EMERGING INFORMATION ABOUT POSITIVE ENERGY FUTURES:
2013-06-13: Desert Project Could Produce 20% Of Europe’s Power
Europe could import up to a fifth of its electricity from solar and wind parks in North Africa and the Middle East by 2050, and the CEO of a Germany-based consortium studying the expensive project says stakeholders must act, or face a jump in power prices.
The Desertec Industrial Initiative, set up in Germany in 2009, says Europe could import up to a fifth of its electricity from desert regions, saving $46 billion per year, according to a report in Climate Spectator.
Deserts get more power from the sun than can be used by mankind in a year, Desertec claims.
Notable Quote from the above article: “The power output of the Sun that reaches the Earth could provide as much as 10,000 times more energy than the combined output of all the commercial power plants on the planet, according to the National Academy of Engineering. The problem is how to harvest that energy.”
2012-09-16: Power East Coast via wind? Doable with 144,000 offshore turbines, study says
2012-09-14: Wind Power Potential of Planet Earth is 25 to 40 Times Larger Than the World’s Current Total Energy Use.
2012-09-09: Geophysical Limits to Global Wind Power — Analysis from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory
Geothermal Power to The People: Forget Iceland, Hot Rocks Are Everywhere
Geothermal power as an alternative to wind and solar
2012 article by Mark Halper on ecomagination.com
Full Steam Ahead For California Geothermal Plans?
NPR story from August 2010
Geothermal Energy — Clean Power From the Earth’s Heat
A 43-page report from the U.S. Geological Survey (2003)
The Plus Side of Volcanoes — Geothermal Power
(from the US Geodetic Survey)
Geothermal Energy Facts
(from the Geothermal Education Office)
“Earth Ship” Mayumi Oda
by Jan Thomas, Claire Greensfelder and Wendy Oser
with Nora Akino
Illustration by Mayumi Oda
How can we respond to the growing burden of radioactivity in our environment which is putting our health, the health of our loved ones and communities, and all species at risk? Why are we still making nuclear wastes which will endanger life for millennia? When children ask what we are doing to change things, how can we respond?
People all over the world have raised these and other questions about the safety of nuclear power and weapons. We at Plutonium Free Future — ecology and peace activists from North America, Asia, Europe, and the Pacific Islands — have found that people need clear, straightforward answers to their questions about nuclear dangers. At our workshops and public events they have asked us:
- “Why weren’t we told about the connections between low-level radiation exposure and cancer?” (from Northern Europe)
- “What choices do we have? In our region we are told we must develop nuclear power because we have limited natural energy resources.” (from Asia)
- “Our government is trying to sell us on nuclear power by saying the Western countries are using it — and we will fall behind if we don’t.” (from Eastern Europe)
We do not have to keep contaminating our precious, beautiful earth with radioactivity that will remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. A safe energy future is possible and each of us can play a role in making it happen.
“ATOMS FOR PEACE”
False Promises, Hidden Dangers
The “Atoms for Peace” campaign was launched by the United States in 1953, promoting nuclear energy as “clean, safe, cheap and limitless.” The U.S. spent tens of billions of dollars establishing the nuclear industry at home and selling it overseas, ensuring U.S. domination of an expanding global nuclear market. The former USSR created a similar program in Eastern Europe, while France, the United Kingdom and China developed weapons industries and nuclear energy for domestic use and export.
Scientists who worked on nuclear programs in the 1950s and ’60s knew that nuclear technology involved major risks, but safety concerns were pushed aside to protect the interests of a growing industry. (1) Vital information about nuclear dangers was kept from the public. A comprehensive public debate on the risks versus benefits of nuclear- generated power has never taken place.
In the Western industrial nations, nuclear power has been in decline for 20 years. Some European countries have passed laws to phase it out or ban it entirely. To survive and achieve profit from past investment, the nuclear industry is now pressuring developing economies — particularly in Asia and Eastern Europe — to “go nuclear.” While no new nuclear reactors have been ordered in the U.S. since 1973, the same technology that is no longer seen as safe or profitable in the U.S. continues to be promoted abroad by U.S., Canadian, European, and now Asian corporations. (2)
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was created to promote nuclear power and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Yet these functions are fundamentally incompatible. The promotion of nuclear energy has led directly to the proliferation of nuclear materials and weapons. (3)
Today the “Atoms for Peace” public relations campaign is still very much alive, providing cover for a highly dangerous technology. Nuclear power has never been, nor will it ever be, safe. (4)
NUCLEAR POWER IS NOT HEALTHY
For Children and Other Living Things!
With respect to nuclear pollution, it cannot be overemphasized: what counts biologically is the sum of all the injuries over time from all the combined sources and events which release persistent poisons (radioactive or other) into the biosphere… Each contribution to the sum matters. (5)
Nuclear production releases poisonous radioactivity into the air, soil and water as part of normal operations. Radioactive substances give off alpha and beta particles and gamma rays which can harm living cells. A high dose of radiation can lead to death within days or weeks, and low doses of radiation are now known to be much more damaging to health than previously thought. (6) Ongoing exposure to so-called low-level radiation can cause severe, enduring human health problems, both to those exposed and to their descendants. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. (7)
Nuclear workers, their children and those who live near nuclear facilities all over the world suffer from cancers, birth defects and immune system dysfunction at rates much higher than the general population. (8) New studies researching the causes of a global increase in breast cancers in women show that breast tissue is especially likely to develop cancer from exposure to radiation. (9) Radiation exposure has also been recognized as a cause of prostate and lung cancer. (10)
Tragically, genetic damage caused by radiation can be passed on from generation to generation — potentially affecting the offspring of all species.
