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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Time to Say Goodbye to Nuclear Energy

I tend to be an outspoken optimist about technology.  I love almost everything about the Internet, want faster trains and planes, and think genetic engineering could be the greatest boon to human nutrition since we started planting vegetables.    I think we will never understand our role in the cosmos until a substantial part of our civilization gets off this planet and out into the solar system and planets around other stars.

But after Three Mile Island in 1979, I concluded that nuclear power was just too dangerous to warrant using as a mainstream energy source.  I was struck back then by a headline in the New York Daily News - "Thousands Flee N-Zone".   I love science fiction, but that was one movie I did not want to be in.

Chernobyl in 1986 only confirmed this.  It doesn't matter what the reasons for the accidents are.   Accidents will happen.  We're fallible and so are our technologies.  And the consequences of accidents with nuclear energy are just too high.   Radiation released and its destructive consequences stay around for a very long time.

And now the same may be happening at a nuclear plant in Japan.   It was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami.   Its cooling system was broken.  Current reports say the ceiling of the plant has collapsed, which could lead to a complete meltdown, in turn releasing large amounts of dangerous radiation.

With prices of oil soaring all over, it's especially difficult to give up an alternate source.  But it's time to give up on nuclear energy.    The world should do everything it can to help Japan in its awful time of need, and then see to it that its own energy sources no longer include nuclear.

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