the nuclear and military complex.”
He discusses, “…the way in which, in the field of ‘radiation protection,’ the public and their political leaders have been led astray in the last 60 years by a system of dishonest scientists and their dishonest organizations, which remains in place today and which retains a death grip on the perception of risk from low doses of ingested and inhaled radioactivity [as opposed to external exposures]. This bogus system was constructed during the Cold War in order to support the testing of nuclear weapons…. Its risk model underpins all laws relating to exposure limits. But it is a very simple matter to show that it is wrong, and as a result tens of millions have died and tens of millions will die in the future.” [emphasis added]
Erasing Mass Memory
Longtime nuclear issues scholar Paul Langley, in his piece “Enforced Amnesia – the Dispossession of Memory,” relates the history of cover-ups and pseudo-science that has robbed not only the Japanese, but the rest of us, of an accurate knowledge of the horrors of our nuclear past.
He concludes, “On the basis of the past record of openness displayed by nuclear authorities, the people of the world will probably never be told the precise amount of nuclear material that entered the biosphere as fallout following the March 2011 nuclear disaster.” Not to mention the massive radioactive pollution that continues to pour into the ocean and atmosphere from the damaged Fukushima reactors.
Beyond Rationality and Logic
Danish professor Christian T. Lystbaek looks at the corporate ethics, accountability and irresponsibility involved in knowingly pursuing nuclear power in an earthquake prone island chain, pointing out that, “nowhere else in the world are seismic activity regions so congruent to nuclear power plant locations as in Japan.” In essence that means that nuclear accidents in Japan are man-made, not ‘natural’ disasters. He debunks the ‘greenwashing’ of nuclear power, pointing out that, “Fossil fuels are essential to every stage of the nuclear cycle, and CO2 is given off whenever these are used.”
The risks of an aging world-wide nuclear reactor fleet, he concludes, include weapons proliferation, human health effects, biodiversity loss, land degradation, diverse social inpacts and “impose risk related costs to essentially everyone in the world.”
Economist Andrew McKillop explores what lessons Japan might learn from European energy transition plans and efforts. Pointing out that 161 out of 192 member states in the UN do not use nuclear power, he shows that, “within the utility power sector, nuclear energy exhibits the highest levels of financial stress, measured firstly by nuclear debt…. We can note that state bailouts to the power sector have ‘traditionally’ and mainly concerned nuclear power.”
He goes on, “Only by understanding the dysfunctionalities of energy transition in Europe can we understand why, in Japan today, the abandonment of nuclear power is able to be treated as controversial, difficult, and even ‘dangerous for national economic wellbeing.’ More precisely and already proven, the abandonment of nuclear power in Japan will be dangerous for the financial ‘wellbeing’ of many utility companies.
“At the highest level, this is finally due to defects in the political process- which are summarized as ‘dispossession’ by Majia Nadesan.”
Technospheric Breakdown, Climate Chaos and the Nuclear Energy Paradigm
“Technospheric breakdown is a concept that most are not familiar with,” say a group of authors calling themselves The Fukushima Five whose article concludes the anthology.
“It is rarely discussed in the mainstream media because of what it truly means for the entire planetary civilization. As a short description, consider that much of what has been built around the globe during the past 100 years belongs to the technosphere. To a great extent, it is represented by much of what has been created since the advent of the Industrial Revolution.” They go on to show how critical the concept is “to the integrity and longevity of the existing nuclear power generation paradigm.”
Rickety old bridges, pot-holed roads and New York’s ancient subway tunnels that flooded during Superstorm Sandy are illustrative enough of technospheric breakdown, but what about the fleet of over 40-plus-year-old nuclear reactors based on 60-year-old technology scattered across the US and the world? Last century, responsible engineers resigned in protest of the known design flaws of the faulty GE reactors that were installed anyway and later blew up at Fukushima. Their warnings were ignored and they, like many nuclear whistleblowers were blacklisted and pilloried by the nuclear establishment. The faulty reactors were installed. Fukushima is the result.