First Link of the Nuclear Chain
The stories told by the indigenous delegates to the World Uranium Hearing in Salzburg (1992) constitute an appalling indictment of nuclear colonialism. It is their homelands, their bodies, and their ancient cultures that are most immediately victimized by nuclear power… On their lands, which they hold sacred, 70% of the world’s uranium is mined, most of the testing takes place, and radioactive wastes are dumped. (11)
The risks of radioactive contamination are not equally shared by all people. Generally those with the least economic power, particularly indigenous peoples, bear the greatest burden of exposure to radiation.
Uranium mining on indigenous and tribal peoples’ lands has devastated local communities and environments in North America, Australia, Africa and Asia. (12) Uranium ore, mined from large open pits and underground mines, is processed so it can be used as fuel in nuclear reactors. For every ton of uranium oxide produced, thousands of tons of wastes, or tailings, are left behind. Often the tailings are simply dumped on the land near the mine and left to the effects of the elements. Wind carries radon gas and radioactive dust from these tailings for many miles. Contaminated rainwater enters the soil, the watershed and, eventually, the food chain, endangering health. Indigenous peoples’ lands have also been used to dump radioactive wastes and to test (explode) nuclear bombs both above-ground and below-ground, resulting in massive radioactive contamination.
ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE WORLDWIDE
* In Northern Saskatchewan, Canada, where the world’s largest and most concentrated known uranium reserves are located, routine releases and accidental spills of contaminated water from mining and milling operations have poisoned major fisheries and threatened the health and livelihood of indigenous communities. (13)
* In Niger and Namibia, uranium tailings are simply dumped on the desert sand, contaminating the air, food and drinking water of nomadic tribes. (14 )
* In the Southwestern U.S., mining wastes abandoned on indigenous peoples’ land have damaged the health of their communities. It is little known that the second worst nuclear disaster in U.S. history was the spilling of uranium mine tailings in the Rio Puerco River in New Mexico in the 1980s. (15)
* Dineh (Navajo) and other uranium miners in the U.S. have contracted cancers at a much higher rate than the general population (including a lung cancer incidence forty times greater than normally expected). (16) They were not told about the dangers of radioactivity.
* Tibetan people have been, without their knowledge, radiation-tolerance test victims at sites of Chinese-operated uranium mines and waste dumps. (17)
DANGEROUS and DIRTY: Accidents Do Happen
Sites where nuclear reactors are built become permanently contaminated, and the radioactive wastes they produce contaminate any place they are put, released or stored. They cannot be disposed of, only stored or abandoned. (18 )
After fuel rods of enriched uranium are used for three years in a reactor, they become approximately one million times more radioactive than when they were first loaded. The nuclear industry calls them “spent” fuel and is required by law to store them safely forever. However, governments and corporations have irresponsibly continued to develop and use nuclear power even though it is not known how to store the resulting wastes safely. (19 )
Nuclear accidents pose additional risks. Consider Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, two catastrophic nuclear reactor accidents. Ten days after the Chernobyl meltdown (near the village of Pripyat in the Ukraine), the radiation level was measured at 50 million curies, equal to the effect of exploding more than 100 Hiroshima-size bombs. Winds spread the radioactivity of the Chernobyl disaster around the world. (20)
Children of Belarus and Ukraine who survived the initial radiation exposure now suffer high rates of thyroid cancer and leukemia. Many more are listless and sickly, have memory difficulties, and bleed easily. In 1995, Ukraine reported that 125,000 deaths have already resulted from the catastrophe. (21)
Increased levels of cancers and other diseases have also been documented in people who live in and around Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA, site of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. (22) Mutations have been observed in plants life as well. Local activists have set up a citizens’ network to monitor health impacts, but a comprehensive, official health and environmental study of the effects of the Three Mile Island accident has never been done.
Accidents, which can happen at any reactor site, are only the most dramatic of the undeniably negative effects of nuclear power production. (23) After five decades, nuclear power at every step has proven to be a health and environmental disaster.
PLUTONIUM: The Most Dangerous of All
Nuclear power reactors produce a mixture of plutonium radio- nuclides, and there is no doubt that plutonium, deposited in the human lung, is a powerful producer of lung cancer. Approximately five millionths of a single gram of reactor plutonium deposited in the lung will do it. (24)
On August 6, 1945, the United States government exploded a uranium bomb over Hiroshima, Japan. Over 100,000 people were killed instantly. Three days later, a plutonium bomb destroyed Nagasaki, immediately killing 70,000 people. Many thousands more have since died from the ongoing effects of radiation poisoning.
