Fukushima fallout: time to quit nuclear power altogether
Experience in northern Japan illustrates that even incremental investment in nuclear power threatens human civilization. The Fukushima disaster should once and for all drive global society away from nuclear power, and toward renewable energy.
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Like many, we believe the only rational alternative to fill the void likely to be left by waning interest in nuclear power is greater investment in and accelerated production of natural, renewable energy, such as solar and wind, to augment what’s produced globally by fossil fuels. The amount of wind power alone generated worldwide could expand by roughly 30 percent annually, based on most conservative estimates. Denmark already generates one-fourth of its power from wind, while three German states meet nearly 60 percent of their needs from this ever-pervasive source. In Iowa, which is the US benchmark for wind-power investment, wind is generating about one-fifth of the state’s energy needs.Skip to next paragraph
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A report in Science magazine contends that the Chinese could increase the country’s current output by a factor of 16 from wind-generated electricity. A single wind-generating complex in Gansu Province in northwestern China will, when completed, have 38,000 megawatts of generating capacity, enough to supply the total electricity needs of entire countries like Poland and Egypt.
Such clean, renewable energy sources should continue to get the bulk of our new capital investments in power production. From the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania to Chernobyl to Fukushima, nuclear power has proven to be unpredictable and risky at best. Physical structures built by man are inherently vulnerable to the forces of mother nature, particularly amid more extreme storms and weather patterns globally and instability caused by the earth’s ever-shifting tectonic plates.
We fully realize this is a radical thought for many, but our experience in northern Japan illustrates that even incremental investment in nuclear power threatens the very existence of human civilization as we know it. The Fukushima disaster – which now stands, at least in Japan, as a new generation’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki – should once and for all drive global society firmly down a nuclear-free energy path.
Lester R. Brown is a US environmental analyst, founder of the Worldwatch Institute, and president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Yul Choi is founder and president of the Korea Green Foundation. He was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1995 for the movement against toxic and nuclear contamination.