The truth about nuclear power — neither clean nor green

By Helen Caldicott, Independent Australia, 26 February 2021

AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT of fossil fuel is used to mine and mill uranium, to enrich and fashion the nuclear fuel rods, to build the enormous concrete reactor, let alone decommission the radioactive mausoleum at the end of its active life of 40-60 years. Finally, but not least, to transport millions of tons of intensely radioactive waste to some as-yet-to-be-constructed storage site in the U.S. to be kept isolated from the ecosphere for one million years according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

We all know to our detriment that the combustion of oil, gas and coal creates CO2, the main global warming gas.

According to a definitive study by Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith titled ‘Nuclear Power: the Energy Balance’, the use of nuclear power causes, at the end of the road, approximately one third as much CO2 as gas-fired electricity production. The rich uranium ores required for this reduction are limited and the remaining poorer ores in reactors would produce more CO2 than burning fossil fuels directly. Nuclear reactors are best understood as complicated expensive and inefficient gas burners.

They write:

Setting aside the above energetic costs and accepting the nuclear industry’s claim that it is clean and green, and assuming a 2% growth in global demand, all present-day reactors – 440 – would have to be replaced by new ones. Half the electricity growth would be provided by nuclear power and half the world’s coal fire plants replaced by nuclear plants requiring  the construction over 50 years of 2,000 to 3,000 1,000-megawatt reactors — one per week for 50 years.

The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates already there are 370,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste in the world awaiting disposal, containing over 100 radioactive elements such as:

  • iodine-129, half-life 16 million years and a thyroid carcinogen;
  • plutonium-239, half-life 24,400 years, a potent alpha mutagen that induces bone carcinogen, lung cancer, leukemia, foetal abnormalities and genetic diseases;
  • strontium-90, half-life 29 years, which causes bone cancer and leukemia; and
  • caesium-137, half-life 30 years, causing muscle sarcomas and cancers of many other organs because it is a potassium analogue and resides in many cells of the body.

Dr John Gofman MD, the discoverer of uranium-233, estimated that if 400 reactors operated for 25 years at 99 per cent perfect containment, caesium loss would be equivalent to 16 Chernobyls. A half-life is multiplied by ten or 20 to give the total dangerous radiological life.

There is no containment that lasts 100 years let alone one million. As these radioactive elements inevitably escape and leak into the environment, they will concentrate at each step of the food chain tens to hundreds of times, for instance through algae, then crustaceans, then small fish, then big fish, then us. They are tasteless, invisible and odourless. Once deposited in human or animal organs, they irradiate a small volume of cells over many years inducing mutation of regulatory genes which control the rate of cell division, thus inducing uncontrolled cell division which is cancer.

Leukemia takes five to ten years to appear post contamination, solid cancers 15 to 80 years. Genetic abnormalities will take generations to manifest.

Animals and plants are similarly affected.

In effect, by creating more and more nuclear waste, we humans will be inducing random compulsory genetic engineering for the rest of time.

That’s what clean, green nuclear power means.

Originally published:–neither-clean-nor-greenelen-caldicott-,14837#

1 thought on “The truth about nuclear power — neither clean nor green”

  1. A quote from the late John Gofman.
    the website is (yes it is still there after all these years)

    And I realized that the entire nuclear power program was based on a fraud—namely, that there was a “safe” amount of radiation, a permissible dose that wouldn’t hurt anybody. . . .

    “Someone from the AEC came to my house last weekend,” he said. “He lives near me. And he said, ‘We need you to help destroy Gofman and Tamplin.’ And I told him you’d sent me a copy of your paper, and I didn’t necessarily agree with every number you’d put in, but I didn’t have any major difficulties with it either. It looked like sound science. And—you won’t believe this—but do you know what he said to me? He said, ‘I don’t care whether Gofman and Tamplin are right or not, scientifically. It’s necessary to destroy them. The reason is,’ he said, ‘by the time those people get the cancer and the leukemia, you’ll be retired and I’ll be retired, so what the hell difference does it make right now? We need our nuclear power program, and unless we destroy Gofman and Tamplin, the nuclear power program is in real hazard from what they say.’. . .”

    If not 40 years, it is going on 40 years since I originally read that.
    In college I received a degree in physics and that pro nuclear power individual saying he didn’t care what the scientific facts were and essentially saying it is the politics that mattered bothered me then and bothers me now.

    On Twitter is see over and over again people misusing the word “LIBERAL” and ignoring what Mathematician and Philosopher Bertrand Russell noted in his “Liberal Decalogue”

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