Plutonium, a by-product of nuclear fission technology, is the deadliest substance ever made by humans. Because it is so toxic — and because plutonium can be used to make nuclear weapons — plutonium-fueled reactors are an extraordinarily dangerous way to generate electricity. (25)
All nuclear power reactors (both uranium- and plutonium-fueled) produce waste materials containing plutonium, as well as other radioactive substances that can be used to make nuclear bombs. Thus every nation that has nuclear power is a potential nuclear weapons state. (26)
How to make a nuclear bomb is no longer a secret. The hardest part of making a nuclear weapon is getting the plutonium. Four-fifths of the plutonium in the world today has been produced by commercial nuclear power reactors. (27) This spread of plutonium through nuclear power has increased the number of potential nuclear weapons states to 44. The five declared nuclear weapons nations — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China — are only one-ninth of the real “nuclear club.”
Japan is acquiring one of the world’s largest so-called civilian stockpiles of plutonium by shipping its spent fuel halfway around the world to France and Britain and back for reprocessing into plutonium. Japan, therefore, has the potential to become a major nuclear weapons power in a short time. (28) In addition, an enormous Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facility is under construction in Rokkasho Village, in Aomori Prefecture on Northern Honshu, Japan. This “one-stop shopping” nuclear site already includes (as of Winter 1997) two uranium enrichment plants and high- and low-level nuclear waste storage. A plutonium reprocessing plant is also planned for completion by the end of the century. (29) Local villagers have been fighting to stop the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facility for over twelve years, with little success thus far.
Other countries that have attempted to develop commercial Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) — including the U.S., Britain, Germany and Russia — have abandoned them. Only France is still trying to repair its accident- prone Superphnix FBR. Yet, in a hopeful change of attitude, in October 1996, French economic analysts began publicly criticizing the project’s enormous financial waste. They called the FBR “a grand failure of 60 billion Francs” ($12 billion U.S.) and recommended a serious look at a complete shutdown of the Superphnix before more billions are wasted. (30)
Japan’s prototype FBR, Monju, went on-line in 1994. However, the Kobe earthquake of January 1995 is thought to have caused cracks in some pipelines of the Monju reactor, 100 kilometers away from the epicenter. The reactor has not operated since April 1995. Many people in Japan now question the safety of their country’s plutonium-fueled energy strategy. (31) For example, in August 1996 the Japanese village of Maki held a historic referendum, voting 61 to 31 against the construction of a new nuclear plant in their community.
The reprocessing of used reactor fuel also creates highly radioactive wastes. Even the nuclear industry estimates that the quantity of wastes requiring long-term isolation from the environment is increased nearly ten-fold as a consequence of reprocessing. (32)
Finally, all nuclear power reactors and places where quantities of radioactive material are stored could be as dangerous as nuclear weapon explosions. If they become the object of terrorist activity, military bombardment or sabotage, radioactive material could spread on a vast and devastating scale. (33) As Mayumi Oda so vividly portrays in her print, THE TWO-HEADED MONSTER OF POISON FIRE, the nuclear weapons and nuclear power industries are two aspects of the same beast. Each exists in the presence of and as a result of the other. Every step of the nuclear chain contributes directly or through connecting steps to the virtually permanent contamination of our atmosphere, watersheds, soil and organic life.
NUCLEAR WASTE: The Unsolved Problem
By the year 2000, the nuclear industry will have created 201,000 tons of highly radioactive irradiated (used) fuel rods. (34) If liquid and solid wastes, uranium tailings and all they have come in contact with are included, the volume is, of course, much larger.
Many ideas for “final” disposal have been put forward, but none has proved even remotely adequate. (35) One problem is that the plutonium in the waste will remain radioactive for up to 240,000 years (12,000 generations) or more. For that entire time it must be isolated from all living organisms and from the water, land and air upon which they depend.
Deep underground burial of wastes is currently the favored policy of most nuclear nations. However, changing water tables, earthquakes and other geological factors will eventually disturb the buried waste and lead to contamination of soil, water and air. No container exists that will last as long as the radioactivity of its contents. Nor can we be confident that our descendants will not dig into burial sites hundreds or thousands of years from now, out of curiosity or lack of information. (36)
None of the 44 countries with nuclear reactors has a solution to the waste problem. Meanwhile, the wastes are either kept in “temporary” storage facilities or buried in shallow pits. Wastes have been dumped directly into the ground, lakes and oceans of the world (for example: into the Irish Sea near Sellafield, England; into the Pacific Ocean near the Farallones Islands off San Francisco, California; and into Lake Karachay, near Chelyabinsk, Russia).
A growing number of sites have been abandoned by humans due to radioactive contamination. Yet wind and water, microbes, insects, seeds, birds and other life forms which cannot read posted warning signs move freely from one ecological niche to another. (37) The question of how to isolate radioactivity enduringly from life remains unanswered.
Further, after irradiated fuel rods are removed, the reactor buildings remain highly contaminated. In the U.S. the law requires that power companies dismantle (decommission) old reactors and “clean up” sites. While companies are required to set funds aside for this purpose, no reactor has yet been completely dismantled. The true costs and risks of this process remain unknown.
Our descendants will face the dangers and bear the expense of deactivating the world’s 430 (as of 1996) nuclear reactors. They will also need to protect themselves virtually forever from the thousands of tons of radioactive wastes the industry has already produced.
Since the first splitting of the atom, concerned citizens and public officials have spoken out about the dangers of nuclear energy development. Increased awareness about the nuclear waste problem has strengthened efforts by citizen groups to stop nuclear power and implement safe energy alternatives.
