Ed O'Rourke

 

Phase Out Nuclear
July 2006

Former Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, has stated the current US nuclear weapons policy is “immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary and dreadfully dangerous.” He advocates reducing the US nuclear arsenal to zero or nearly zero.

Under the terms of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, 183 nations agreed to never produce or acquire nuclear weapons in exchange for a promise that the 5 nuclear signatories would eventually get rid of theirs. Furthermore, the nuclear states obligated themselves to never attack or threaten to attack the signatory non-nuclear powers with nuclear weapons.

Premier Putin made an offer several years ago to reduce the nuclear arsenals of both nations, now at about 10,000 each, to 1,000 each. When the US and Russians arsenals are reduced, nuclear powers may be more willing to take up China’s offer to negotiate an end to all nuclear weapons. Currently countries like North Korea and Iran are wondering why the United States and Russia have about 10,000 each and they should not have any.

The Abolition 2000 Network, a group dedicated to eliminating nuclear weapons, produced a model nuclear weapons convention that Costa Rica introduces to the United Nations General Assembly as a discussion document. The convention outlines the procedures for dismantlement, verification, guarding and monitoring the disassembled weapons that would prevent unauthorized use or terrorist acquisition.

Those who advocate the current nuclear weapons policy talk in terms of abstract deterrence theories or scientific jargon. Reading Hiroshima by John Hershey would put a human face of the ugliness of these frightful weapons.

Any nuclear power plant is a potential terrorist target. A successful terrorist attack would release radioactivity like that of an atom bomb. This is reason enough to phase out nuclear power and subsidize the development of alternative fuels and habits of conservation.

The nuclear power industry never could stand on its own anyway. Little known to the public and not advertised by the nuclear power lobby is the Price Anderson Nuclear Indemnity Act, which subsidized nuclear power since almost the beginning. When the power plants were almost ready to come on line in the middle 1950's, the industry told Congress that their liability insurance on the open market would be equal to all their operating costs. The Price Anderson Act originally obligated the companies to secure $300 million in liability insurance per incident. Now, the obligation is the first $10 billion. The US government assumes all the liability after that.

It has been more than two decades since the US has had a new nuclear power plant. The US government is attempting to encourage (subsidize) the development of new plants. In the Energy Policy Act of 2005, eligible nuclear utilities can receive government backed loan guarantees for up to 80% of the cost of their new plants.

The nuclear lobby argues that nuclear reactors do not generate carbon dioxide and therefore have a beneficial effect on dealing with global warming. However, like coal, uranium is mined. The uranium ore is then converted, enriched and transported. The scientists at the German Oko Institut maintain that nuclear power plants generate more greenhouse gas emissions than a natural gas fired power plant.

The nuclear industry likes to brag about a safety record that does not exist. Sometimes radioactivity escapes the reactor or contaminated water spills. On any given day, there are two or three incidents at power plants throughout the country that are serious enough to report to the government. With some frequency, the operators have to shut down a reactor.

Dismantle the nuclear weapons and power plants to make this world safer. Get cracking.

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Copyright © 2005 Ed O'Rourke, P.C.
Last modified: 04/19/2007