“But bear in mind,” say the authors, “that there are other design flaws in the older nuclear reactors which either haven’t yet been found, or more importantly, are not talked about because they can trigger an immediate termination of licensing in the US by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”
“[I]t is now understood,’ they point out, “that the stresses that exist in the nuclear plant environment are quite extraordinary, relentless as in 24/7, and highly destructive.”
We now also know that, from the beginning, the bottom line has been consistently more important to nuclear decision-makers than public safety, environmental protection or plain common sense.
A short list of known factors impacting nuclear facilities (including radwaste storage containers) includes: corrosion, fatigue, embrittlement, fabrication defects and mechanical operation wear effects. Now add to those profit-driven cost-cutting, poor maintenance, operator incompetence, corrupt utilities and public officials, and top it off with predictably unpredictable climate chaos. Not a pretty picture.
Three Strikes and You’re Out
One reactor at Chernobyl, one at Three Mile Island, three at Fukushima – that averages out to one disaster per decade of the Atomic Age, when the ‘probabilistic risk assessment’ methods favored by nuclear pundits insist that accidents will happen only once every 10,000 years! All of those disasters have occurred within the last thirty-two years – 5-for-32 is an alarming score.
“At the end of the day,” conclude the Fukushima Five, “the current race of humanity will look back on the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster as the defining moment for both the industry and the underlying paradigm…. The profound and fundamental shortcomings which pervade the entire nuclear energy industry can no longer be hidden or ignored.”
Denuclearization as a Human Right
The book’s subtitle, ‘Dispossession or Denuclearization’ deserves some unpacking.
As noted, a major theme in the work of co-editor Majia Nadesan is the ultimate transfer of nuclear liabilities, consequences and costs to the general public who also bear the social, cultural, environmental and human health and genetic impacts.
A public who were misled and never consulted are now required to finally and perpetually bear the never-ending costs of the nuclear legacy.
Technocratic tyranny is inherent in the very nature of nuclear energy and weapons technologies themselves. Secrecy and rigid social and managerial control are deemed to be essential, yet are inimical to transparency, accountability, informed consent and democratic choice. Censorship, deception, comer-ups, corruption and criminality are the inevitable results.
The nuclear system and its ideological lock on public perception deprive humanity of accurate information and democratic choice. They transfer liabilities to the victims, thus depriving them of health, property, livelihood, lifestyle, economic well-being, of, as Nadesan puts it, ‘the fundamental rights of personhood.”
But by impacting DNA, the Genetic Commons of humanity – and in fact of all the earth’s species – nuclear tyranny imposes the greatest dispossession of all: destruction of our genetic heritage, the trans-generational integrity of our genetic structures themselves.
Nevermore ‘Nuclear Free,’ But At Least Post-Nuclear and Post-Carbon
We can never rid our planetary environment of the past and on-going radioactive contamination that is the nuclear legacy. But by shutting down nuclear weapons and energy production, responsibly dismantling existing structures and facilities, providing for deep future sequestration of radwaste and making a rationally managed, reality-based transition to a renewable energy economy with the tools already at our disposal can go a long way toward mitigating nuclear impacts and facilitating emergence of a post-nuclear society.
The dichotomous choice implied in the book’s subtitle: on-going mass dispossession by the technocratic nuclear elite and its ideology or rationally managed denuclearization as a manifestation of enlightened collective planetary public will. Thus the framing of denuclearization as a fundamental human right and a fundamental existential right of all life forms of all present and future generations. That is perhaps the most valuable of all the many contributions made by this important book.
James Heddle co-directs EON – the Ecological Options Network. EON3.net.
He edits three blogs: eon3EMFblog.net , PlanetarianPerspectives.net , NoNukesCA.net
EON’s YouTube Video Channel is here. On FaceBook: EON – the Ecological Options Network. EonNewsNet@Twitter