NUCLEAR ENERGY: A Bad Investment
Official calculations of the cost of nuclear energy consider only the direct costs of building and operating reactors, plus mining, processing and transporting fuel.(38) They do not take into account indirect costs to society from environmental and health damage, or the costs of accidents, clean-up, nuclear waste storage and decommissioning.
Nuclear energy is a tragically misdirected investment. It not only pollutes the environment and destabilizes security, it also misuses precious financial resources as well as scientific and engineering expertise. Why, then, are new nuclear reactors being promoted and built, producing ever more toxic plutonium and radioactive wastes? One answer is profit-seeking — fueled in part by government subsidies and bank loans to nuclear corporations, keeping the deadly industry alive.
Furthermore, nations which use radioactive materials to produce energy gain access to the global club of “borderline” nuclear weapons states. As long as the five permanent seats of the United Nations Security Council are assigned to the five declared nuclear weapons states, the assumption that “access to nuclear weapons equals global power” will encourage nations to pursue nuclear energy — and thus the potential of nuclear weapons — to increase their influence in global affairs. (39 )
EMPTYING THE POCKETS OF DEVELOPING NATIONS
Developing countries have been pressured to take on enormous loans to finance costly nuclear power projects. Construction is capital-intensive and technologically complex, requiring large outlays of funds and increasing dependence on foreign expertise, investment and supplies. Developing nations’ limited financial resources have gone straight to the bank accounts of multinational corporations, including British Nuclear Fuels Ltd., CoGEMA, General Electric, Mitsubishi, Siemens and Westinghouse. The Philippines, for example, pays $300,000 a day in interest alone to the U.S. Export-Import Bank for a nuclear plant that has never operated a single day. (40)
“IF WE CAN’T SELL IT AT HOME, LET’S TRY ABROAD”
Demand for energy is growing faster in Asia than in any other part of the world. Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan and China have booming economies and are searching for additional energy sources. (41) Bechtel, a nuclear engineering firm based in California, is promoting nuclear energy in China despite a U.S. trade embargo on selling nuclear materials to China. The Japanese corporations Mitsubishi, Hitachi and Toshiba, aided by Western nuclear industries facing declining markets at home, are also promoting nuclear power in Pacific Rim countries.
Nuclear development in the industrialized West has been an environmental and financial disaster. (42) Asia can expect similar problems: endless spills and leaks, plant failures, public opposition, lawsuits, catastrophic accidents, and wastes that will devastate the planet for millennia.
PHASE OUT FOSSIL FUELS
Governments have based their energy policies of the 20th century primarily on the development of fossil fuels. However, neither coal nor oil, which continue to dominate global energy markets, will ever provide good long-term solutions for human energy needs due to limited reserves and high social and environmental costs.
Coal, the dominant fuel of the industrial revolution, still supplies energy for almost a quarter of the world’s population. Oil has largely fueled the unsustainable economic growth and development patterns of the latter half of the 20th century. In the process, it has shaped lifestyles, communities and global politics.
Mining coal and drilling oil cause severe and often irreparable environmental degradation and human suffering. Turning these fuels into energy produces acid rain and air pollution, which harm forests, crops and human health. Disastrous oil spills like those of the Exxon Valdez in Alaska, Texaco’s destruction of indigenous lands and communities by drilling in Ecuador, and Royal Dutch Shell Oil’s drilling leaks and spills in Ogoni territory in Nigeria have destroyed watersheds, ocean ecosystems, wildlife, local livelihoods and whole communities of people who depend directly on the earth for survival.
Burning fossil fuels releases huge quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. It is now widely recognized that our atmosphere simply will not be able to continue absorbing six billion tons of carbon every year (70% of it from burning fossil fuels) (43) without disastrous consequences that will last for generations.
Scientists have been warning for decades about global warming, the process in which CO2 and other pollutants trap the sun’s heat and cause the temperature at the earth’s surface to rise. Over time, climate and seasonal cycles may be significantly disrupted. According to climate studies, average world temperatures have steadily risen since records began to be kept in 1880. Five of the warmest years on record have occurred since 1987. (44 )
Global climate change could be a decisive factor affecting survival prospects for those who will follow us.
GLOBAL WARMING Nuclear Power No Solution
Some argue that nuclear power is a solution to the threat of global climate change, since reactors do not emit greenhouse gases. Yet safer and cheaper alternatives to nuclear power are available now. Studies have shown that energy efficiency measures can replace coal-fired electricity at a fraction of the cost of nuclear power. (45) Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, can also take the place of fossil fuels for less than the cost of nuclear fuel, and can do so faster and without adding radioactivity to the environment.
We do not need to continue poisoning the earth with radiation that will cause damage for many thousands of years. It is the responsibility of industrialized countries to help develop safe and sustainable energy sources, rather than marketing polluting, poisonous nuclear power to the world.
THE GOOD NEWS
We don’t need nuclear power OR fossil fuels! We could phase out global use of nuclear power completely by the year 2010, and fossil fuels by the year 2100, with no major loss in quality of life. How? By implementing energy efficiency and conservation, and by converting to safe, renewable energy sources. (46)
ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND RENEWABLES
A safe and healthy energy system will result from use of non-polluting, renewable energies as primary sources — such as sun, wind, micro-hydro, biomass, biogas and heat from the earth’s core — plus efficient end-use of energy in housing, transportation and industry. (47)
Wind, sun and ocean waves are raw energy sources which surround us every day and are freely available. Unlike uranium and fossil fuels, they do not have to be ripped from the earth. They produce no radioactive waste and few or no toxic emissions. Given the choice, who would not prefer to use the sun, wind and water for energy, ending the destruction caused by the mining and burning of poisonous fuels?
