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The Myth of Peaceful Nuclear Power

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In the last several months, I was a guest by phone on Tehran radio programs on which Iranians have insisted that nuclear power represents "progress" to which their nation is entitled. I've argued that it is not progress but vested interests that are the driving force behind nuclear power.

At the end of World War II, the scientists, bureaucrats and corporate contractors involved in the Manhattan Project viewed their future with anxiety. The program, created after Albert Einstein wrote President Franklin Roosevelt calling on the U.S. to develop atomic technology before the Nazis did, led to the construction of four atomic bombs, two of which were dropped on Japan. The program would continue to build nuclear weapons, but bombs don't lend themselves to commercial spin-offs. Schemes were concocted to keep jobs and contracts, despite the enormous dangers involved with nuclear technology. These included nuclear-powered airplanes, using radiation to zap food so it could last for years, and setting off atomic devices as a substitute for TNT. And there was the scheme to use the heat of nuclear reactors to boil water and generate electricity.

In Russia, where I've also researched and spoken, I found similar links, this time between the vested interest of the Soviet military nuclear establishment and its civilian atomic program.

When on Tehran radio I've pressed the argument that eliminating nuclear technology in every country is vital if our grandchildren and their grandchildren are not to be impacted by nuclear war, other guests have not rejected it but said it is too idealistic. My response was that it is realistic

In the United States, some on the inside would eventually recognize the terrible mistake of nuclear technology.

Admiral Hyman Rickover, "father" of the U.S. nuclear navy, stated in a farewell address before a committee of Congress in 1982 that the world must "outlaw nuclear reactors."
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He said, "Until about 2 billion years ago, it was impossible to have any life on earth: that is, there was so much radiation on earth you couldn't have any life--fish or anything. Gradually, about 2 billion years ago, the amount of radiation on this planet and probably in the entire system reduced and made it possible for some for some form of life to begin.  

"Now," he went on, "when we go back to using nuclear power, we are creating something which nature tried to destroy to make life possible." Every time you produce radiation, you produce something that has life, in some cases for billions of years, and I think there the human race is going to wreck itself, and it's far more important that we get control of this horrible force and try to eliminate it."

As for nuclear weaponry, the "lesson of history," he said, is that in war nations "will use whatever weaponry they have."

Meanwhile, today, safe, clean, renewable energy technologies render nuclear power unnecessary. These technologies include solar (for which Iran is abundantly endowed), wind (now the fastest-growing and cheapest new energy form), geothermal, hydrogen, tidal-power, wave-power, bio-fuels, hydropower and co-generation.

 In the end, Einstein regretted the letter he sent in 1939 to President Roosevelt. "If I had known that the Germans would not succeed in constructing the atom bomb, I never would have moved a finger," he wrote in Out of My Later Years. He described atomic energy as "a menace."
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Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury and host of the nationally syndicated TV program Enviro Close-Up.

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It never ceases to amaze me how much more comforta... by R. A. Louis on Monday, Jun 22, 2009 at 10:33:54 PM
Check some countries such as Canada that have had ... by Archie on Tuesday, Jun 23, 2009 at 12:46:53 PM
Way to conflate things.It is the governments that ... by UncleSim on Tuesday, Jun 23, 2009 at 2:22:40 PM
"How did we end up here?" R.A. Louis com... by Patrick on Tuesday, Jun 23, 2009 at 9:55:13 PM