The year 2012 has opened with news that Fukushima's radioactive cloud may already have killed some 14,000 Americans, according to a major study just published in the International Journal of Health Services.
Germany and Japan, the world's third and fourth largest economies, along with numerous others countries, have definitively turned away from the "Peaceful Atom."
But it hasn't yet been buried. That's up to us. And 2012 is the year to do it.
We are already very close. The mythical "Nuclear Renaissance" has been gutted by Fukushima, low gas prices and the escalating Solartopian revolution in green energy. Solar panels, wind turbines, sustainable bio-fuels, geo-thermal, ocean thermal, increased efficiency and much more have simply priced atomic energy out of the market.
There is virtually no private money to build new reactors---except where there are huge government subsidies and guarantees. In 2012 we must make those all go away.
Likewise, there are increasingly powerful grassroots movements focused on shutting reactors that still operate. Germany has shut 7, and the rest will be gone by 2022, if not earlier. In Japan, just 11 of more than 50 reactors now operate ( http://nukefree.org/japan-may-
The biggest US battle is at Vermont Yankee. March 21 is D-Day for forcing a nuclear corporation to honor a solemn contract it signed with a sovereign state, agreeing to shut down if the state doesn't approve continued operations. The legislature wants the reactor shut, which Entergy now refuses to do.
But with some 430 reactors still operating worldwide, and with several score ostensibly on order, here are some of 2012's keys to finally ridding the planet of this radioactive curse:
X The switch to green power has become definitive and is clearly unstoppable. Last year renewables generated more US electricity than nukes. Far more private capital is now being invested in renewables than in nuclear or fossil fuels. General Electric says its photovoltaic solar cells will generate electricity cheaper than coal within five years. Well-funded opponents are making it more difficult to spread green technologies ( http://nukefree.org/
X The breakdowns in the solar business are far fewer and further between than in the fossil/nuke world. The lead in this technology has shifted to Asia. The much hyped Solyndra failure came not from technological issues, but because the Chinese are underselling its American competitors---and its own costs---by 30-40%. Returning at least some of the business to the US is essential to our economic survival.
X A dollar invested in increased efficiency---powered by accelerating breakthroughs such as LED lighting---has long since produced more jobs and saved more energy than one invested in nuclear power.
X In-depth studies from the Union of Concerned Scientists ( www.ucsusa.org ), Rocky Mountain Institute (www.rmi.org) , and a host of others make it clear that investments in solar and wind energy yield better returns than nuclear.
X It takes at very least and optimistic five years to bring a nuclear plant on line assuming all permits are in order, but large-scale wind and solar facilities regularly come on line in half that or less.
X The decisions by Japan and Germany to abandon nuclear power have come from countries long at the core of the industry. Japan manufactures many key reactor components, and maintains ownership stakes in General Electric and Westinghouse, which have designed and/or built most of the world's commercial reactors. Germany's corporate giant Siemens, an industry mainstay, has abandoned the technology to focus on renewables. As other major countries and corporations follow suit, the nuke industry will waste away.
X Those who "support nuclear power" cannot guarantee the reactors they want built will be properly regulated or monitored. The world at large may not hear about the next Fukushimas until long after the radioactive fallout spreads around the planet. Given the dismal state of regulation even in "advanced" countries like Japan and the US, will those who support the "Renaissance" be there to monitor the Korean nukes sold to the United Arab Emirates et. al.?
X The US Department of Energy still has some $10 billion in designated loan guarantees for new reactors. Two reactors are technically under construction in South Carolina, and two more at Georgia's Vogtle. Despite $8.33 billion in loan guarantees, Georgia's rates are already soaring. Attempts to get Congress to kick in more money have been blocked by the grassroots No Nukes movement.