A safe energy path is achievable and sustainable. It means making choices that will not deprive future generations of a livable world. Because sun, wind and water are naturally provided every day, we will never run out of safe energy. It is meaningless to hoard it, and there is enough for all.
Public relations firms and lobbyists for the nuclear and fossil fuel industries claim renewables and energy efficiency are not “cost- effective”and cannot power a modern economy. In fact, renewable and efficiency technologies have made so many advances in the last ten years (many unknown by politicians, the public or even many energy experts) that they are already cost-competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear power. Since 1980, the price of solar cells has fallen more than 90%, while the cost of wind turbines is down two-thirds. (48) We can meet global energy needs through a combination of wind power, solar thermal energy, photovoltaic solar electricity, small hydropower, biomass, geothermal, ocean energy and conservation.
Between 1950 and 1990, the U.S. government and U.S. utilities spent $492 billion on the direct costs of nuclear power. (49) In spite of this huge investment, nuclear power today provides only 7.7% of the energy used in the U.S. By contrast, renewable energy sources already provide 7.1% of U.S. energy consumed, without producing toxic wastes or greenhouse gases. (50) In the last twenty years, the U.S. saved more energy through efficiency practices than was produced by all of its nuclear reactors combined. (51)
The cost of generating electricity for a new nuclear reactor in the U.S. is about $.14 (U.S.) per kilowatt hour. (52) If indirect social and environmental costs are included, figures must be at least doubled. (53) No monetary assessment of nuclear-fueled power’s costs reflects the potential long-range consequences to the health and well-being of all life. In comparison, solar and wind power now generate electricity at half the cost, producing no radioactive waste and almost no pollution. (54)
Some renewable energy sources — including biomass, hydro-electric, geothermal and tidal power — provide steady, “dispatchable” electric power that can be distributed to far-off locations. Other sources, such as solar and wind, vary in their energy output depending on weather conditions, but follow regular patterns of availability that can be predicted and built into planning. Steady, renewable sources are effective backups for the ones that vary.
Future energy planners will combine a range of supply, storage and back- up technologies into an integrated, sustainable system that will provide reliable renewable energy at all times and in all seasons.
SAFE, RENEWABLE AND SUSTAINABLE ENERGY…
* is abundant worldwide and inexhaustible.
* has been the central means of energy production throughout human history, except for the very recent industrial period.
* simultaneously solves or improves a number of problems at once: nuclear waste “disposal,” nuclear weapons proliferation, air pollution, global warming, acid rain and dependence on dwindling oil reserves.
* does not threaten international security or the future of life, since it cannot be turned into weapons of mass destruction and does not produce toxic radioactive wastes.
* eliminates the environmental devastation associated with the extractive industries of uranium and coal mining and oil drilling.
* is simpler and faster to build — especially on a community level — and is far more versatile than nuclear- or fossil-fueled power production.
* provides fairer access to energy for all people, since abundant sunshine, winds and surplus biomass are more available than petroleum, coal or uranium reserves.
* tends to be naturally decentralized, making it easier to integrate into local economies.
Safe energy is economically viable and cost-effective, even more so when environmental benefits are taken into account. There are no hidden costs for which we and future generations must pay with our health and our lives.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Reducing Energy Use
The “cleanest” energy is saved energy. We can do much to reduce our consumption of energy by drawing on efficiency technologies and by using energy responsibly. These choices offer the greatest promise for ending global dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power. Efficiency measures will bring additional benefits such as the creation of new jobs and industries. (55)
By fully implementing currently available energy efficiency technologies, the U.S. could eliminate all its nuclear reactors — and generate four times as much energy in the process. (56)
SOLAR POWER: Earth’s Daily Energy
Each day the earth is bathed in sunlight equal to many thousands of times the energy currently consumed by human endeavors. Sunlight falls on every part of the earth. The sun is the basis of life on earth — without it, our planet would be a cold, dark, barren wasteland. Our ability to harness the sun’s abundant energy will be a key factor affecting the quality of our future.
Solar Thermal Energy
Solar thermal electric power technology uses concentrated sunlight to heat liquid, which is then used to produce steam to turn a turbine to generate electricity. In order to heat the liquids to high enough temperatures, the sunlight is concentrated using mirrors and lenses. (57)
Solar Photovoltaics: Power for All Seasons
With photovoltaic power, sunlight falls on a special conducting material such as silicon, creating an electrical current which is then either transported to a battery for storage or fed directly into the power stream. Photovoltaics can be used in many different settings since they operate with natural, diffuse sunlight, are unaffected by temperature and humidity, and need very little maintenance. Thus they are not geographically limited in the same way as are solar thermal electric plants, which must be placed in areas of long and intense sun exposure to operate efficiently.
Photovoltaics are in wide use today in rural electrification projects throughout the developing world. Because they are stand-alone systems that generate electrical current directly, they are ideal for use in remote areas. It is much cheaper to install photovoltaic panels than to build electric power or gas lines to link remote areas to the central power grid. (58) (The “grid” refers to the distribution of energy through power lines from power-generating facilities to distant customers.)
