So You Thought Nuclear Power is Clean
“162 tons of natural uranium must be extracted from the earth’s crust each year to fuel one nuclear power plant.” Helen Caldicott-Nuclear Power is Not the Answer. She goes on to say that 40 million tons of granite will need to be mined if the uranium in granite ore has a low-grade uranium concentration of 4 grams per ton of rock. Sulphuric acid and other chemicals are used to extract the uranium from the rock which has been ground into fine powder….and this is just the beginning. Read more in the Uranium mining and Milling chapter of Helen’s book.
One of the things you have heard repeatedly is that nuclear power is clean; in fact you’ve probably even heard that it is the cleanest most effective power out there that we currently use. This is a lie.
Let’s just brush aside for a moment that nuclear power can and has killed well over a million people at this point and just deal with the issue of how uranium is processed for the fuel to boil water (that’s what Fukushima-Daichi and so many of our power plants do; they are boiling water reactors creating a very small amount of energy).
You CANNOT think about nuclear power without thinking about the way it is created which starts by mining ore. Not such a pretty thought, eh? Bet you don’t want to live near a coal mine, right? That’s ok. The United States Government put Native American Reservations on them and next to them so you wouldn’t have to see them. Phew. We’ll know who to thank next Thanksgiving, won’t we?!
I’ll tell you a story. In Paduca, KT there was a uranium processing plant. And right nearby, just over the state lines, there was a coal mine. Sorry. There were many coal mines. Eleven of the coal firing plants nearby fueled the Paduca Plant were from the Tennessee Valley Authority. That’s eleven coal fired plants providing the fuel necessary for Paduca to create low-enriched uranium so that boiling water reactors like the Columbia Generating Station in WA State owned by Energy NW on the Hanford Reserve, home to the Hanford Dump Site, could buy what they deemed to be “cheap” and” clean” fuel for CGS. How many coal fired plants did it take to fuel the uranium processing plant to make the low-enriched fuel for CGS? Yes. You remember. Now, remember what it takes to make the coal fired plants fire! It takes coal mines. But no worries, there plenty of those and folks in the area like Senator Mitch McConnell say that coal mines are good because they employ the community. So we are all good, yes?
It turned out, by the way, that while Energy NW was convinced that they bought the last shipment of fuel from Paduca at a basement price they were just plain wrong. Paduca was going under, you see, from issues related to losing money due to major cleanup costs which the last I had read, was between 8 -48 BILLION dollars. So ENW actually bought this “clean” fuel for more than it was worth had they bought it on the open market.
Thanks for reading.
Just look at what we do know. We know the human error was the cause of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and that we are still dealing with the fallout from both of these events. Yes, even from TMI.
We know that the ultimate catastrophe, the largest nuclear event in the history of humanity was on 311 in Japan at the Fukushima-Daichi Nuclear Power Plants. We that three of the cores melted through containments and are making their way to ….well, we actually don’t that as we’ve never witnessed this before. But we know that people did die, are dying and will continue to die from this event not only in Japan but in North America and beyond.
So, safe? I don’t think this takes much of an argument. If you are reading this and you still think nukes are safe, you probably are on the wrong website….but you are most welcome to stay a while and learn a thing or two.