Last year I reviewed a book called “Apocalypse Never” that made a powerful case for our options being limited to two: either we get rid of nuclear weapons or humanity will be destroyed. I noted then a deep flaw in the case: the author accepted nuclear energy as something we could survive, focusing his opposition purely on nuclear weaponry.
A new film makes the additional case I was looking for. “Knocking on the Devil’s Door: Our Deadly Nuclear Legacy” by Gary Null could not come at a better time. Not far from where I write this, a nuclear plant at Lake Anna was damaged in a recent earthquake. Whether the damage was severe or not — this time — is unclear.
This is also a moment of growing pressure against fossil fuels. Pushers of nuclear energy love to seize that opportunity to pretend that nuclear is cleaner and safer than coal or oil. The film includes a clip of Ann Coulter claiming that radiation is good for you, among other Fox Nuttery.
The Fukushima disaster receives the attention it deserves in the film, with Harvey Wasserman arguing that President Obama is guilty of murder for having told the public not to worry about radiation coming to the United States from Fukushima. The dead from Chernobyl are approaching a million. Helen Caldicott says she will not eat European food because too often it is radioactive. The Three Mile Island disaster is featured as well, including the many who died from that radiation and the lies told about it.
Another lie exposed in this film is the lie that we do not have viable alternatives. The case is made here that with current technology we could eliminate coal, oil, nuclear, and gas, substituting for every bit of it clean renewable energies. Nuclear energy is a scam and rife with corruption, as Greg Palast details in the film. Earthquake proofing has been faked. Private insurance won’t touch nuclear plants. We the people subsidize this industry, the industry then buys politicians with our money, and guess who’s on the hook to pay for any disasters.
President Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and nuclear energy company Exelon are offered as a prime example of nuclear power, by which I mean the power of the nuclear corporations over our political system. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has reauthorized numerous plants for decades to come, including Vermont Yankee, which is the same design as Fukushima. Gosh, I hope Vermont doesn’t have any flooding or anything like that.
Helen Caldicott explains in “Knocking on the Devil’s Door” how so-called “low-level” radiation causes cancer and infertility. We have higher cancer rates around nuclear power plants that have suffered no disasters and violated no laws, here in the United States and around the world. Who talks about this? The corporate media is silent.
But nuclear plants are disasters in slow motion waiting to speed up, waiting for a screw up, a bad stroke of luck, or a bomb. Meanwhile, their ordinary waste products are materials for nuclear weapons, including the depleted uranium weapons that have recently killed and deformed so many children in Basra, Iraq, and which will continue to do so for billions of years.
The fall out from weapons testing and the routine use of power plants, globally, is making us all less healthy and less fertile. What can be done to make this consciously self-imposed catastrophe even worse? In U.S. politics, THAT is always the question to ask, and it is always easily answered. In this case, one answer is nukes in space. The history of nuclear materials in space is one of accidents and near catastrophes. Obama is eager to further test that luck.
President Dwight Eisenhower gave a famous speech promoting nuclear energy, but Admiral Hyman Rickover, called the father of the nuclear Navy, gave a speech that should be remembered as well. It was farewell testimony and a warning, as was Eisenhower’s speech warning of the military industrial complex. But Rickover’s warned that we would need to eliminate all nuclear reactors or we would ruin the earth for human habitation:
“I’ll be philosophical. Until about two 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 two billion years ago, the amount of radiation on this planet—and probably in the entire system—reduced and made it possible for some form of life to begin… Now 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 a certain half-life, in some cases for billions of years. I think the human race is going to wreck itself, and it is important that we get control of this horrible force and try to eliminate it… I do not believe that nuclear power is worth it if it creates radiation. Then you might ask me why do I have nuclear powered ships. That is a necessary evil. I would sink them all. Have I given you an answer to your question?”
David Swanson is author of War is a Lie. He lives in Virginia