Many utilities throughout the world are also experimenting with using photovoltaics on a large scale to provide power to the grid. The prospects are considered favorable.
Passive Solar Energy
Passive solar technology condenses the sun’s energy and makes it useable as a heat source. In many regions of the world, simple, inexpensive solar cookers are being used to prepare food. This saves trees and reduces long journeys in search of firewood. (59)
Humans have harnessed the power of the wind for thousands of years to do everything from grinding grain and pumping water to sailing ships across the seas. After two decades of rapid development following the oil crises of the seventies, wind turbine electric generators are now a mature and proven technology. At $.04 to $.05 (U.S.) per kilowatt hour, wind power is commercially competitive with other low-cost sources. (60)
Wind power systems offer some of the same advantages as solar energy: they are versatile, clean and accessible. They can range from small stand-alone systems for powering remote communities to large facilities that supply electricity to the grid. They can be installed as quickly as needed, without the long start-up times required for nuclear- or fossil- fueled facilities.
Biomass energy makes use of plant matter (biofuel) to produce liquid and gas fuels or to generate heat and electricity. Biofuels include wood and wood wastes, grasses, shrubs, agricultural residues, animal dung, and even everyday household garbage.
Biomass provides 38% of primary energy used in the developing world, where three-fourths of the world’s population lives. Wood fires, the oldest form of biomass energy, have been used for millennia for heat and cooking and are still the primary domestic energy source in many countries.
The use of biomass to make fires, however, is not very efficient and has resulted in severe deforestation in many parts of the world. In developing countries, a movement to switch to inexpensive and much more efficient stoves for domestic cooking and heating is already helping to slow deforestation. (61)
POWER FOR THE FUTURE
Coal gave us the Industrial Revolution with its soot-covered cities, lung diseases, factories and coal mines. Oil brought us the Age of Combustion with automobiles, big highways, jet planes and the glorification of consumerism. Nuclear power has given us the Atomic Age and an enduring legacy of radioactive contamination and health problems. But renewable energies — the sun, wind and water — will bring us into the Solar Age and change our society in more favorable ways than we can yet imagine.
CREATING A SAFE ENERGY FUTURE
At this time the only known protection of life from an increased burden of radioactivity is to stop all production of nuclear materials, contain and monitor those that already exist, and continue research over time in hope of discovering ways of minimizing the damage they cause.
Healthy, safe and renewable energy technologies are available now. The barriers to a sustainable energy future are not technical or economic. The biggest obstacles are fear of change, lack of political will, and the energy industry’s drive to maximize profits. Governments, communities and industries must fundamentally change their approach and make a firm commitment to promote and develop renewable energy and implement conservation and energy efficiency practices.
We all bear the great responsibility of passing on a livable world to the diverse peoples, plants, animals and ecosystems of the future. What we ultimately aim for is a complete reassessment of modern society and the interests it serves, leading to a fundamental reordering of society’s priorities toward sustainability and social justice.
It took billions of years for humans to emerge on earth, and we have lived in communities, villages and cities for only the last 10,000 years. We want all peoples and all species to enjoy life on earth for countless generations to come. This is a basic criterion for a sustainable society. Appropriate, safe and renewable energy technologies are key to achieving this goal. Working together, we can create societies that endure into the future, living in harmony with the earth.
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7. Gofman, John W. 1990. Radiation-Induced Cancer from Low-Dose Exposure: An Independent Analysis. San Francisco Committee for Nuclear Responsibility (CNR Book Division, P.O. Box 421993, San Francisco, CA 94142, USA). See also Wing, Steve, et al. 1991. “Mortality Among Workers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.” Journal of the American Medical Association, March 20, Vol. 265, No. 11, pp. 1397-1402.
8. Bertell, Rosalie. 1986. No Immediate Danger? A Prognosis for Radioactive Earth. Summertown, TN: The Book Publishing Company.
9. Gofman, John W. 1996. Preventing Breast Cancer: The Story of a Major, Proven, Preventable Cause of This Disease. San Francisco: Committee for Nuclear Responsibility.
10. National Association of Atomic Veterans. 1996. “Prostate Cancer Update.” Atomic Veterans’ Newsletter. Salem, MA: National Association of Atomic Veterans. Summer/Fall.
11. Macy, Joanna. 1993. In World Uranium Hearing. Poison Fire, Sacred Earth. Salzburg, Austria: The World Uranium Hearing.
12. World Uranium Hearing. 1993. Poison Fire, Sacred Earth. Salzburg, Austria: The World Uranium Hearing.
16. Eichstaedt, P.H. 1994. If You Poison Us: Uranium and Native Americans. Santa Fe, NM: Red Crane Books.
17. International Campaign for Tibet. 1993. Nuclear Tibet. Washington DC: International Campaign for Tibet.
18. Lenssen, Nicholas. 1991. Nuclear Waste: The Problem That Won’t Go Away. Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute.
19. Hamilton, Minard. 1994. Radioactive Waste: The Medical Factor. Washington DC: Nuclear Information and Research Service.
20. Medvedev, Grigori. 1991. The Truth About Chernobyl. New York: Basic Books.
21. Mariotte, Michael. 1995. “On Ninth Anniversary, Ukraine Officials Say 125,000 Have Died From Chernobyl.” The Nuclear Monitor. Washington, DC: Nuclear Information and Resource Service. Vol. 10, No. 5, May 1.
22. Hatch, M.C., et al. 1990. “Cancer Near the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant: Radiation Emissions.” American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 132, No. 3.
23. Ruggiero, Greg and Stuart Sahulka, eds. Critical Mass: Voices for a Nuclear-Free Future. Westfield, NJ: Open Media and The Campaign for Peace and Democracy. See also Helen Caldicott. 1994, revised edition. Nuclear Madness: What You Can Do. W. W. Norton and Company: New York and London.
24. Gofman, John. 1981. Radiation and Human Health. San Francisco: Committee for Nuclear Responsibility.
25. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. 1993. Plutonium, Deadly Gold of the Nuclear Age. Cambridge, MA: International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
26. Nuclear Information and Resource Service. 1995. “High-Level Radioactive Waste.” Energy Fact Sheet. Washington, D.C: Nuclear Information and Resource Service.
27. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Op. cit.
28. Takagi, Jinzaburo. 1995. Critique of Japan’s Nuclear Energy Program: Collected Papers of Jinzaburo Takagi, 1994-95. Tokyo: Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center.
29. DeAngelis, Fusako. 1996. “Rokkasho: Japan’s Nuclear Village.” Earth Island Journal. San Francisco: Earth Island Institute. Spring, 1995.
30. “Superphnix: Un Grand Echec de Soixante Milliardes.” 1996. La Tribune. Paris. October 6.
31. Takagi. Op. cit.
32. Lenssen. Op. cit.
33. Taylor. Op. cit.
34. Congress of the United States Office of Technological Assessment. 1991. Long-Lived Legacy: Managing High-Level and TRU Waste at the DOE Weapons Complex. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. May.
35. Erikson, Kai. 1994. A New Species of Trouble. New York: W.W. Norton.
36. Ibid. See also Lenssen. Op. cit.
37. Peaslee, S. Claire. 1993. “Sending Signals to the Future: How to Design Long-Term Warning Markers for WIPP.” Nuclear Guardianship Forum. Berkeley, CA. No. 2. Spring.
38. Komanoff, Charles and Cora Roelofs. 1992. Fiscal Fission: The Economic Failure of Nuclear Power. Washington, DC: Greenpeace.
39. Spector, Leonard S. and Jacqueline R. Smith. 1992. Nuclear Threshold: The Global Spread of Nuclear Weapons, 1990-1991. Boulder, CO: Westview.
40. Hayes, Peter, 1995. Nautilus Research Institute. In interview by author C. Greensfelder. Albany, CA: August.
41. McSorley, Jean. 1995. “The Nuke Frontier in Indonesia.” Multinational Monitor. Washington, DC. Vol. 16, No. 9. September.
42. Komanoff. Op. cit.
43. Flavin, Christopher and Nicholas Lenssen. 1990. Beyond the Petroleum Age: Designing a Solar Economy. Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute.
44. Montague, Peter. 1992. “Global Warming, Part 1: How Global Warming Is Sneaking Up On Us.” Rachel’s Hazardous Waste News. Annapolis, MD: Environmental Research Foundation. No. 300. August 26.
45. Keepin, William and Gregory Kats. 1988. “Greenhouse Warming: Comparative Analysis of Nuclear and Efficiency Abatement.” Energy Policy. Vol. 16, No. 6. December.
46. Stockholm Environment Institute. 1993. Towards a Fossil-Free Energy Future: The Next Energy Transition. Boston: Tellis Institute for Greenpeace International.
47. Cole, Nancy and P.J. Skerrett. 1995. Renewables Are Ready: People Creating Renewable Energy Solutions. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
48. Flavin, Christopher and Nicholas Lenssen. 1995. Power Surge: Guide to the Coming Energy Revolution. Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute.
49. Komanoff. Op. cit.
50. Energy Information Administration. 1995. Annual Energy Review 1994. Washington, DC: United States Department of Energy.
51. Rostvik, Harald N. 1992. The Sunshine Revolution. Stavanger, Norway: SUN-LAB Publisher.
52. Greenpeace/WISE-Paris/Worldwatch Institute. 1992. World Nuclear Industry Status Report: 1992.
53. Komonoff. Op. cit.
54. Union of Concerned Scientists. 1993. At American Wind Energy Association Web Site: http://www.igc.org/awea/.
55. Speiser, Hans-Peter and Rudolf Hickel. 1994. Electricity Without Nuclear Power: Boom or Doom for Jobs? Berlin: Greenpeace Study.
56. Lovins, Amory. 1989. “End-Use/Least-Cost: Investment Strategies.” Proceedings of Energy for Tomorrow Conference. Montreal: World Energy Council. September.
57. Johansson, Thomas B., Henry Kelly, Amulya K.N. Reddy and Robert H. Williams, eds. 1993. Renewable Energy: Sources for Fuels and Electricity. Washington, DC: Island Press. See in particular Pascal De Laquill III, et al. “Solar-Thermal Electric Technology.”
58. Kelly, Henry. 1993. “Introduction to Photovoltaic Technology.” In Johansson et al. Op. cit.
59. Dutt, Gautam S. and N. H. Ravindranath. 1993. “Bioenergy: Direct Applications in Cooking.” In Johansson et al. Op. cit.
60. Heede, Richard and Hunter Lovins. 1996. Environmentally Sustainable Energy Choices. Snowmass, CO: Rocky Mountain Institute and Washington, DC: Renewable America.
61. Hall, David O., et al. 1993. “Biomass for Energy: Supply Prospects.” In Johansson et al. Op. cit.
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ABOUT PLUTONIUM FREE FUTURE
In 1992, a group of Japanese artists and writers joined with North American friends to launch Plutonium Free Future (PFF), an international campaign to alert citizens and governments to the dangers of plutonium and to stop shipments of plutonium around the world.
PFF then created INOCHI (which means “life force” in Japanese), a volunteer-based, non-profit organization working for a sustainable future. Among the projects hosted by INOCHI are:
* Plutonium Free Future
* Plutonium Free Future Women’s Network
(also known as Niji-no-Hebi or Rainbow Serpent)
* East Asia Awareness Project
* Nuclear Abolition Project
* Rokkasho Video Project
* Safe Energy Handbook Project
* Solar Century Campaign
* Ten Millennium Futures Project
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* Uranium Mining Moratorium Project
This second English edition of the Safe Energy Handbook, revised and updated, is directed to citizens and policy makers worldwide. Twenty- five hundred copies of the first edition, published as the Women’s Handbook on Safe Energy, were distributed to NGOs and government officials at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in September 1995. It has also been translated as the Safe Energy Handbook in Ukrainian, Russian and Turkish. Additional translations are planned in French, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese.
We dedicate this handbook to the children of the earth and to future generations.
THANKS to all who contributed generously of their time, energy and financial resources to create this handbook, and in particular to our colleagues who reviewed the first edition and provided helpful feedback. Special thanks to Mary Olsen, Tyrone Cashman, Angela Gennino, Richard Heede, Will Keepin, Karl Krooth, Yoruba Richen, Enid Schreibman and Shamira Virji. The authors wish to acknowledge that any inaccuracies are ours alone.
JAN THOMAS has worked for 15 years on environmental and antinuclear issues, specializing in communications. Initially a social worker, she switched her focus to international social change work in response to the U.S./Soviet nuclear weapons build-up of the early ’80s. Since then, she has worked with many non-governmental organizations including EarthAction International, Earth Day 1990, the Gulf Peace Team, PFF, and the Manhattan II Project.
CLAIRE GREENSFELDER is Co-Founder of PFF’s Women’s Network and a lifelong activist for peace and environmental justice. A former youth educator and wilderness leader, after the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident she decided to work rigorously for political and social change in the interest of nuclear sanity and safe energy. She has worked as consultant/staff to over five dozen NGOs and political campaigns, including American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO).
WENDY OSER is Coordinator of INOCHI’s Safe Energy Handbook Project, director of the Nuclear Guardianship Project and former editor of the Nuclear Guardianship Forum (1991-94). While in Europe, she was exposed to fallout from the Chernobyl disaster and experienced health problems for years afterward. Ever since, she has dedicated herself to educating the public about the dangers of radioactivity and nuclear materials, while seeking enduring and responsible care for them. Her grandbabies intensify her resolve.
NORA AKINO is a Co-Founder of Plutonium Free Future (PFF) and former Administrative Director of the organization. She coordinated and personally conducted much of the initial research for the Safe Energy Handbook. She left PFF to relocate to Boston with her husband to pursue an important new project: motherhood.
MAYUMI ODA is an internationally acclaimed artist, best known for her beautiful Goddess paintings and prints. Her drawings and paintings have illustrated dozens of books in print, including her autobiographical book Goddesses. She is a co-founder of INOCHI and Plutonium Free Future, a member of the Board of Directors of the POINT Foundation (publisher of Whole Earth Review), and an Advisory Board member of the River of Words art and poetry contest.
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Earth Ship print (see image below) silk-screened on the front, with “Plutonium Free Future” on the back. Available in black, purple, jade or teal. 100% cotton. Medium, large and extra large. $20 for short-sleeved, $30 for long-sleeved. Specify size and first and second choice of color.
“Earth Ship” Silkscreen Print by Mayumi Oda as shown at beginning of this Handbook
Original, signed print of the artwork reproduced on the cover of the Safe Energy Handbook, in beautiful “Ancient Purple” on buff white rice paper, 25 1/5″ x 38 1/2″. From a special edition of 100. Yours for a contribution of $350.
(Our apologies: the color of the graphic shown in this Internet Edition of the Safe Energy Handbook is different from the “Ancient Purple” of the print.)
“The Two-Headed Monster of Poison Fire” Poster
Black and white artwork by Mayumi Oda from the Safe Energy Handbook, illustrating the connection between military and energy aspects of the nuclear industry. 11″ x 17″. $5 each.
“Rokkasho: Japan’s Nuclear Village” Video
Video by Fusako de Angelis about Rokkasho Village, site of the world’s largest nuclear fuel complex. Testimonies from Plutonium Free Future’s Global Town Meeting and the Pacific Plutonium Forum, as well as from local activists, scientists and public officials. 24 minutes. $15 each vhs-NTSC (USA and Japan). $30 each for PAL or SECAM (Europe).
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Safe Energy Handbook copyright INOCHI 1997
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